Dr. Eric Schmaltz Presents on Panel at Fifth International Genocide Conference in Sacramento

November 12, 2018

Dr. Eric J. Schmaltz

Dr. Eric J. Schmaltz, professor of history and global studies at Northwestern Oklahoma State University and co-executive director of the endowed NWOSU Institute for Citizenship Studies, presented at the Fifth International Genocide Conference at California State University, Sacramento, in early November.

Schmaltz said the late Dr. Alexandre Kimenyi of the Ethnic Studies Department at Sacramento, a native of Rwanda who lost his entire family in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis, established this interdisciplinary conference.

Much of Schmaltz’s research and publication work over the past 20 years, which overlaps into ethnic and nationality studies, concerns the various responses to and the legacies of mass repression, mass terror, and genocide perpetuated by both Soviet Communism and Nazism.

Schmaltz’s talk, “Soviet (Ethnic) Germans after Stalin:  Reform, Rebirth, and Regret,” examined the long-term, post-1950s responses to and impact of Stalinist mass terror and deportations of the 1930s and 1940s carried out against this large ethnic minority group inside the Soviet Union.

“In the decree of April 26, 1991, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), the largest of the Soviet Union’s republics, admitted to conducting ‘genocide’ and waging ‘slanderous attacks’ on several deported and repressed national minority populations under Stalin during the Second World War, including ethnic Germans as the largest of the targeted groups at the time,” Schmaltz said. “More than 1.2 million ethnic Germans in the USSR faced forcible resettlement at the time, with about 20 percent of the group’s population killed in the process or shortly thereafter.”

He explained that the United Nations (UN) General Assembly ratified the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide on December 9, 1948. Article II of this document defines genocide to mean any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group:  killing members of the group; causing serious bodily harm or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Schmaltz said this formal definition is based on legal scholar Raphael Lemkin’s understandings of this deadly phenomenon in 1944 in direct response to the Nazi Holocaust that was still taking place at the time.

“The UN pronouncement concentrates on the intentional physical destruction of a targeted group, usually that of unarmed civilians, though Lemkin’s original definition also emphasized both the deliberate physical and cultural destruction of targeted groups,” Schmaltz said. “This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Genocide Convention.”

Schmaltz said numerous conference panels in Sacramento discussed what happened in different genocides, why they took place, and what might help to prevent similar future occurrences.  Other conference panels considered the impact of genocide on individual and group memory.

Schmaltz’s talk was part of the special topic panel, “Soviet Genocide against Its Ethnic German Population:  Forms, Consequences, and Responses.” Also contributing to the panel were his longtime colleagues Dr. J. Otto Pohl of the Department of Social Sciences at the American University of Iraq in Sulaimani, Iraqi Kurdistan, who organized the panel, and Dr. Brent Mai, Dean of Libraries and University Librarian at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut.  Dr. Mai also directs the Volga German Institute at Fairfield University, on whose Board of Academic Advisors both Dr. Pohl and Dr. Schmaltz serve.

In September 2015, the three scholars collaborated on the special topic panel “Ethnic Germans in Central Asia” at the University of Ghana in Accra for the Inaugural and First Biennial Conference of the Pan-African Association for Asian Studies in Africa (A-ASIA) in cooperation with the International Convention of Asian Scholars (ICAS):  “Asian Studies in Africa:  The Challenges and Prospects of a New Axis of Intellectual Interaction.” 

Schmaltz said that next year the event organizers in Sacramento have indicated that they intend to procure the genocide conference presentations as articles to be included in a book compilation published by Routledge Press.

For more information on this topic, contact Schmaltz at (580) 327-8526 or ejschmaltz@nwosu.edu.


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