The breadth and complexity of Lemkin’s definition of “genocide” results from several influences during the time he developed the concept. One of them is a belief that Nazi Germany was engineering a demographic revolution that would leave Germany predominant in Europe regardless of the outcome of the military conflict. This notion facilitated the assumption of a coherent cynical motivation behind disparate policies, laws, and decrees. Second, Lemkin’s daily work for the U.S. Government reinforced his focus on economic and legal matters and helps to explain why they occupy such a prominent place in his book Axis Rule. His job provided Lemkin with good access to information and encouraged a detailed analysis of Nazi occupation techniques, but it prioritized economic exploitation over atrocities, with a view to restitution after the liberation of the occupied territories. Third, Lemkin’s strong focus on the law and his belief in the curative effect of law, although already evident before the war, was reinforced by his desire to prove German violations to a hesitant American public and by his hope to contribute to a legal condemnation of genocide in all of its forms after the war. This focus favored Nazi violations of international law that could be proven through legal texts and therefore led to a broad definition of genocidal acts while obscuring the most heinous crimes.
I thank Hilary Earl, Doris Bergen, Douglas Irvin-Erickson, Benjamin Lieberman, and the journal's two anonymous reviewers for comments and constructive criticism of an earlier version of this article. I also thank my son Anselm Scheck for helping me search for Lemkin's memo to President Roosevelt. I am especially grateful for the Audrey Wade Hittinger Katz and Sheldon Toby Katz endowed chair, which allowed me to do the archival research for this project.
"Raphaël Lemkin’s Derivation of Genocide from His Analysis of Nazi-Occupied Europe,"
Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal:
Available at: https://scholarcommons.usf.edu/gsp/vol13/iss1/12
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