The Origins of Genocide: Raphael Lemkin as a historian of mass violence, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Origins of Genocide

Raphael Lemkin as a historian of mass violence, 1st Edition

Edited by Dominik J. Schaller, Jürgen Zimmerer


128 pages

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This year the United Nations celebrated the 'Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide', adopted in December 1948. It is time to recognize the man behind this landmark in international law. At the beginning were a few words: "New conceptions require new terms. By ‘genocide’ we mean the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group". Rarely in history have paradigmatic changes in scholarship been brought about with such few words. Putting the quintessential crime of modernity in only one sentence, Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959), the Polish Jewish specialist in international law, not only summarized the horrors of the National Socialist Crimes, which were still underway, when he coined the term "genocide" in 1944, but also influenced international law. As the founding figure of the UN Genocide Convention Lemkin is finally getting the respect he deserves. Less known is his contribution to historical scholarship on genocide. Until his death, Lemkin was working on a broad study on genocides in the history of humankind. Unfortunately, he did not manage to publish it. The contributions in this book offer for the first time a critical assessment not only of his influence on international law but also on historical analysis of mass murders, showing the close connection between both.

This book was published as a special issue of the Journal of Genocide Research.

Table of Contents

  1. From the Editor: Lemkin Redux: in quest of a word
  2. From the Guest Editors: Raphael Lemkin: the "founder of the United Nation's Genocide Convention" as a historian of mass violence
  3. Raphael Lemkin and the international debate on the punishment of war crimes (1919-1948) Daniel Marc Segesser and Myriam Gessler
  4. What you see before your eyes: documenting Raphael Lemkin's life by exploring his archival Papers, 1900-1959 Tanya Elder
  5. Raphael Lemkin as historian of genocide in the Americas Michael A. Mcdonnell and A. Dirk Moses
  6. Raphael Lemkin's view of European colonial rule in Africa: between condemnation and admiration Dominik J. Schaller
  7. Raphael Lemkin on the Holocaust Dan Stone
  8. Hostage of politics: Raphael Lemkin on "Soviet genocide" Anton Weiss-wendt

About the Editors

Dominik J. Schaller is Editor of the Journal of Genocide Research and Assistant Professor at the University of Heidelberg, Germany.

Jurgen Zimmerer is Editor of the Journal of Genocide Research. he is also Reader in International History and Director of the Centre for the Study of Genocide and Mass Violence at the University of Sheffield.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Modern / 20th Century