American Jewish Historical Society
Raphael Lemkin, an international lawyer, initiated the use of the term "genocide," and succeeded in persuading the United Nations to adopt the Genocide Convention in 1948. Documents include personal correspondence and artifacts; correspondence, documentation, clippings, and articles regarding the United Nations adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment on the Crime of Genocide treaty; and source material for the unfinished manuscript,. Collection includes photographs, identity cards, articles, papers, essays, clippings, magazines, research materials, term papers, posters, United Nations materials, and microfilm.
Raphael Lemkin was born in Bezwodene, Poland (located in imperial Russia at the time of Lemkin's birth and now near Volkovysk, Belarus), on June 24, in 1900, though some sources claim 1901 as his birth year.
Little is known of Lemkin's early life in Poland, a point mentioned in the only full-length biography written to date about Lemkin by Dr. James Martin, a Holocaust revisionist.2What is known is that Lemkin was one of three children born to Joseph and Bella (Pomerantz) Lemkin, all boys, including brothers Elias and Samuel. According to various sources, his father was a farmer and his mother a highly intellectual woman who was a painter, linguist, and philosophy student with a large collection of books in literature and history. With his mother as an influence, Lemkin mastered nine languages by the age of 14, including English, French, Spanish, Hebrew, Yiddish, and Russian. At the age of 15, Lemkin first encountered the idea of intentional mass murder of a population when news of the Turkish slaughter of Armenians reached Poland in 1915.3In addition, the novelQuo Vadis, by the Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz, describing the barbarity of the Roman Empire under Nero, is cited as an additional influence on the young, sensitive, and impressionable Lemkin. Later in life, the 1933 slaughter of Christian Assyrians in Iraq propelled his work on the legal concepts of mass murder.
In 1919, he began the study of linguistics at the University of John Casimir in Lwow (Lviv, Poland), moved on to the University of Heidelberg in Germany to study philosophy, and returned to Lwow to study law at John Casimir in 1926, becoming a prosecutor in Warsaw at graduation. From 1929-1934, Lemkin was the Public Prosecutor for the district court of Warsaw. While Public Prosecutor, he wrote books on the law and worked on the team that codified the penal codes of Poland, which had gained independence from Russia in 1917. An important contact in the United States was forged during this time, when Lemkin worked with visiting Duke University law professor, Malcolm McDermott, in translating theThe Polish Penal Code of 1932. McDermott would later provide Lemkin with help in leaving Europe.
In 1933, as public prosecutor, Lemkin presented a paper at the Madrid meeting of the League of Nations, urging the delegation to condemn acts of vandalism and barbarity as crimes against humanity. He proposed, prior to creating an actual word for it, that the "destruction of national, religious, and racial groups" should be declared "an international crime alongside piracy, slavery, and drug smuggling."4He proposed a ban on mass slaughter, but could not persuade the League to vote on it, with the Nazi delegation laughing at the idea of such a proposal. The presentation of his ideas at the League of Nations proved to be detrimental to his career as lead prosecutor, though being Jewish in Poland added to his career decline. Shortly after the Madrid meeting, he was admonished by the Polish Foreign Minister and under pressure, resigned his position in 1934, going into private practice until 1939.
When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Lemkin joined the underground guerilla movement in the forests of Poland. After spending six months avoiding the Germans and making his way to Lithuania, he escaped to Sweden. In Sweden from 1940-1941, he was a lecturer at the University of Stockholm, presenting a series of lectures on international finance,5published under the titleValutareglering och Clearing(Exchange Control and Clearing), while persuading Swedish officials to provide him with copies of Nazi directives issued to occupied countries. Professor McDermott invited Lemkin to join him at Duke in North Carolina, and with the Nazi directives in hand, he made an arduous eastern journey through Russia and Japan, arriving on the East coast of the U.S. in 1941. In the U.S., Lemkin presented the confiscated Nazi directives to the State and War Departments, and began lecturing at Duke.
