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Genocide: A History from Carthage to Darfur

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90 pages2 hours

Summary

As Winston Churchill learned the full horror of the Nazi atrocities, he reportedly said, ‘This is a crime that has no name’. The sheer scale of the mass murder made a new expression necessary: this went beyond anything seen before or since. The term ‘genocide’ was coined by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish lawyer of Jewish descent, who lost most of his family in the Holocaust. He formed the word by marrying the Greek genos, meaning race or tribe and the Latin -cide, meaning to kill. Lemkin was also instrumental in persuading the UN (United Nations) to adopt a legal definition of the crime and to create international policies for dealing with it. In 1948 the UN General Assembly defined genocide as ‘...acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group’. The acts in question are listed as killing, or causing serious physical or mental injury to members of a group, deliberately exposing a group to conditions likely to cause death, preventing births within a group and forcibly removing the group’s children.
The UN definition has been condemned both for being too general and too narrow. A major criticism is that it omits political and social groups. The ruthless pursuit of ideologies has caused the deaths of millions of people in the last century: Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao targeted political and social groups, such as intellectuals.

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