This comes from the Holocaust Encyclopedia from the U.S, Holocaust Memorial Museum, and gives the history of the term, genocide.
I balk at terms like “ethnic cleansing” or “Holocaust” (a burnt offering of purification from sin) as terms to either mollify, identify or canonize genocide.
The term “Holocaust” is the more popular term for the destruction of Jews during the Nazi reign. I prefer the hebrew word “Shoah” or catastrophe. It allows this particular genocide to have its own name, while avoiding the more religious term that implies that the event was somehow a purification.
|WHAT IS GENOCIDE?|
|The term “genocide” did not exist before 1944. It is a very specific term, referring to violent crimes committed against groups with the intent to destroy the existence of the group. Human rights, as laid out in the U.S. Bill of Rights or the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, concern the rights of individuals.In 1944, a Polish-Jewish lawyer named Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959) sought to describe Nazi policies of systematic murder, including the destruction of the European Jews. He formed the word “genocide” by combining geno-, from the Greek word for race or tribe, with –cide, from the Latin word for killing. In proposing this new term, Lemkin had in mind “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 next year, the International Military Tribunalheld at Nuremberg, Germany, charged top Nazis with “crimes against humanity.” The word “genocide” was included in the indictment, but as a descriptive, not legal, term.|
|On December 9, 1948, in the shadow of the Holocaust and in no small part due to the tireless efforts of Lemkin himself, the United Nations approved the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This convention establishes “genocide” as an international crime, which signatory nations “undertake to prevent and punish.” It defines genocide as: [G]enocide 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.
|While many cases of group-targeted violence have occurred throughout history and even since the Convention came into effect, the legal and international development of the term is concentrated into two distinct historical periods: the time from the coining of the term until its acceptance as international law (1944-1948) and the time of its activation with the establishment of international criminal tribunals to prosecute the crime of genocide (1991-1998). Preventing genocide, the other major obligation of the convention, remains a challenge that nations and individuals continue to face.|
For more information, please visit the Web site of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Committee on Conscience (see related links below). The mandate of the Committee on Conscience is to alert the national conscience, influence policy makers, and stimulate worldwide action to confront and work to halt acts of genocide or related crimes against humanity.