At the outbreak of American participation in the war, the U.S. Army recruited Lemkin to teach classes in military government while the Board of Economic Warfare gave him a position as a consultant due to his work on international finance law. From 1941-1943, he worked on his most well known publication,Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, in which he continued his work on the 1933 Madrid proposal, published the translated Nazi directives obtained in Sweden, analyzed Axis authority and policies in occupied Europe, and introduced the term and concept of genocide. Chapter 9 ofAxis Ruledeveloped Lemkin's theories on genocide, the word being a combination of the Greek "genos" or "race" and the Latin "cide" or "killing," thus forming a new concept of killing based on the deliberate destruction of a national, racial, ethnic, religious, or political minority by the majority or dominating society.6
At the end of the war, the great majority of Lemkin's European family had died. His brother Elias survived with his wife and two sons. Raphael and Elias had a brief reunion in Europe, and Elias wrote letters from a U.S.-controlled Munich repatriation camp to Lemkin asking for help in immigrating to Canada, where additional Lemkin family were located in Montreal and Ottawa. From correspondence in the collection, Elias and his family successfully left Europe for Montreal in 1948.
In 1945-1946, Lemkin left his paid position with the Army, moving on to become an advisor to the U.S. Supreme Court Justice and Nuremberg Trial Judge, Robert Jackson. During the trials, he fought to have the word genocide introduced into the trial record, but his efforts were unsuccessful. British prosecutors objected on the grounds that the word was not found in theOxford English Dictionary.7
After Nuremberg, Lemkin turned to the United Nations General Assembly convened at Lake Success, NY in an effort to have the newly formed body condemn the act of genocide as an international standard. Lemkin presented a draft resolution for a Genocide Convention treaty to the countries of Cuba, India, and Panama, persuading them to sponsor the resolution. With the support of the United States, the resolution was placed before the General Assembly for consideration, with the various arguments and legalities over the document debated in the Legal Committee and the Social and Economic Council. The final draft of Resolution 96 (I) was presented to and approved by the General Assembly on December 11, 1946. The resolution affirmed that genocide was a crime under international law and directed the Member States and the Social and Economic Council to draft a treaty to present to Member States for ratification.
From 1947-1948, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment on the Crime of Genocide treaty was hashed out with Lemkin regularly consulting on the articles of the treaty. The draft was presented to the General Assembly from September to December 1948 at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris. Lemkin, with little money and suffering from recurring ill health, managed to make the Paris Conference and was present when the treaty was adopted on December 9, 1948. On December 11, the United States was the first of a required twenty Member State signatures needed for UN treaty adoption, though it was also necessary for each individual signatory government to ratify and adopt the treaty as well. In this respect, one hurdle remained for United States ratification: approval by the U.S. Senate. On June 16, 1949, the treaty, supported by President Truman and the State Department, arrived in Congress where it immediately ran into roadblocks, including the Korean War, McCarthyism, rising xenophobia in the U.S., the disapproval of the American Bar Association, and a movement to stop ratification led by Senator John Bricker. Ultimately, the hurdles in the United States proved too high, and in April 1953, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles withdrew any human rights treaties from consideration. Lemkin was devastated by the actions of his adopted country.8
After the UN adoption of the treaty in 1948, Lemkin became a minor celebrity, with newspaper articles written, magazine interviews given, and radio plays performed about his life. He enjoyed his brief time in the spotlight but continued to push for the ratification of the treaty in the United States. He believed that with the U.S. in the moral lead, other countries would follow suit and provide positive action in stopping mass race killings. He worked tirelessly during this period, becoming the first lecturer on international law at Yale University, consulting with the United Nations, working with the U.S. Committee for a U.N. Genocide Convention, writing his autobiography and drafting the unfinished manuscript,History of Genocide. In addition to teaching at Yale, Lemkin taught at Rutgers and Princeton Universities. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in the early 1950s and received the Grand Cross of Cespedes from Cuba in 1950 and the Stephen Wise Award of the American Jewish Congress in 1951. Ill health continuously plagued him, in particular high blood pressure, which may have contributed to his death from a heart attack on August 28, 1959. He died in poverty, without marrying, and is buried in Mt. Hebron Cemetery in Queens, New York with a headstone that reads "The Father of the Genocide Convention."
