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Lemkin, Raphael

LEMKIN, RAPHAEL (1901–1959), international lawyer who initiated the use of the term "genocide." Educated in Poland, Germany, and France, he became secretary of the Court of Appeal, Warsaw, in 1927. Early in his career he tried to mobilize support for the international penalization of genocide, despite his view that crimes committed by acts of sovereign states are not subject to international jurisdiction. Returning to Warsaw in 1933, after the Madrid Conference for the unification of penal law, he was compelled to give up his official position. He suffered under Colonel Beck's pro-German antisemitic government. In the early part of World War II most of his family was murdered in Warsaw by the Germans. Lemkin fought in the Polish underground, eventually escaping and finally reaching the United States in 1941. There he taught at Duke and Yale universities and served on the Board of Economic Warfare, under Henry Wallace. In 1944 he published his Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of Government Proposals for Redress, in which he first systematized the material under the term *genocide. In 1946, Lemkin succeeded in mobilizing sufficient support to have genocide put on the agenda of the UN General Assembly. The Economic and Social Council invited him to present a draft convention. Assisted by Herbert V. Evatt, the Australian president of the General Assembly, he was able to get that body to pass a resolution in December 1948 on the adoption of the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. Although he was not an official of an international organization, Lemkin nevertheless played an important role through his forceful personal insistence.


H. Maza, Neuf meneurs internationaux (1965), 341–57; E. Aroneanu, Le Crime contre l'Humanité (1961).