Did you know that the word ‘genocide’ was first created during WWII? In 1944, Raphael Lemkin, a Polish lawyer, made up the word and established the term in international law.
Here’s some background: Born in Belarus, Lemkin grew up in a Polish Jewish family. When Germany invaded Poland, Lemkin escaped Europe and settled in the US. 49 members of his family were murdered during the Holocaust. In 1944, he published the book, ‘Axis Rule in Occupied Europe’, which outlined the atrocities of the Holocaust and first introduced the word ‘genocide.’ ‘Genocide’ is derived from the ancient Greek word, ‘genos’ (race, tribe) and the Latin word, ‘cide’ (killing) and is a term used to describe violence against members of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group with the intent to destroy the entire group. While there have been many periods throughout history that would qualify as a genocide, the term was only mainstreamed after WWII, when the full extent of mass murder against European Jews became known. During the Nuremburg trials, Lemkin was able to get the word ‘genocide’ included in the indictment, but ‘genocide’ was not yet a legal crime. He refused to give up and his efforts finally paid off. In 1948, the United Nations established genocide as an international crime.