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide treaty went into effect by the United Nations on January 21, 1951. The United States ratified the treaty on October 14, 1988 and President Ronald Reagan signed the bill on November 4, 1988.
The collection documents the life of Raphael Lemkin as well as his fight for the adoption of the Genocide Convention by the United Nations and the United States. The collection documents his life from 1941-1951, with some research material covering earlier historic periods., contains personal correspondence, biographical clippings, and personal affects such as photographs and identity papers., holds documents on the Genocide Convention including Lemkin correspondence on the Convention, correspondence from the U.S. Committee for a U.N. Genocide Committee, and various writings including clippings, articles, radio transcripts, notes, drafts, term papers, statements, resolutions and memoranda concerning the Convention.contains source materials, student assistant essays, handwritten notes, research index cards and correspondence regarding Lemkin's writing and publishing his uncompletedmanuscript., contains journals and pamphlets removed from folders in Series II and III.contains yellowing and fragile correspondence, documents and writings removed from the collection. User copies have been produced for research use.contain original clippings, which are restricted due to their fragility. All clippings have been photocopied and user copies are available for researchers. This section also contains an oversized document from the U.S. Committee for a U.N. Genocide Convention, and various miscellaneous source materials.
The collection is in English, French, Hebrew, German, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Lithuanian.
Arrangement mostly follows the original archiving of the collection, with some minor changes and variations for clarification of contents.
Organized in five series and one oversized materials section.
Series I: Personal and Biographical, undated, 1933, 1941-1951, 1983, 1989, 2002
Series II: Genocide Convention, undated, 1945-1951 Subseries 1: Correspondence and Other, undated, 1945-1951 Subseries 2: United Nations, undated, 1947-1949, 1951 Subseries 3: Writings, undated, 1933, 1945-1951
Series III:History of Genocide, undated, 1763, 1919, 1921, 1940s, 1951 Subseries 1: Source Materials, undated, 1763, 1919, 1947-1949 Subseries 2: Research Essays and Correspondence, undated, 1963, 1919, 1947-1948, 1951 Subseries 3: Research Index Cards, undated, [1948-1949] Subseries 4: Microfilm, circa 1921
Series IV: Publications, undated, 1915-1919, 1944, 1946-1952
Series V: Restricted Documents
Oversized Materials, undated, 1944-1945, 1947-1951
The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.
Selected physical items from the collection will be on exhibit at the Center for Jewish History until April 2010. This exhibit is curated in conjunction with an International Symposium regarding Lemkins work held at the Center for Jewish History on November 15, 2009 entitled, Genocide and Human Experience: Raphael Lemkins Thought and Vision. Information on the symposium may be found here:http://www.cjh.org/lemkin/.
Certain materials on display such as United Nations documents are unique items and are not owned by the AJHS. Therefore they could not be reproduced for the online digital archive and are not included in the American Jewish Historical Societys digital archive of Lemkin materials. These materials will be unavailable to researchers until the exhibit ends in April 2010. However, the greater majority of correspondence and historical research notecards (box 8) on display are included in the digital archive.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. The digital archive of selected Raphael Lemkin materials may be viewed here:http://digital.cjh.org/R/?func=collections-result&collection_id=1661
Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Executive Director of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection.Please note that literary rights to materials authored by Raphael Lemkin are held by the Lemkin heirs.For more information contact:American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, 10011.
Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Raphael Lemkin Collection; P-154; box number/folder number; American Jewish Historical Society
Date: undated, 1933, 1941-1951, 1983, 1989, 2002
Series I contains several types of documentation regarding Mr. Lemkin, primarily personal correspondence between the years of 1941-1951. Correspondence contains various business correspondence including requests for payments of overdue fees and library books; correspondence from relatives in Canada, Long Island, NY, and Germany, including Lemkin's brother Elias (in a U.S. repatriation camp in Munich and from Montreal, Canada); and correspondence between Lemkin and Kurt Grossman over disputed payment for an article written by Grossman. Also of interest are letters from the Board of Economic Warfare regarding Lemkin's collection of Axis mandates smuggled from Sweden to the U.S. in 1941, letters from Robert Oppenheimer regarding employment of Lemkin at the Institute of Advanced Study in New Jersey, and a letter from an early collaborator of Lemkin's, Malcolm McDermott. Lemkin and McDermott collaborated on a publication of theand the. McDermott aided Lemkin on his escape from Sweden to the U.S. in 1941.
Date: undated, 1945-1951
Series II contains materials either directly gathered from the meetings of the United Nations on the Genocide Conventions (1946-1951), or correspondence and various writings related to the Genocide Convention. The series is subdivided into three subseries:;; and. Related materials on Subseries 2 and 3 may be found in,and.
Date: undated, 1945-1951
Correspondence is arranged alphabetically between Lemkin Correspondence on the Genocide Convention, and correspondence that seems to derive from the U.S. Committee for a U.N. Genocide Convention. Also included are public meeting notices concerning meetings held on the convention in 1949 and 1950, one letter from Pearl S. Buck, a member of the U.S. Committee concerning a draft of the group's manifesto on genocide, and membership lists from the U.S. and International Committees for a U.N. Genocide Convention, along with a few minutes for that group. Additional correspondence from Buck may be found throughout the collection.
Date: undated, 1947-1949, 1951
The United Nations documents derive from UN committees and General Assembly meetings commenced on the subject of genocide including the Ad Hoc Committee of the Economic and Social Council proceedings (1948), the Sixth Committee proceedings from 1946-1949 on the question of the Convention, and Sixth Committee proceedings from the Palais de Chaillot conference held in Paris by the UN in 1948. General Assembly commentary and proceedings are included from the Palais de Chaillot meetings as well as meetings conducted at the UN's Lake Success facility in Lake Placid, NY and New York City proceedings. Statements by various U.S. and foreign delegates are located in this subseries, petitions and communications from Non-Governmental Agencies, and UN press releases from 1947-1951 on the Convention can also be found in this portion of the collection. Two publications on the UN Convention may be found inincluding a 1952 UN pamphlet on the Convention and a report from the President of the United States on U.S. participation in the United Nations for the year 1947-1948.
Date: undated, 1933, 1945-1951
The subseries on writings, arranged in alphabetical order, derives from the many types of non-pamphlet and journal articles, clippings, essays, drafts, interviews, notes, term papers, statements, transcripts, resolutions, and unpublished articles and papers found within the collection. Some papers had been housed in manila folders. These were removed and filed, in some cases, in their own folders to distinguish document types. Each folder indicates whether or not Lemkin wrote the contents. There is no direct indication that Lemkin wrote the folder contents labeled Notes and Drafts, Drafts and Early Version of Convention Text, Unpublished Articles, and Unpublished Papers. Of odd interest is a screen- or teleplay written by Austrian director and writer Leo Mittler on the creation of the Genocide Convention (Box 6, Folder 3). Assorted journals and law association journals may be found within.
Date: undated, 1763, 1919, circa 1921, 1940s, 1951
Series III was originally titled Source Material. Upon evaluation of the papers and the discovery of correspondence relating to the proposed publication of Lemkin's book on historic cases of genocide, it was concluded that the research found within this series related to both Lemkin's work on theas well as the overall history of genocide. To reflect the materials contained in this series, its name was changed to.
