Martin James Joseph - The man who invented genocide

Author : Martin James Joseph
Title : The man who invented genocide The public career and consequences of Raphael Lemkin
Year : 1984

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Introduction. LATE IN NOVEMBER, 1944, midway during what was prominently promoted by Publishers' Weekly as "Jewish Book Month" (November 10-December 10), Columbia University Press was credited with quietly releasing, unaccompanied by the usual prestigious fanfare, a large (712 pp.) volume titled Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of Government, Proposals for Redress. Ultimately to become one of the most fateful works in the history of political thought in the 20th century, it was authored by an almost total obscurity, one Raphael Lemkin. Identified later as a refugee Polish Jew and lawyer holding a European doctorate, it took awhile before the credentials of the author and the significance of his work began to sink in. From internal evidence the book might just as well have been issued in 1942, or early 1943. The publication auspices of his work went unnoticed by most but they were ominous: Axis Rule was directly sponsored by the Division of International Law Publications of the formidable warmonger foundation, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, staffed in part with some of the most influential and most implacable exponents for global war with Germany, well before it took place. After this war became a reality this organization had taken a leading position in the manufacture of postwar plans and schemes for rigging a world in harmony with and contributory to the interests of its prestigious sponsoring forces. Starting with a vociferous accolade in the pages of the New York Herald Tribune Weekly Book Review on the last day of December, 1944, Lemkin was additionally reviewed with non-stop superlatives in a dozen other major periodicals in the USA, and in the London Times Literary Supplement. There seemed to be some sense of mutual understanding in this orchestra of praise. The book was brought to the attention of the elite of the U.S. in all of the opinion-making sectors and likely regions from which the country's policy makers and enforcers might be likely to emanate. The reviewers glowed over this "indispensable" handbook for those who would be responsible for initiating "retributive justice" in Germany (Otto D. Tolischus in the New York Times), repeated in the Christian Science Monitor, which thought also that those who would "bear the responsibility for dealing with the Germans" would be unable to function properly without having it as their constant companion and referring to it continuously. While Walter Millis burbled in the Herald Tribune about the author's "wide scholarship," echoed by Merle Fainsod in the Harvard Law Review, which latter reviewer identified Lemkin as "a noted Polish scholar and attorney," there was not a great deal of solid information available about him then, nor for some time thereafter. When Lemkin first surfaced in the U.S. was not revealed, but it had not been very long before his book. His major previously published work in the West was confined to two books, in French and Swedish, dealing with international law related to international money payments, foreign exchange and exchange rates, and associated banking laws around the world, a subject of great interest and importance to war refugees and emigres, an element always on the run, and one which was necessarily concerned with seeing to it that their money could be moved with them across the necessary national frontiers to the place where it might be most effectively employed. These books, La reglementation des Paiements intemationaux (Paris, 1939) and Valutareglering och Clearing (Stockholm, 1941), were about all that one could refer to in seeking something of the author's credentials for writing such a book as Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. There was forthcoming eventually a variety of tidbits of revelation as to his background and activities. It was obvious that his ponderous and expensive book would be confmed to a small and select readership, and undoubtedly those eminent and influential figures in the U.S. who had collaborated in launching Lemkin and his fateful ideas wanted a wider acquaintance for him among the dominant left-liberal opinion-formers. Therefore the Stalinist-lining liberal weekly The Nation was elected to expose its then-nearly 40,000 subscribers and probably ten times as many readers to the core of his views and opinions. ...

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