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Letters to the Editor

Letter: Genocide defined

  • Author: Ken Green
    | Opinion
  • Updated: January 28
  • Published January 28

Steve Haycox’s Sunday piece on the importance of remembering the Holocaust is reassuringly politically correct for all who may need such comforting, but it is disturbingly vacuous for those who may not. A brief internet search is revealing:

Various terms, including “massacre,” “crimes against humanity” and “extermination” were used to describe intentional, systematic killings. In 1941, Winston Churchill, describing the German invasion of the Soviet Union, spoke of “a crime without a name.” Raphael Lemkin, a lawyer of Polish-Jewish descent, created the term “genocide” in a book describing the implementation of Nazi policies in occupied Europe, also citing earlier mass killings. Lemkin coined the word “genocide” in 1944 from “genos” (Greek for family, tribe, or race) and — “cide” (Latin for killing).

Lemkin defined genocide as follows:

“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. The objectives of such a plan would be the disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups.”

Lemkin’s broader concerns about genocide embraced non-physical, psychological acts of genocide.

When we remember the Holocaust past, it would seem equally important for us not to ignore what it has spawned in present day Palestine, Gaza and the West Bank, and to not look at the situation in a historical vacuum of guilt.

— Ken Green

Cooper Landing

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