Thursday, January 27, 2005

Alain Destexhe: Defining Genocide

From RWANDA AND GENOCIDE IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY by Alain Destexhe with a foreword by William Shawcross. Reprinted with permission from New York University Press and Pluto Press/UK Alain Destexhe is the former Secretary General of Doctors Without Borders. Copyright 1995.

Genocide is distinguishable from all other crimes by the motivation behind it. Towards the end of the Second World War, when the full horror of the extermination and concentration camps became public knowledge, Winston Churchill stated that the world was being brought face to face with 'a crime that has no name.' History was of little use in finding a recognised word to fit the nature of the crime that Nazi Germany, a modern, industrialised state, had engaged in. There simply were no precedents in regard to either the nature or the degree of the crime. Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-born adviser to the United Staes War Ministry, saw that the world was being confronted with a totally unprecedented phenomena and that 'new conceptions require new terminology.' In his book, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, published in 1944, he coined the word 'genocide', constructed, in contradiction to the accepted rules of etymology, from the Greek 'genos' (race or tribe) and the Latin suffix 'cide' (to kill). According to Lemkin, genocide signifies 'the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group' and implies the existence of a coordinated plan, aimed at total extermination, to be put into effect against individuals chosen as victims purely, simply and exclusively because they are members of the target group.

To read more: "The Crime of Genocide."

More about this subject:

Facing History and Ourselves: The Crime of Genocide

Introduction: “Genocide is not just a word to describe massacres. It is an important legal term that many see as the foundation for international human rights law. Ms. Power writes about the man who coined the word, Raphael Lemkin, a legal scholar and a Jew who was forced to flee when the Nazis invaded Poland.”

Crimes Against Humanity and Civilization: The Genocide of the Armenians

Introduction: “Facing History's new resource book, Crimes Against Humanity and Civilization: The Genocide of the Armenians, combines the latest scholarship on the Armenian Genocide with an interdisciplinary approach to history, enabling students and teachers to make the essential connections between history and their own lives. By concentrating on the choices that individuals, groups, and nations made before, during, and after the genocide, readers have the opportunity to consider the dilemmas faced by the international community in the face of massive human rights violations. While focusing on the Armenian Genocide during World War I, the book considers the many legacies of the Armenian Genocide including Turkish denial and the struggle for the recognition of genocide as a "crime against humanity." The book can be integrated into courses dealing with multiple genocides, human rights, as well as history courses covering the late 19th century and World War I as well as U.S. international relations.”

Alexander Laban Hinton's edited collection Annihilating Difference: The Anthropology of Genocide (2002)

No comments: