Raphael Lemkin Essay
About selling and disposing of persons exactly like themselves.The Romans, who are at the root of our conception of law, for example, distinguished explicitly between war waged against civilized peoples, which had to obey certain rules, and war waged against barbarians which didn’t need to obey any rules at all.Because we do have to ask why, exactly, genocide is a crime against humanity?Why is a crime committed against Jews, or any other human group, a crime against those who don’t belong to that group?His mother was a kind of Renaissance woman, who taught him books, and love of art and music.He became a public prosecutor and as he became a lawyer, he started studying what he called at the time, “barbarity,” in all the areas where there were mass killings.So the Polish peasant wasn’t implying that he didn’t have any feelings at all about Jews, only that he didn’t feel very much, and that to the extent that his ethical principles followed his feelings, his codes instructed him to care for himself and for his own.
I’m also aware very keenly that this is -- I’m a Canadian, so I can say this with a certain detachment -- this is a great night in the history of your republic, and you all want to be home, either to avoid the blizzard or to watch a concession speech. Let me begin by talking about the idea of a crime against humanity.
I want to thank Jerry Shestack for a very warm introduction, thank Jerry Fowler for this invitation, and tell you I am going to talk about the man in bronze to our left here.
I’m full of some trepidation about it because there are some people in this room who know a great deal more about Raphael Lemkin than I do.
I want to publicly acknowledge my indebtedness to Bill Korey who has come from New York to hear the lecture.
I’ve learned an enormous amount from Bill Korey’s work on the origin of human rights and the NGO movement.