A death march is a forced march of prisoners of war or other captives or deportees with the intent to kill, brutalize, weaken and/or demoralize as many of the captives as possible along the way. It is distinguished in this way from simple prisoner transport via foot march. Death marches usually feature harsh physical labor and abuse, neglect of prisoner injury and illness, deliberate starvation and dehydration, humiliation and torture, and execution of those unable to keep up the marching pace. The march may end at a prisoner-of-war camp or internment camp, or it may continue until all the prisoners are dead (a form of "execution by labor", as seen in the Armenian genocide among other examples).
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Before World War II
- David Livingstone wrote of the East African slave trade:
We passed a slave woman shot or stabbed through the body and lying on the path. [Onlookers] said an Arab who passed early that morning had done it in anger at losing the price he had given for her, because she was unable to walk any longer.
- As part of Indian removal in the United States, in 1831, approximately 6000 Choctaw left Mississippi for Oklahoma, and only about 4000 arrived in 1832.
- In 1836, after the Creek War, the United States Army deported 2,500 Muskogee from Alabama in chains as prisoners of war. The rest of the tribe (12,000) followed, deported by the Army. Upon arrival in Oklahoma, 3,500 died of infection.
- In 1838, the Cherokee nation had to march westward towards Oklahoma. This march became known as the Trail of Tears: an estimated 4,000 men, women, and children died during relocation.
- The Armenian Genocide resulted in the death of an estimated 1,500,000 people from 1915-1918. Under the cover of World War One, the Young Turks sought to cleanse Anatolia of its native Christian population. As a result the Armenian population was exiled from their ancestral lands and forced to march to the Syrian Desert. Many were raped, tortured, and killed on the way to the 25 concentration camps set up in the Syrian Desert. The most famous camp was that of Der Zor where an estimated 300,000 Armenians were slaughtered.
During World War II
The term "death march" was used in the context of the World War II history by victims and then by historians to refer to the forcible movement between fall 1944 and April 1945 by Nazi Germany of thousands of prisoners, from Nazi concentration camps near the advancing war fronts to camps inside Germany.
- An infamous death march occurred in January 1945, as the Soviet Red Army advanced on occupied Poland. Nine days before the Soviets arrived at the death camp at Auschwitz, the SS marched nearly 60,000 prisoners out of the camp toward Wodzisław Śląski (German: Loslau), 35 miles away, where they were put on freight trains to other camps. Approximately 15,000 prisoners died on the way.
- In the Pacific Theatre, the Imperial Japanese Army conducted death marches, including the infamous Bataan Death March (1942) and Sandakan Death Marches (1945).
- The Brno death march began late on the night of 30 May 1945, when the ethnic German minority in Brno, capital of the Czechoslovak province Moravia, was expelled to nearby Austria.
After World War II
- During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, some 70,000 Palestinian Arabs from the cities of Ramle and Lydda were forcibly expelled by Israeli forces. The event has come to be known as the Lydda death march.
- During the Korean War, in the winter of 1951, 200,000 South Korean National Defense Corps soldiers were forcibly marched by their commanders, and 90,000 soldiers starved to death or died of disease by their commanders' embezzlement. This incident is known as National Defense Corps Incident.
- The 1975 forced evacuation of Phnom Penh in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge
- "Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War". International Committee of the Red Cross. Geneva: International Committee of the Red Cross. 12 August 1949. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
- Livingstone, David (2006). The Last Journals of David Livingstone, in Central Africa, from 1865 to His Death. Echo Library. p. 46. ISBN 1-84637-555-X.
- "Trail of Tears". Choctaw Nation.
- Foreman, Grant (1974 ). Indian Removal: The Emigration of the Five Civilized Tribes of Indians. University of Oklahoma Press. [dead link]
- "Creeks". Everyculture.com.
- Marshall, Ian (1998). Story line: exploring the literature of the Appalachian Trail (Illustrated ed.). University of Virginia Press. ISBN 978-0-8139-1798-6.
- "Death marches". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
- Martin Gilbert (May 199). Atlas of the Holocaust (map of forced marches). William Morrow & Company. ISBN 0688123643.
- Holmes, Richard; Strachan, Hew; Bellamy, Chris; Bicheno, Hugh (2001). The Oxford companion to military history (Illustrated ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 64. ISBN 9780198662099. "On 12 July, the Arab inhabitants of the Lydda-Ramle area, amounting to some 70,000, were expelled in what became known as the 'Lydda Death March'."
- Terence Roehrig (2001). Prosecution of Former Military Leaders in Newly Democratic Nations: The Cases of Argentina, Greece, and South Korea. McFarland & Company. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-7864-1091-0.