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A Century of Genocide:
Utopias of Race and Nation
Updated Edition
Eric D. Weitz
With a new preface by the author

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2003

Paperback | 2015 | $25.95 | £20.95 | ISBN: 9780691165875
384 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4
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Why did the twentieth century witness unprecedented organized genocide? Can we learn why genocide is perpetrated by comparing different cases of genocide? Is the Holocaust unique, or does it share causes and features with other cases of state-sponsored mass murder? Can genocide be prevented?

Blending gripping narrative with trenchant analysis, Eric Weitz investigates four of the twentieth century's major eruptions of genocide: the Soviet Union under Stalin, Nazi Germany, Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, and the former Yugoslavia. Drawing on historical sources as well as trial records, memoirs, novels, and poems, Weitz explains the prevalence of genocide in the twentieth century--and shows how and why it became so systematic and deadly.

Weitz depicts the searing brutality of each genocide and traces its origins back to those most powerful categories of the modern world: race and nation. He demonstrates how, in each of the cases, a strong state pursuing utopia promoted a particular mix of extreme national and racial ideologies. In moments of intense crisis, these states targeted certain national and racial groups, believing that only the annihilation of these "enemies" would enable the dominant group to flourish. And in each instance, large segments of the population were enticed to join in the often ritualistic actions that destroyed their neighbors.

This book offers some of the most absorbing accounts ever written of the population purges forever associated with the names Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and Milosevic. A controversial and richly textured comparison of these four modern cases, it identifies the social and political forces that produce genocide.

Eric D. Weitz is Dean of Humanities and Arts and Distinguished Professor of History at the City College of New York. He is the author of Creating German Communism, 1890-1990: From Popular Protests to Socialist State and Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy (both Princeton).


"There is much new in Weitz's analysis and his isolation of the common mechanisms of state-sponsored genocide is an invaluable contribution to the literature on the subject. . . . Despite its analytical and reasoned approach, this work cannot be read without feeling outrage, despair and horror. Weitz's work raises profound questions about the human capacity for violence."--Publishers Weekly

"A Century of Genocide has much to offer. It will serve as an excellent first introduction to Lenin and Stalin's crimes, the Holocaust, the Cambodian massacres of the 1970s and the ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia."--Brendon Simms, Times Higher Education Supplement

"[A] book that must be read and that must be argued over. Without an understanding of the issues [it] tackle[s] with passion and in depth, the desire to intervene--to prevent ethnic cleansing or genocide--is meaningless."--Rima Berns-McGown, International Journal

"Weitz has produced something exceedingly rare: a scholarly book one cannot put down. This is a meritorious, thoughtful book."--Choice

"An important, thought-provoking book on an inordinately complex subject."--Gavriel Rosenfeld, The New Leader

"Weitz makes a persuasive case that these genocides were not simply anarchic eruptions of age-old hatreds, but rather were engineered by crisis-ridden regimes promoting utopian visions requiring a radical refashioning of the population."--Martin Farrell, Perspectives on Politics

"This important, highly thoughtful book is a welcome addition to the growing literature on genocide in the twentieth century. It deserves a wide audience among scholars, undergraduates, and policy makers. Broad ranging, genuinely comparative, rigorous, and learned, A Century of Genocide is engagingly written, while prudent and balanced in its judgments."--Frank Chalk, Slavic Review

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Table of Contents:

Abbreviations vii
Preface to the New Paperback Edition ix
An Armenian Prelude 1
Introduction: Genocides in the Twentieth Century 8
Chapter 1 Race and Nation: An Intellectual History 16
Chapter 2 Nation, Race, and State Socialism: The Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin 53
Chapter 3 The Primacy of Race: Nazi Germany 102
Chapter 4 Racial Communism: Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge 144
Chapter 5 National Communism: Serbia and the Bosnian War 190
Conclusion 236
Notes 255
Bibliography 311
Acknowledgments 339
Index 343

Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Eric D. Weitz:

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