Raphael Lemkin prepares for a talk on UN radio, probably between 1947 and 1951. Lemkin coined the term "genocide" in 1944. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, gift of United Nations

The Crime Now Has a Name: “Genocide”

December 1, 1944

In his book, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, Raphael Lemkin invents a new word, “genocide,” to describe the coordinated, planned destruction of a national group.

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Raphael Lemkin was a Polish-Jewish jurist who, as early as 1933, was working to introduce legal safeguards for ethnic, religious, and social groups at international forums, but without success. When the German Army invaded Poland in 1939, Lemkin escaped from Europe, eventually reaching safety in the United States, where he took up a teaching position at Duke University. He moved to Washington, DC, in the summer of 1942 to join the War Department as an analyst. He went on to document Nazi atrocities in his 1944 book, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. In this text, he introduced the word “genocide.”

By “genocide” we mean the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group. This new word, coined by the author to denote an old practice in its modern development, is made from the ancient Greek word genos (race, tribe) and the Latin cide (killing)…. Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify 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. Genocide is directed against the national group as an entity, and the actions involved are directed against individuals, not in their individual capacity, but as members of the national group. (p. 80)

By December 1944, several newspapers in the United States had begun reporting on Lemkin’s use of the new word, “genocide,”  to describe the Nazi policy of annihilation toward Europe’s Jews.

Newspaper Articles about this Event

423 articles in 301 newspapers

Learn More about this Historical Event


Lemkin, Raphael. Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation—Analysis of Government—Proposals for Redress. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1944.

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December 1 - 31, 1944 News articles, editorials, opinion pieces, letters to the editor, and political cartoons regarding the publication of  Raphael Lemkin's "Axis Rule in Occupied Europe" and the word "genocide."

October 1945 - January 1946 News articles, editorials, opinion pieces, letters to the editor, and political cartoons referencing "genocide" as one of the crimes for which German leaders would be tried by the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg.


Genocide, Lemkin, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe