There have been too many heinous crimes committed against humanity over the centuries to name them all. However, particular events stand out even in this sadistic game of top trumps. Here are twenty of the worst atrocities in the history of mankind.
1) The Nanking Massacre (1937)
First on our decrepit list of monstrosities is the Nanking Massacre, or how it is often referred to as: ‘The Rape of Nanking’. Reports of the event suggest a mass rape of unheard of proportions even for wartime, with even rumors of Chinese families being forced to rape each other. Competitions were held between Japanese soldiers to see who could murder one hundred Chinese civilians the fastest with simply a sword. About 300,000 lives were lost.
2) The Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (1945)
On the advent of the successful testing of the Atom Bomb via the Manhattan Project in New Mexico, men had entered into a new era of unfathomable power. On witnessing this incredible event, the Atom Bombs creator Robert Oppenheimer eerily remarked: “Now I have become Death, the destroyer of worlds”.
People’s eyes melted in there sockets at the sight of the explosion, while others remain were forever sprayed onto concrete like shadows. Many historians believe these attacks were partly due in response to Japan’s war crimes across Asia and the attack on Pearl Harbour. A line from the 1946 hit “Atomic Power” puts it best referencing Hiroshima and Nagasaki as Japan “paying for its sins”. Perhaps the worst part about this atrocity is that it may have been avoided. The fate of the world would now forever be a threat by a select few men in suits sat in front of a red button. The effect of the bombing resulted in 90,000–146,000 deaths in Hiroshima and 39,000–80,000 deaths in Nagasaki
3) The Battle of the Somme (1916)
On the 1st July 1916, the middle day of the middle year of The Great War, inside twelve hours of a British offensive, 19,240 British soldiers lay dead within about 25 square miles after being gunned down by enemy fire.
4) The Holodomor (1932-33)
Holodomor is the Ukrainian word for “killing by hunger.” This is now the appropriate term used to describe Josef Stalin’s man-made famine in Ukraine. Most figures estimate that between 4-5 million Ukrainian’s starved to death during the Holodomor. There were wide reports of cannibalism, and even of people eating their own children.
5) The Holocaust (1939-45)
The Holocaust needs little introduction. Over the course of several years, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party routinely rounded up, enslaved, and exterminated six million Jews via methods as grueling as the gas chambers.
6) 9/11 (2001)
On September 11, 2001, 19 Al-Qaida soldiers hijacked four airplanes and instigated suicide bombings on several US targets. The most dramatic moment was the fall of the Twin Towers in New York. Almost 3000 people died during the attacks and a new shroud of terror inflicted a part of the world so sure of its safety. The event would lead to justification of new military powers for the US presidential office and the invasion of Iraq, which continues to cause casualties today.
7) The Rwandan Genocide (1994)
It is estimated that up to one million of the Tutsi tribe in Rwanda were slaughtered by the rival Hutu majority. This savagery was carried out during the 100-day period from 7 April to mid-July 1994, with machetes as the primary weapon. Tutsi civilians begged UN troops not to leave as they knew their impending fate, helpless to prevent it.
8) Unit 731 (1934-45)
This a world war II (WWII) Japanese research center where up to 250,000 people died from human experimentation. Such experiments included cutting people open alive without anesthesia so certain organs could be removed and the effects studied, amputations just to study blood loss and forced infections.
9) The Great Leap Forward (1958-61)
The Great Leap Forward was an initiative created by Chairman Mao Zedong in order to modernize China. Unfortunately for its citizenry, the measures taken in this program resulted in the death of millions of Chinese peasants at the hands of its supposed liberator and father-figure in the name of progress.
10) The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade
This involved the stealing and subjugation of the African population from Africa into the West. Many Africans were forced into slave labor on sugarcane or cotton plantations in the US and the UK. Hundreds of years later and the relations between blacks and whites in these nations are still frayed and in the process of healing. About 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World.
11) The Great Purge (1936-38)
Millions of Soviet citizens were either killed or sent to the Gulag under Stalin’s Great Terror. Perhaps what is more concerning about this event is the mass hysteria of anxiety experienced amongst the populace as they were encouraged to spy and give up enemies of the state. It pitted neighbors against neighbors, family against family, friends against friends.
12) The Crusades (1096-13thC)
Perhaps the worst atrocities man has committed in the name of religion occurred during The Crusades (1096-1291). A call to arms was undertaken to recapture the Holy Lands from Islamic control. It’s estimated that over 1.7 million people died during its entirety and that only one in twenty crusaders reached the Promised Land!
13) The Bengal Famine (1943)
The socio-economic context of the Bengal had led to overpopulation and indebtedness in a largely agrarian society by 1943. British wartime colonial policy exacerbated this within the context of on-goings WWII, and The Bengal was essentially neglected, with no state of famine officially recognized. The priority of one race and class of people was prioritized over another, to the tune of over one million deaths.
14) Native Indian Genocide
The purging of the ‘savage’ native Indians from North American land in the name of White Americans divine right through manifest destiny cost up to five million Native American lives, but can also be seen as representing man’s continued destruction against nature.
15) Srebrenica Massacre (1993)
Declared a safe-haven by the UN during the Yugoslav war, the city, Srebrenica, was disarmed and to be protected by UN peacekeeping forces. However, these forces proved ineffective and Bosnian Serb forces marched on the city, bussing men and boys to death sites, and women to be raped. At least, 7000 lives were lost.
16) The Cambodian Killing Fields (1975-79)
The Khmer Rouge regime arrested and killed anyone with connections to the former government, as well as different ethnic groups. This state-sponsored genocide resulted in the death of at least 1,386,734 Cambodians over 20,000 mass grave sites.
17) Native American Genocide
The continents of the Americas, within a few generations, were virtually emptied of their native inhabitants – potentially up to 20 million native Americans of the Inca and Aztec tribes – were wiped out due to many of the diseases brought over by the Europeans such as smallpox. A generous culture and people was practically erased from the world.
18) Genghis Khan
The conquests of Genghis Khan claimed the lives of 40 million people. To put this into context, that was 10% of the world’s population. WWII, by comparison, claimed the lives of an estimated 60 million, 5% of the world’s population at that time.
19) Gladiator Fights (264BCE-404CE)
The Roman Empire, for over 600 years, put on a show of unrivaled brutality, forcing prisoners of war to fight each other and perilous odds for the entertainment of the masses. Perhaps the longest and most organized ‘civil’ bloodlust in history as people’s lives were treated like a game. It is estimated that half a million people died in the Colosseum.
20) The Blinding of the Bulgars (1014)
It is said that the victorious Basil II and his Byzantines, after The Battle of Kleidion between the Byzantines and the Bulgarian Empires, blinded 99 of every 100 Bulgar prisoners of war, only leaving one in one hundred with one eye to guide the soldiers back home.