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A Crime Without a Name

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"A crime without a name"

Winston Churchill, Raphael Lemkin and the

World War II origins of the word "genocide"

On August 24, 1941, only two months after Germany's surprise attack of Soviet Russia on June 22, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill delivered a live broadcast from London. Only a year before the German attack had concentrated on the bombardment of British cities. Now the Prime Minister described dramatically the barbarity of the German occupation in Russia:

"The aggressor ... retaliates by the most frightful cruelties. As his Armies advance, whole districts are being exterminated. Scores of thousands - literally scores of thousands - of executions in cold blood are being perpetrated by the German Police-troops upon the Russian patriots who defend their native soil. Since the Mongol invasions of Europe in the Sixteenth Century, there has never been methodical, merciless butchery on such a scale, or approaching such a scale.

And this is but the beginning. Famine and pestilence have yet to follow in the bloody ruts of Hitler's tanks.

We are in the presence of a crime without a name. "

Churchill's information about the mass executions which followed the German invasion came directly from a German source. Six weeks before on July 9 British cryptographers broke the "enigma" code used by Berlin to communicate with the Eastern Front. Regular reports from mobile killing squads (the Einsatzgruppen which Churchill called "Police-troops") gave detailed accounts and specific numbers of 'Jews' and 'Jewish Bolshevists' killed in mass at locations throughout the occupied territory of the Soviet Union.

Therefore when Churchill spoke of whole districts being exterminated and "methodical, merciless butchery," he had specific detailed knowledge of locations and magnitude of the ongoing crime being committed by Germany in Ukraine and Russia. Churchill could not reveal the extent of his detailed knowledge without undermining British intelligence, yet he had to say something about a crime being committed.

In the United States, one man who heard Churchill's speech by radio was Raphael Lemkin, a refugee Polish-Jewish legal scholar who had arrived from Europe only five months before in April 1941. Prior to coming to America, Lemkin lived in neutral Sweden where he closely monitored German occupation policies in his native Poland where his parents and family remained, as well policies in neighboring Norway and all of occupied Europe. Swedish travelers coming and going from Stockholm helped Lemkin to assemble a collection of publicly available German occupation laws and decrees which Lemkin analyzed in an effort to understand the pattern of the policies being implemented in Hitler's New Order in Europe.

From these documents Lemkin concluded that alongside the traditional war of armies, Germany was engaged in a war against peoples. To Lemkin the collection of occupation decrees demonstrated a Nazi policy aimed at nothing less than a demographic restructuring of the European population. Following the design set out in Mein Kampf, some groups would be



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