The Bounty Teacher's Guide

01

Raphael Lemkin and the Crime That Needs a Name

The Compelling Question to Support Inquiry

What is the significance of genocide denial, as featured in the Ten Stages of Genocide?

This lesson is designed for grades 6-8 and 9-12 but can be adapted for upper-elementary levels. The full lesson is recommended to take 3-4 class sessions to complete, though it can be shortened

This lesson introduces readers to the life of Raphael Lemkin and the impact of the massacre of Armenians on Lemkin’s thinking and his journey to coin the word genocide. It also traces his tireless effort to make genocide an international crime at the newly founded United Nations. The lesson examines the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, especially Article II; resistance to the convention’s ratification in the U.S. Senate; how settler colonialism can lead to genocide, and the impact of genocide on Indigenous peoples. Teachers will learn about an analytical framework that helps students discern different stages of genocide and find activities to deepen students’ comprehension of the challenge of proving intent when prosecuting genocide. 

Desired Outcomes for Lesson One

In this lesson, students will learn about Raphael Lemkin, origins of the word genocide, the passage of the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and the connection between genocide and settler colonialism. At the end of the lesson, students will be able to do the following:

Reflect on Raphael Lemkin’s life, the experiences that informed his thinking, the choices he made, and his key accomplishments;
Define genocide as set forth in Article II of the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
Describe the struggle at the U.N. over the wording of the genocide convention.

Supporting Questions

How does denial manifest in present-day U.S. society and why does it matter? Who and what does denial serve? 
What is the significance of intent in the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide? 

Terms that Students Need to Know and Understand

Genocide

The deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, ethnic, religious, political, or cultural group (based in part on definition from Merriam-Webster)

Cultural Genocide

The deliberate and systematic destruction of traditions, values, language, and other characteristics that make one group of people distinct from another, including the forced removal and coerced assimilation of a group’s children (based in part on definition from Cadmus EUI)

C3 Standards for College, Career and Civic Resources

The C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards is a powerful guide to help each state strengthen instruction in the social studies by establishing fewer, clearer, and higher standards for instruction in civics, economics, geography, and history, kindergarten through high school.

D2.Civ.3.6-8. Examine the origins, purposes, and impact of constitutions, laws, treaties, and international agreements.
D2.Civ.3.9-12. Analyze the impact of constitutions, laws, treaties, and international agreements on the maintenance of national and international order.
D2.Civ.5.9-12. Evaluate citizens’ and institutions’ effectiveness in addressing social and political problems at the local, state, tribal, national, and/or international level.

Useful Resources to Support Inquiry

Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, Raphael Lemkin
Totally Unofficial, Raphael Lemkin
East West Street: On the Origins of “Genocide” and “Crimes Against Humanity,” Philippe Sands
Totally Unofficial: Raphael Lemkin and the Genocide Convention, Facing History and Ourselves
1948 U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
“Raphael Lemkin as historian of genocide in the Americas,” Michael A. McDonnell and A. Dirk Moses
Confronting Evil, James Waller
A Problem from Hell, Samantha Power
Native Americans and the Question of Genocide, Alex Alvarez
Dawnland and First Light (films)
Watchers of the Sky (film)

Things to Consider

Raphael Lemkin invented the word genocide (genos–Greek for family, tribe, race, + cide–Latin for killing) in the early 1940s after decades studying human social history. Distressed by the lack of a word that encapsulates the systematic campaign by one group to exterminate another and the absence of a law to prosecute those who perpetrate, he made it his life’s work to create a word to describe the crime and advocate for passage of an international law to hold accountable those who aim to annihilate a targeted social group.
In 1948 the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was passed after much debate among the countries that made up the newly formed international body. Lemkin, who had passion, focus, and deep knowledge fed by years of research and personal experience, had neither diplomatic standing nor financial resources. In spite of this, he helped drive the process, which consumed him during more than two years of negotiation and compromise.
A key feature of the U.N. Convention (preamble to Article II) is the threshold of intent, which requires proof that perpetrators of genocide aimed to exterminate the targeted group.
It is important to examine the ideological motives for genocide and the narrative created by genocide perpetrators to organize support for their actions, which they will eventually deny.
In some cases, there is a connection between genocide and settler colonialism, the system whereby settler societies take another people’s land and try to exterminate and erase them.
“Raphael Lemkin as historian of genocide in the Americas,” Michael A. McDonnell and A. Dirk Moses
Today there are at least 23 definitions of genocide and scores of related words (e.g. politicide, culturicide, ethnocide, linguicide, femicide, infanticide, matricide, fratricide, homicide, suicide, tyrannicide). We use the U.N.’s definition because of its critical role in the prosecution of the crime of genocide and the fact that, in spite of its limitations, it is widely recognized.

Continue to Lesson One: Historical Context

Raphael Lemkin and the Crime that Needs a Name