6.1 Learn About Genocides

VIDEO: Raphael Lemkin Defines Genocide

In the following video Lemkin explains how and why he developed the concept of genocide.

The term “genocide” was first developed by Polish
Raphäel Lemkin in 1944 in response to the actions of the Nazi’s during WWII and the mass murders of other groups throughout history (United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, n.d.a; Genocide: An introduction, n.d.). For years Lemkin lobbied the United Nations to recognize genocide as a crime under international law. This occurred in 1948 with the adoption of the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) (Cassin, n.d.; United Nations , n.d.-b). Although the convention was ratified by only 149 States, all nations are bound as a matter of law by the principle that genocide is a crime prohibited under international law” (United Nations , n.d.-b, para. 2).


Emblem with 5 candles in place of fingers on a left hand. Text underneath says remember the victims prevent genocide.
Special Emblem of International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime.

VIDEO: What is Genocide?

The following video provides a brief introduction to genocide and why genocide education is important.



The current definition of Genocide is set out in Article II of the Genocide Convention:

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

(a)  Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; 

(c)  Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; 

(d)  Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; 

(e)  Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

(The content of this text box is attributed directly to the United Nations (n.d.-c). Genocide Convention Fact-Sheet. UN.org.)


VIDEO: International Law in Action II – 1.3 Core Crimes Genocide

The following video from the Centre for Innovation at Leiden University, provides an explanation of the International Criteria for genocide.


Click the link below to learn more about genocide: 

Genocide: An Introduction 

Genocides have
been occurring since the beginning of human civilization, with one of the earliest known examples being the
destruction of Carthage at the end of the Third Punic War in 149–146 BCE (Kiernan, 2004). Some genocides are more widely known than others, usually due to death tolls, when/where they occurred, and the amount of existing documentation and evidence detailing what occurred. One of the central characteristics of genocides is the targeting, vilification, blaming, and scapegoating of people due to perceptions of difference, typically tied to religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, and certain constructions of race and ethnicity (Grobman, 1990). Once a specific group has been successfully targeted and labeled, the next step in the process is dehumanization (Roth, 2010). Successful dehumanization efforts facilitate the process of systematically removing the identified population through sterilization, deportation, and/or mass execution (Baum, 2012).  The following parts of this chapter provide a brief background on four of the most devastating genocides in human history: The Armenian Genocide, The Holocaust, The Rwandan Genocide, and the Genocide of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Unfortunately, there are many more.

VIDEO: Holocaust Lecture Series

The following video explains the importance of memorializing genocide to educate and prevent similar events from happening again.



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On Death and Dying (Original) Copyright © 2022 by Jacqueline Lewis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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