After the Holocaust, the international community vowed, “never again,” but despite this pledge, genocides and mass killings have continued to happen. The Early Warning Project at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum tracks mass killings occurring today and attempts to predict where they might occur in the future. According to the project, an event is a mass killing “when the deliberate actions of armed groups, including but not limited to state security forces, rebel armies, and other militias, result in the deaths of at least 1,000 noncombatant civilians targeted as part of a specific group over a period of one year or less.”
Under international law, a genocide occurs when the perpetrators intend to eradicate the group they are targeting. A mass killing does not require this intent. Thus, mass killing is a broader term than genocide, but acts of genocide also fall within this definition.
Explain to your students that the Early Warning Project determines a country’s risk of having a mass killing by looking at certain “risk factors.” Have your students write down what they think these risk factors could be. Then, show your students the Early Warning Project’s list. Ask them:
- What factors are the same as or similar to the ones on your list?
- Do you find any of the factors on the Early Warning Project’s list surprising?
- What do you think are the benefits of tracking and predicting mass killings?
Display the Early Warning Project’s Map of Statistical Risk, and explain that it shows both where mass killings are currently happening and where they are most likely to happen in the future. Use the See, Think, Wonder routine to discuss students’ reactions to the map:
- What do you see when you first look at the map? What details stand out? (At this stage, elicit observations, not interpretations.)
- What do you think the map shows? What information can you get from the map?
- What does the map make you wonder? What questions does it raise for you?
Optional Extension: Have your students pick a country that is considered at risk of a mass killing. Students should research some of the country's risk factors, and read news coverage of the country. Students can then present their findings to the rest of the class.
Note: If you click on a country within the Early Warning Project's map, it will give you more information about the country, including a brief summary of that country's risk factors. Since there are numerous risk factors for each country, students could focus on a limited number.