File(s) under permanent embargo
New approaches to Raphael Lemkin
journal contributionposted on 2013-01-01, 00:00 authored by Donna-Lee FriezeDonna-Lee Frieze
It has been many years since Raphael Lemkin’s archival papers were donated to three institutions across the US: the American Jewish Archives (in 1965), the American Jewish Historical Society (1975) and the New York Public Library (1982). Each archive contains Lemkin’s personal letters, research notes, historical papers, essays on philosophical, anthropological and economic approaches to, and outcomes of, genocide. One archive holds Lemkin’s unfinished autobiography and another his research into historical case studies of genocide, although both have been recently published. Despite these current publications, the plethora of archival material in the three institutions, and Dominik J. Schaller and Ju¨rgen Zimmerer’s 2005 special issue of this journal on Lemkin as an historian of mass violence, there has been little engagement with Lemkin’s intellectual writing in his archival papers. In addition, a one-day international conference titled ‘Genocide and human experience: Raphael Lemkin’s thought and vision’, organized by Judith Siegel and hosted by the Center for Jewish History in New York in 2009 centred on the economic, legal and cultural aspects of genocide in relation to Lemkin’s unpublished work. Yeshiva University Museum in November 2009 opened a six-month exhibition on Lemkin, and some of his archives have been digitized at the American Jewish Historical Society. It was Siegel’s visionary decision to initiate these activities. Despite this resurgence of Lemkin scholarship, and considering that genocide studies is now a thriving area within academia, it is curious, then, why many of Lemkin’s erudite writings have been largely neglected. Tony Barta’s recent commentary on Axis rule in occupied Europe, beyond chapter nine on genocide, argues that ‘we owe [Lemkin] much more than the word “genocide”’, namely ‘both respect and a serious critique’; the former has been abundant, the latter, minimal. Implicitly, Barta is urging genocide studies scholars to seek primary source material on Lemkin’s theories, rather than reiterating truncated articles on his life and often-repeated quotations from his published work.