The Turkish husband said to his Armenian neighbor, “Don’t worry, your family and mine have been friends for years. Your children and mine are playmates. Your wife and my wife are best friends. I will not let any of you suffer. I will hone and sharpen my knives every day so that when the order comes, I will slit all of your throats swiftly and cleanly. You and your family will not experience any pain or suffering. This I vow to you as a friend.”
Editor’s note: The following essay, which was published in Volume 79, Number 3, September 2010 of The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, is reprinted in the interest of Ararat’s readers. For complete citations and bibliography, please consult AJP.
If rape, torture, sex slavery, massacre, and ethnic cleansing are on a continuum of major human rights violations, then genocidal impulse occupies the extreme pole of that continuum. Crimes of genocide go beyond a need for naked power, economic aggrandizement or territorial conquest. They involve psychogenic and psychodynamic underpinnings that can be terrifying to contemplate. Yet, their psychological study is essential.