Raphael Lemkin Essay

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And to that extent, he is a kind of a witness just as this Museum is a witness to what happened during the Holocaust.

In the current passions of our times, in the wars in Kosovo, in the great men that have dealt with human rights issues, he has given us insights into what has happened, which shows a probing mind, a piercing intelligence, and something that contributes a very valuable dimension to those who read his works.

I mention a particular effort that we are engaged in now of a potential genocide in Sudan.

Outside of this auditorium you will see a very telling exhibit about the potential genocide in Sudan.

Because the past does not become meaningful unless it becomes a witness or a lesson for the future.

One of the things that we are especially aimed at achieving is arousing the national and international conscience to the crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity.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.When we are through here tonight I invite you to come down and see that, because it’s something that we should remember.It’s so easy to forget and have a sleeping conscience where it comes to matters of genocidal proportion that we need to be reminded of it.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.In this, he reasoned as most human beings unfortunately do.Professor Ignatieff delivers a lecture on Raphael Lemkin, a Polish-Jewish lawyer who formed the word “genocide” to describe Nazi policies of systematic murder, including the destruction of the European Jews. Welcome to this evening’s lecture, which I am sure will be of enormous benefit to all of us.Raphael Lemkin was the man who coined the term, “Genocide Convention.” He was born in Poland a hundred years ago, grew up in a household which was attuned to arts and culture.But this concept, I want to argue to you, comes very late in the history of mankind.To judge from the horrible century we have just been through, that concept of a common humanity is still struggling to make headway against the more evident idea that race, or color, or creed, mark frontiers -- impassible frontiers -- of moral concern.


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