The effects of the First World War on the twentieth century cannot be underestimated. When comparing modern genocides, traces of World War I can be found in each. However, the most evident traces are found in the genocides in Armenia, Germany and Eastern Europe, the former Yugoslavia, and Rwanda.
The genocide of the Christian Armenians by the Muslim Turks was the first modern non-colonial genocide. It is estimated that anywhere from one million to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Turks from 1915-1922. Though massacres had occurred during the reign of Sultan Hamid II in the 1890s, WWI allowed the authors of this genocide to finalize the deliberate destruction of the Armenians. Because the Christian Russians supported the Armenian independence movement, the Young Turks blamed the Armenians for allying themselves with Russia during the war. Elimination was the preferred method of controlling the Armenian threat - and WWI allowed the Young Turks to use the excuse of national security to commit genocide on the Armenians. While the war acted as the final catalyst, it indirectly affected the Armenian genocide by creating international bystanders. The Armenians’ traditional protectors, France, Britain, and Russia, were fighting the Ottoman Empire and Germany in WWI. As such, they were too busy to pay attention to humanitarian crises occurring within the Ottoman Empire. Though the United States was informed of the attacks against the Armenians, the government could not criticize the Ottoman Empire lest it get involved in the war. Germany could not criticize the treatment of the Armenians for it needed the Ottoman Empire and its soldiers. Interestingly enough, the Germans in the Ottoman Empire would observe many aspects of the Armenian genocide and these would later show up in the genocide in Germany and Eastern Europe.
After the end of WWI, the European landscape changed drastically. The Austrian-Hungary Empire and the Ottoman Empire disappeared and Germany was destroyed. However, the effects of WWI on Germany would show themselves during World War II in Adolf Hitler’s Holocaust. The genocide of Jews, Gypsies, and other undesirables in Germany and Eastern Europe during WWII had many similarities with the Armenian genocide. That is due to Germany’s alliance with the Ottoman Empire during WWI in which the Germans learned how to efficiently wipe out an ethnic group. Trains as means of death and laws used to legalize the genocidal process are popularly seen as characteristics of the Holocaust, yet they were employed in the Armenian genocide. Like in Armenia during WWI, WWII acted as a cover for the genocide. However, less obvious is the influence WWI had on various events that led to the Holocaust. Germany’s loss and international humiliation destroyed national sentiment. Through the means of racial purity, Hitler assured the Germans a return to their pre-war honor and strength. By giving ordinary Germans a solution to the problem placed by the consequences of WWI, Hitler moved Germany to an extremist society ready to commit genocide. Additionally, because of the reparations Germany had to pay, and their financial consequences, ordinary Germans blamed the Jews, a majority in the banking industry, as the source of their financial losses.
WWI began in Sarajevo, in the middle of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in 1914 when a Bosnian Serb assassinated Archduke Ferdinand of Austria. Eighty years later, Serbs would commit genocide against Bosnian Muslims in an attempt to have a racially pure nation. Yugoslavia, composed of various ethnically diverse republics, arose from the ashes of WW1 and demise of the Austria-Hungary Empire. These republics began demanding independence in the early 1990s and this led to conflicts within the republics.