Eliminationism is the belief that one's political opponents are, in the words of Oklahoma City University School of Law professor Phyllis E. Bernard, "a cancer on the body politic that must be excised—either by separation from the public at large, through censorship or by outright extermination—in order to protect the purity of the nation."[1]


The term eliminationism was coined by American political scientist Daniel Goldhagen in his 1996 book Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, in which he posits that the German public not only knew about, but supported, the Holocaust because of a unique and virulent "eliminationist antisemitism" within the German national identity, which had developed in the preceding centuries.[1]


The purpose of defining eliminationism is the inherent weakness of the term "genocide", which only allows for action where mass slaughter has already occurred. However, according to Goldhagen, extermination is usually seen as one (and the most extreme) option of getting rid of an unwanted people group seen as a threat, and in any case of extermination many of the other methods of eliminationism will also be present and probably used first.

There are five forms of eliminationism:[2]

  1. Transformation: deleting/changing the cultural identities of people. (Examples include American Indian boarding schools and Xinjiang internment camps)
  2. Repression: systematically limiting the power of the target group through political disenfranchisement, ghettos, enslavement, segregation, or other legal means. (Examples include anti-Jewish legislation in pre-war Nazi Germany, Jim Crow laws, voter suppression and Apartheid)
  3. Expulsion: removing the undesired group through deportation, forced removal, forced marches, concentration camps. (Examples include the Armenian genocide and the internment of Japanese Americans.)
  4. Preventing reproduction: forced sterilization, anti-miscegenation laws, or systematic rape so that there will be no future for the group.
  5. Extermination: mass murder or genocide.


In his 2009 book Worse Than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity, Goldhagen argued that eliminationism is integral to politics due to mass murder being "a political act", writing that "mass elimination is always preventable and always results from conscious political choice." Goldhagen describes various 20th-century atrocities, such as the Indonesian mass killings of 1965–66 and genocides in Darfur, Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Guatemala, arguing that each of these events were products of eliminationism, being perpetrated by "the decisions of a handful of powerful people" in contrast to popular perceptions of such events being carried out "in a frenzy of bloodlust."[3][4]

Businessman Theodore N. Kaufman self-published Germany Must Perish! in the United States in 1941. In the 104-page book, Kaufman advocated genocide through forced sterilization of all Germans and the territorial disassociation of Germany. The obscure book received very little attention in the U.S., but was eventually cited by the Nazi regime as proof of a vast Jewish conspiracy to annihilate Germany and Germans (Kaufman was a Jew). The Nazis published quotes from the book in wartime propaganda, pretending that the book was indicative of the views of the Allied powers, which in turn was added justification for Nazi Germany's continued persecution of the Jews as part of the Holocaust.[citation needed]

During the 1991–2002 Algerian Civil War, the predominant faction of the conflict's first phase was known as les éradicateurs for their ideology and for their rural and urban tactics. These hardliners were opposed in the Army and the FLN by les dialoguistes.[citation needed]

Journalist David Neiwert argued in 2009 that eliminationist rhetoric is becoming increasingly mainstream within the American right-wing, fuelled in large part by the extremist discourse found on conservative blogs and talk radio shows, which may provoke a resurgence of lone wolf terrorism in the United States.[5]

Professor of law Phyllis E. Bernard argues that interventions in Rwanda and Nigeria, which adapted American dispute prevention and resolution methods to African media and dispute resolution traditions, may provide a better fit and forum for the U.S. to address eliminationist media messages and their impact on society.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Bernard, Phyllis E. (June 12, 2009). "Eliminationist Discourse In A Conflicted Society: Lessons For America From Africa?". Retrieved 2009-12-25. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ "Understanding Genocide ~ Eliminationism | Worse Than War | PBS". PBS. 5 March 2010.
  3. ^ Pindar, Ian (6 February 2010). "Worse Than War: Genocide, Eliminationism and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  4. ^ Romaniuk, Scott Nicholas (2011) "Book Review: Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Worse than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity," Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal: Vol. 6: Iss. 1: Article 14.
  5. ^ Holland, Joshua (12 June 2009). "The Terrorist Threat: Right-Wing Radicals and the Eliminationist Mindset". Archived from the original on 2009-07-23. Retrieved 2009-07-23. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)