Date: undated, 1763, 1919, 1947-1949
This subseries contains source materials on topics relating to examples of genocide as defined by Lemkin. Examples include allegations of mass murder between the states of India and Pakistan in the Kashmir region, the alleged German massacre of Africans at Herero, South-West Africa, the abduction of children by Communist infiltrators in Greece, documentation on the history of confrontation between the Soviet Union and the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia); the Turkish slaughter of Armenians between the years of 1916-1919, and essays on examples of foreign intervention of the United States and Britain on behalf of oppressed minorities. Source materials include research conducted by student assistants; various documents including United Nations proceedings and reports; snippets of historical accounts, and one item of correspondence relating an interview with an Armenian woman and her escape to the United States circa 1915. Of particular interest are microfilmed facsimile documents (Folder 10) from the British Museum. According to documentation within the folder, the letters, dating to 1763, are from a collection of Colonel Bouquet Papers written to Lord Jeffrey Amherst, commander of the British army during the French and Indian War. The documents authorize the use of providing smallpox-infected blankets to the Indian population near Detroit, Michigan, as well as a request to use the 'Spanish method' of hunting Indians down by dogs in an attempt to exterminate or drive them from the region. Also included in the folder are descriptions of Korean accusations of atrocities committed by the Japanese presented at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and a list compiled by a librarian of references to genocide in British newspapers between the years of 1945-1947, as well as some correspondence containing research. Some publications removed from overstuffed folders can be found in. Microfilm concerning the Armenian massacre may be found in.
Date: undated, 1763, 1919, 1947-1948, 1951
Student research assistants primarily wrote essays to Lemkin on topics related to the treatment of groups by an oppressor. Each essay described an historical period such as the "Black Hundred" movement in Czarist Russia, the British treatment of Catholics and the Irish, German oppression of Slavs and Eastern Europeans, Greek-Turkish relations, Spanish treatment of South American native tribes such as the Mayans and Incans, and an essay on Tamerlane's barbarity on expanding his kingdom from Russia to India. Folder 11 contains correspondence to and from Lemkin and several potential publishers concerning his manuscript and research on the treatment of North America Indians by the French and British.
Date: undated, [1948-1949]
Index cards of research notes, primarily written by student assistants. Topics include historical notes and quotes on British and American intervention on behalf of oppressed minorities, Armenians and Assyrians; the revolt under the leadership of the Ukrainian Cossack hetman, Bohdan Chmielnicki (Khmelnytsky in Polish), who fought with Poland and murdered over 100,000 Jews and Poles in 1648-1649; index cards on groups such as the Maronites of the Middle East, Mongols, the Spanish Moriscos or Moors who were expelled from Spain because of their Muslim practices; Quaker persecution in Massachusetts and the psychology and sociology of genocide. In addition, there is research dealing with native Indian tribes in North, Central and South America, and their encounters with Spanish, English and French conquerors.
Date: circa 1921
Series 4 is devoted to the user and original copies of microfilm found within the collection. The microfilm is of a charge sheet, evidence, and testimony against Misshak Torlakian (sp), accused of assassinating Behbouth (sp) han Djevanshire, in Constantinople, circa 1921. The trial testimony seems to be part of a military tribunal and Djevanshire may have been a member of the Azerbaijan government, killed by Torlakian, an "Ottoman," or Turkish subject. The microfilm contains part testimony and part handwritten documents, possibly by Lemkin commenting on the case.
Date: undated, 1944-1945, 1947-1951
Oversized materials primarily consist of original clippings pulled from the collection, unfolded and placed in flat storage. All clippings have been photocopied with copies placed within the original folder for research purposes. Unless otherwise noted, all materials are restricted. Folder 6 and folder 7 contain materials that may be used by researchers including a U.S. Committee for a U.N. Genocide Convention poster with photographs and quotes by members of the committee and a poster of the Genocide Conventions. Folder 7 contains various oversized source materials. This folder is shared with restricted source material clippings.