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Exploring the Similarities: Slave Trade & Holocaust

The Atlantic slave trade and Holocaust during the Second World War were two quite similar processes in the world’s history related to race and class diversity and discrimination. The slave trade was one of the biggest and most forced migrations of people; only a few got to the United States, while the other migrants died and were disbursed to other regions of the American Continent. The Holocaust was Europe’s largest massive killing of people during the War. Prejudices and stereotypes concerning race, nation, and class caused both cases. Furthermore, the effects of the two phenomena were quite similar. Although the processes of the Atlantic Slave Trade and the Holocaust are different in nature, character, location, and historic period, both cases had similar long-lasting social and economic effects.

Economic Effects

Both Holocaust and Atlantic Slave trade had significant negative effects on the world’s economic processes. They were related to massive displacement of people leading to economic stagnation in some regions and giving free working power in other ones. The Atlantic slave trade had strong negative effects on Africa, as its western regions were the main suppliers of slaves for the entire world. The biggest problem of the slave trade and its negative effect on Africa was related to the sex misbalance in the region. The majority of slaves captured from Africa were male (Hardy). Africa experienced significant economic stagnation and regression in its economic development because of the loss of working power since young and healthy people were displaced. The same economic changes occurred during the Second World War due to the Holocaust. The effects of this historic process were as strong and insulting to the entire world as the slave trade. However, the economic impact of the Holocaust on Europe was not as sufficient as the Slave trade. The former was associated with rough and inhuman discrimination of Jews, but it concerned Gypsies, Soviets, Poles, physically disabled, mentally ill, and social communities with different religions. Disabled people were killed, while physically strong ones could work in the industrialized regions of the Nazi state. The European countries that opposed Germany felt complications in the industrial area because of the massive workforce displacement. However, its economic impact was not as strong on the background of destructions during the War as the impact of the slave trade had been.

The New World economic development was completely dependent on the slave trade. The enslaved people were essential and crucial elements of great economic structure and labor power. The Africans were the main labor supply for the agricultural demands and plantations. Compared with America and Africa, the impact of the Atlantic slave trade on Europe is debatable. The issue is quite controversial, as many believe the effects were insignificant. The slave trade aspect is not properly investigated in European history and was given little attention. Great Britain had quite a positive outfit from the slave trade. The industrial revolution in the country was significantly impacted by the coming working force, which produced cheap products. Thus, the profit from the slave trade brought sufficient additional capital for Great Britain (Nunn, p.150). In other words, the industrialization of Europe was strongly and positively impacted by the slave trade, as it was a rich source of additional finances and contributed to rapid industrialization. Thus, the slave trade had a stronger effect on the world’s economy than the Holocaust, but they both had almost equal destructing social impact.

Social Effects

The most significant similarity between the Atlantic slave trade and Holocaust was their contribution to social change (Harel et al.). The two cases were single and the most massive social movements in history. Both of them were insulting, forced, and destructive. The social component was the main cause of the events and their main element. Holocaust was colossal manslaughter in human history, while the Atlantic slave trade was a massive enforced migration for exploitation in human history. It is estimated that two-thirds of the Jews were killed during Holocaust (Harel et al.). It was not just the idea to kill them but the necessity to enslave, humiliate, and massacre them.

Both processes contributed to the development of the new structure of social relations and influenced the local citizens. The slave trade experience in Africa created a system of political and social discrimination of citizens by the state administration, as well as the Holocaust did in German society. The slave trade and Holocaust intervened in social life, forming a new administrative structure based on authoritarian power. They used to have brutal intervention in the life of people, and this approach was transformed into contemporary administrative structures and state order in some African countries (Hardy). That state order was a powerful pressure mechanism upon the Soviet Union and African societies.

Both Holocaust and the slave trade produced social inequality, disorders, and significant race and class resistance. The newly arrived slaves changed the social structure of the local people. For the first time in history, the New World Region faced the problem of class inequality, as poor slaves committed significant resistance to the rich Whites (Nunn, p.145). The Blacks created their communities and started emancipation movements, which were quite an acute issue for centuries (Hardy). The slaves were segregated and separated from Whites to prevent interracial marriages, which enforced segregation and discrimination (Nunn, p.145). These issues are similar to the ones observed during Holocaust since the Nazis intended to smash some nations from the land and prevent their spread worldwide. Even today, the Jews are associated with hate and aggression. The surviving people after the Holocaust spread around the world and created their specific communities. The majority of them followed their national religion and traditions.

