InfoPoland (12994 bytes)

Rafal Lemkin and Genocide

Rafal Lemkin

Rafal Lemkin in the early 1940s created both the concept and the very term "genocide.*" Lemkin (1901-1959) was in the thirties a deputy public prosecutor of the District Court in Brzezany (Tarnopol Province), later transferred to at the same rank to Warsaw, eventually becoming a barrister and a lecturet at Warsaw's Free University. He worked on the concept of genocide (termed by him at the time as "acts of barbarity") before the World War II. In 1941, he managed to get to the United States where, in 1944, he published his landmark work - Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. . He was also the principal author of fundamental international treaty in this field of genocide: the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1948. In consequence of this, in the 1950s, he was twice nominated for the Nobel Peach Prize. The text of the cited Convention, which has been ratified by the vast majority of the world's countries, have to be considered today as ius cogens. that is as ones from which there can be no retreat (in contrast to ius disposituum). At the same time the crime of genocide has been added to the criminal statues of the majorities of the world's countries.

As stated in article II of the Convention "genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group" in any of a number of ways. First of all (art II, pt. a/) of course is " killing members of the group. Further, however are also included (pt. b/-e/): b/ causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; c/ deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; d/ imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; e/ forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

*The word "genocide" was first coined in 1943 by Lemkin, using the Latin roots geno- (from gens, or "tribe") and -cide (as in "homicide" or "patricide").

The first two paragraphs above is a translation from Polish by Peter K. Gessner of a two paragraph section of an article by Ryszard Szawlowski .



Info-Poland a clearinghouse of information about Poland, Polish Universities, Polish Studies, etc.
© 2000 Polish Academic Information Center, University at Buffalo. All rights reserved.
Info-Poland   |    art and culture   |    history   |    universities   |    studies   |    scholars   |    classroom   |    book chapters   |    sitemaps   |    users' comments