Excerpt from Axis Rule in Occupied Europe by Raphael Lemkin

This reading contains an excerpt from Axis Rule in Occupied Europe by Raphael Lemkin, where he coins the term genocide.
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At a Glance



English — US


  • History
  • Genocide

In 1944 the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace published Lemkin’s Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, the book he had written during War World II. The monumental work not only described the fate of Europe’s occupied nations, it also provided a comprehensive list of the decrees and laws that the Nazis had issued in order to conquer and destroy these nations. Lemkin included this list because he wanted to show how the Nazis used laws to undermine civil rights and legitimize the massive murder of several occupied minorities. A small section of the 721-page book discussed terminology, which Lemkin had been thinking about since Churchill’s “crime without a name” speech and the word he chose to describe it: genocide.

New conceptions require new terms. By “genocide” we mean the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group. This new word, coined by the author to denote an old practice in its modern development, is made from the ancient Greek word genos (race, tribe) and the Latin cide (killing), thus corresponding in its formation to such words as tyrannicide, homocide, infanticide, etc. Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups. Genocide is directed against the national group as an entity, and the actions involved are directed against individuals, not in their individual capacity, but as members of the national group. 

The following illustration will suffice. The confiscation of property of nationals of an occupied area on the ground that they have left the country may be considered simply as a deprivation of their individual property rights. However, if the confiscations are ordered against individuals solely because they are Poles, Jews, or Czechs, then the same confiscations tend in effect to weaken the national entities of which those persons are members. 1

  • 1​​Raphael Lemkin, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of Government, Proposals for Redress (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1944), 79.

How to Cite This Reading

Facing History and Ourselves, "Excerpt from Axis Rule in Occupied Europe by Raphael Lemkin," last updated September 14, 2022,
This reading contains text not authored by Facing History and Ourselves. See footnotes for source information.

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