Genocide: American Indians vs. Jews

As best I can tell, and although I am not sure that the internet sources of census records are accurate, it looks to me that there are currently more Jews in Israel than there are American Indians in North America (and of course there are plenty of Jews in America and other parts of the world too). As I see it, colonization of the Americas and the attendant problems that accompanied that, as well as American policy over time was more successful at genocide than Hitler ever was with the Jews. The fact of the matter is that in 1491 Indians were 100% of the North American population and in 2004 they are less than 1%.

So the debate is simply that. Has there been a more effective genocide perpetrated against American Indians than Jews in light of current extant populations of the two groups?

You left off all the Native Americans in Mexico, Central America, and South America. I guess you could take the pre-Columbian estimates of the population of the Americas (I’ve seen numbers stated anywhere from 3 to 50 million) and compare it to present day, but there has been so much admixture in the non-US/Canadian part of the two continents that it would be hard to determine how many Amerinds exist today.

IMHO, asking “which was a worse genocide” seems to belittle both historical events.

Yes, I did leave out the Central America Indians on purpose, seeking to limit the discussion to the peoples on the land mass currently known as the “lower 48” United States.

And I by no means wish to belittle either event, and I don’t understand how I have done that, if I have done that.

Please define “effective genocide.”

So is killing people like the Jews during WWII in the Nazi gas chambers “more effective” than the trading blankets (accidentally/deliberately) infected with smallpox? Shall we compare the targetting of Jews in a country such as Israel with the current Middle East violence be compared to the systematic removal of Indian children by the US Government to boarding schools (thus exterminating their language, culture, heritage, etc.)?

Why the attempt at comparison anyway? Is one group “better” than another? More “important?” What is the importance of comparing genocide between two groups? Are you attempting a hierarchal structure with groups according to some unknown ranking mechanism?

I am in agreement with John Mace on this.

Well, Duckmeister, the most “effective” genocide would be one that comes closest to the annihilation of a race and its culture. Given that, I’d say the English & Yanks pretty much nailed it through all manner of devices, none of which we should be proud. And let’s not overlook the resounding success the Spanish enjoyed in this arena. Of course, in the Americas we had several centuries to effect the eradication of the natives, or at least the majority of their culture.

Hitler didn’t get nearly as long and, as a result, not only did he fail to eradicate Jews, they ended up with one of the nicest stretches of beachfront property in the Mediterranean! I’m too chickenshit to post my opinion of the Jews’ & Native Americans’ “rez” habitats, suffice to say I think the Jews are making a better deal out of their designated digs.

I’m not really sure there is a nefarious motive behind the OP, morbid curiosity perhaps…

Actually, given the thread title, I was expecting a “celebrity death match” type of question. Boy would THAT ever fire up the PC crowd!

Tonight! Buffy St. James vs. Billy Crystal! Live on…Celebrity Deathmaaaaaaaatch!!!

I believe there is plenty of native indian blood these days all the way from Mexico to the southern tip of South America so, if you are implying the Spanish were successful at genocide I believe the facts very patently disprove that. There are probably huge regions in Latin America where white blood is a small minority and native blood the big majority.

The Spanish mixed with the local natives, which the Anglos did not.

Well, except 95% of the deaths were pretty much unintentional - European explorers spreading smallpox and other diseases on their initial landings. So that’s a chunk right there before anyone was trying to wipe anyone out.

But that’s not consistent with the way you are counting the Jews in the world. Perhaps you need to do a direct comparison between Indians in the US **only ** and Jews in the German controlled part of Europe only. I think you’d find it closer than your OP implies.

No, I didn’t mean to chastize you, just that I don’t know if it’s a meaningful question to ask: Which was a worse genocide. Is it a matter of just doing the math? Personally, I don’t think reducing the horror of either event to a numbers game tells us that much.

Actually, this comparison is generally considered as an important issue. The specifity of the Shoah, which is a major contention point, necessarily implies that it is different from any other genocide. And one can only states such a thing by comparing it to other genocides.

To whom? That always seems to me like an extreme defense against holocaust deniers. One needn’t establish the Shoah as a unique event to debunk the deniers.

I would contend that the more important difference is qualitative rather than quantitative. The German Reich had a specific policy to eliminate, ie, kill, all the Jews (in Europe, at a minimum). I don’t believe the US ever had a specific policy to kill all the Indians in the US territory, although some policies may have had that effect. There certainly was a policy to destroy Native American **culture ** thru forced assimilation programs.

The Jewish holocaust is unique in modern European history. Isn’t that enough? Does it have to be unique “in all of human history”?

Given that the Spanish wiped out the population of one or more Caribbean Islands before they wised up to the fact that wiping out the entirety of your labor pool was a bad thing. Later on a combination of the numbers game and an official attitude change worked against them .

Nope. But still, it’s a frequently debatted issue, at least over here (I woudln’t know for the US). Actually not that often debatted since a well known personnality stating that the Shoah wasn’t an unique event will have to face a serious outrage.

It’s closely tied to revisionism, though, since a it’s often constructed (correctly or not) as a way to say : “See, this event wasn’t that special, and the Jews should stop whining about it”.

Definitely. And actually, the arguments about the specificity of the Shoah don’t revolve that much around numbers, but about the intents and the methods.

But I had assumed that the comparisons we were discussing weren’t limited to mere figures.

That’s what I believe too. The holocaust is only perceived as unique because it’s recent and involved western people on both sides, IMO. Had a similar event happened 300 years ago, or recently but in some some african or asian country, there wouldn’t be much discussion about its “uniqueness (?)”. But i would likely be flammed or pinned to a wall for stating such a thing publically here (I mean in france, not on the SD)
And regardless what you and I can think, the fact that the Shoah should be regarded as an unique event is a very important point for many people.

No doubt, and it is incumbent on them to actually prove it. At any rate, it seems that you and I are in basic agreement.

And as I stated earlier, the idea of saying “My holocaust was worse than your holocaust” strikes me more as a desire to revel in one’s victimhood or (worse) to lay the groundwork for justifying actions that under “ordinary circumstances” wouldn’t be justified.

Although Europeans tried to kill the American Indians, there are many more of them alive today than before the Eropeans arrived. The figures I’ve read are that there were 500,000 Amerindians in the U.S. before and about 4,000,000, today.

I think your pre-Columbian figures are on the low side:

For those confused about the difference in the last 2 bullets, Mexico is North America, not Central America (as many people believe).

I’d also say a good % (maybe even most) of the Indians in the US are of mixed heritage. On the other hand, a large % of the Mexican legal and illegal immigrants probbably have more Native American ancestory than many current Native Americans whose ancestors originated in the territory which is now the US. My point being that determining how many Native Americans are in the US is problematic at best, and using US census figures mgiht seem the best way to go, but probably is way off the mark. The term “Hispanic” in the US might more accurately be described as “Mestizo” or “Mixed Spanish and Indian”. Not all “Hispanics”, of course, but most of those from Mexico and Central America.

That is pretty much completely inaccurate and I would question your sources. The precolumbian population estimates for the eastern seaboard of the US alone are around 2 million, with around 8-12 million in all of North America above Mexico. In North and South America there was likely between 75-112 million people.

Slight tangent :

I’ve heard this contention before, but if European diseases were virulent enough to accidentally kill 95% of the population of the (now) US, why did the same thing not happen in Mexico and points south?

Is there any historical data available addressing this point?

We learn a different lesson from both genocides. The slaughter of the Native Americans teaches us about the savagery of colonialism and its dangers. The genocide of the Jews teaches us about the dangers of considering an industrialized society incapable of monstrosity like the Holocaust.