Raphael Lemkin – The Author of the Term “Genocide”

Raphael Lemkin – The Author

Raphael Lemkin (June 24, 1900 – August 28, 1959) was an American lawyer of Polish-Jewish origin. He was the author of the term “genocide” and the draft of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Raphael Lemkin first dealt with the issue of the legal responsibility for the extermination of ethnic groups during his years at Lviv University where he became interested in the retaliation attempts against the perpetrators of the Armenian genocide. Outraged by their impunity, Lemkin began to actively lobby for the crime of genocide in international law in the early 1930s.

In 1941, Lemkin moved to the United States where he would teach at Duke University and work as an advisor to the state and military departments.

In 1944, Lemkin published his book “Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of Government, Proposals for Redress.” This is the work where he introduced the term “genocide.”

Although it is often believed that Lemkin created the concept of “genocide” specifically for the Holocaust, his intention was to create a term to describe ancient military tactics revived by the Nazis. When Raphael Lemkin introduced the concept of “genocide” in 1944, he referred to the extermination of Armenians in 1915 as a fundamental example of genocide.

The term “genocide” gained international legal status after the adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in December 1948.

As P.J. Gallo points out: “Lemkin, pointing to the Armenian genocide, conducted a relentless campaign for the United Nations to adopt the Genocide Convention and recognize genocide as a crime against humanity.”

Raphael Lemkin and the “Genocide” word. Interview.

Raphael Lemkin Defines Genocide (1949) Full Broadcast

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