Nevertheless, there were some positive effects among the variety of negative effects, but they were related to the slave trade only. The slave trade processes in the New World created a specific and unique culture, combining African and European, which is rather interesting and special. However, millions of people during both historic processes died or were executed.


The Holocaust, as well as the slave trade, killed the entire nations. During transportation, slaves died as they were carried under poor conditions. The enslaved people were executed and tortured by their masters. Millions of Africans died, as well as the victims of the Holocaust. Furthermore, both events had strong, long-lasting psychological effects on those suffering. African Americans have long been considered criminals because of the artificially created stereotypes concerning social inequality and their lower natural status. As well as the enslaved people, the victims of the Holocaust, who succeeded in surviving, experienced strong mental problems. Those people had serious traumas, which changed the life of future generations. In both cases, human beings were displaced from their native land, lost their families, and lived in the camps. The victims of the Holocaust, as well as the slaves, lived separately from the entire population, experiencing sufficient humiliation, psychological pressure, discrimination, and cruel punishment. Such social effect was related to strong propaganda with long-lasting effects.


Both historic cases, the Holocaust and the slave trade, are associated with a huge aura of propaganda. The Holocaust is surrounded by powerful rhetoric propaganda of Nazi leader Hitler, who used it as a tool during the War (Moeller, p.7). The effect of propaganda in Nazi Germany and the countries supporting it was long-lasting, as the attitude toward some nations, such as Jews, was stereotypic even after the War. Moreover, the activity of some religious groups is still prohibited, such as the Witnesses of Jehovah in Russia (Moeller, p.7). The propaganda created an atmosphere of hate, which worked effectively for a long time (Moeller, p.7). For instance, the Whites could humiliate and enslave the Africans; they punished the enslaved people because of prejudice about their lower origin and primitive status. The situation with the Jews was quite similar, as the people living near the Concentration Camps could watch the sufferings of camp victims, their hunger, their pain, and fear, being sure that it was a norm. Propaganda had a lasting effect in America during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as the citizens of the Southern States were still sure that African Americans should be separated from Whites.

Feeling of Responsibility

However, it is necessary to admit that contemporary people of America and Germany feel responsible for the crimes and guilt of their ancestors. The German people approached the problem seriously and controlled any social discrimination or any element of Nazi propaganda to omit similar issues in the future (Major). For the Germans, that page in their history is very painful and disgraceful, as well as slave trade appears shameful for some Americans, either. Only in a few centuries did Americans understand their grandfathers’ mistakes and guilt (Major). Although it is impossible to compare the crimes made by colonists and the Nazis, both nations feel responsibility and shame for the actions of their predecessors.


Thus, both cases of social crime were directed against entire nations; the Holocaust and the Atlantic Slave Trade were solitary in history. They had different purposes: to massacre nations in the case of the Holocaust and physical exploitation in the case of the slave trade. Nevertheless, the premises and the consequences of both issues were quite similar. Although the two phenomena differed, they were caused by strong social propaganda, which had significant and long-lasting effects. The slave trade contributed to social changes and movements in the future, and the displaced Jews spread worldwide due to the Holocaust. The slave trade was related to sufficient economic growth and the industrial revolution, while the Holocaust negatively impacted Europe. Despite the differences, both historic cases had similar social effects, as they produced stereotypic prejudices and problems with even contemporary consequences.

📎 References:

1. Hardy, Will. “Riches & Misery: The Consequences of the Atlantic Slave Trade“. 2018.
2. Harel, Zev et al. “The Effects of the Holocaust: Psychiatric, Behavioral, And Survivor Perspectives”. The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, vol. 11, no. 4, 1984.
3. Major, Ellinor F. “The Impact of the Holocaust on the Second Generation: Norwegian Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Children”. Journal of Traumatic Stress, vol. 9, no. 3, 1996, pp. 441-454.
4. Moeller, Robert G. The Nazi State and German Society. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010.
5. Nunn, Nathan. “The Long-Term Effects of Africa’s Slave Trades*”. Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. 123, no. 1, 2008, pp. 139-176. Oxford University Press (OUP).

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