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For Teachers & Students Intro to the Holocaust Genocide Resources About Kurt & Tessye Simon

Genocide is defined as the systematic destruction of all or part of a racial, ethnic, religious or national group. 

Unfortunately, genocide did not end with the Holocaust. It has erupted in recent years with atrocities committed against various ethnic and religious groups in Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

In 1944 Polish-Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin first coined the term “genocide” in his work Axis Rule in Occupied Europe.  Lemkin wrote:

Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killing of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be the disintegration of the political and social institutions of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups.

In 1945 the International Military Tribunal held at Nuremberg, Germany, charged top Nazis with "crimes against humanity." The word “genocide” was included in the indictment, but as a descriptive, not a legal, term.

In 1948, The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) in Article 2, defined genocide as:

... any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, national, ethnical, racial or religious group such as:

  • Killing members of the group;
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Today, genocide has come to apply to any planned mass slaughtering of a particular group of people, and to a lesser extent, any disaster that was brought about by artificial or human means which produced a large number of casualties.  More than six decades after the Holocaust, the horrors of Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur are painful reminders that preventing genocide in the future is an immense challenge for all of us.  What can you do?  Find out everything you can about past atrocities and how the crimes were started.  Genocide can be prevented.

Explore these Web Sites for more information on Genocide:

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Holocaust Museum Houston

Genocide Intervention Network



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