The concept of genocide is relatively new, although the crime itself has a long history. The term was first proposed in 1944 by the Polish Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin in response to the attempted annihilation by the Nazis of the Jews in the Holocaust and their efforts also to destroy other ethnic and national groups in occupied Europe during World War II.

Lemkin believed that this was a distinct kind of crime and that a new law was needed to deal with it. It was not the same, for example, as a crime of war, even if it often took place under cover of war and even though some genocide scholars see the connection with war as quite critical to our understanding of how the ...

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