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"Inventing Genocide: The Contingent Origins of a Concept during World War II"
At the end of WWII, the Allies resolved to prosecute German leaders
for conspiracy to commit crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes
against humanity. Apart from war crimes, these were new notions, whose
meaning was thrashed out in the early 1940s. This was also the time when
Raphael Lemkin—a Jewish-Polish jurist who fled to the US—coined the
genocide concept. Despite his efforts, it hardly featured in the
Nuremberg Trials, however, because crimes against humanity covered the
same offences. Yet the United Nations passed a convention on genocide in
1948, and Lemkin’s neologism soon became the “crime of crimes.” The
crimes tried at Nuremberg now coexist uneasily with genocide in the Rome
Statute of the International Criminal Court. Many scholars and
practitioners take this legal architecture for granted, even presuming
it to be a natural and redemptive outcome of war’s horrors, especially
the Holocaust. In fact, as I show in this paper, contingency marks these
developments in the 1940s. Were it not for unpredictable constellations
of power and interests, we might have had a different postwar regime of
Thursday, November 15, 2018 at 5:30 - 7:00pm
FREE & OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Co-sponsored by the University of Delaware Departments of History and
Political Science & International Relations; Legal Studies;
Jewish Studies; The Center for Global and Area Studies; and the University Committee on Cultural Activities and Public Events
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