Totally Unofficial: Raphael Lemkin and the Genocide Convention: A Series of Three Lessons


Raphael Lemkin devoted much of his life to a single goal: making the world understand and recognize a crime so horrific that there was not even a word for it. By coining the word "genocide" and drafting the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Lemkin's actions have influenced the way we are able to respond to acts of genocide. In this way, a study of Raphael Lemkin's work not only helps students understand traditional world history themes such as sovereignty, diplomacy, and law, but also provides a powerful historical example of how moral outrage can be translated into action-an example that can spur students to reflect on their ideas about crimes against humanity and their own role in preventing future genocides and promoting human dignity.

Facing History and Ourselves has developed the following three lesson plans to accompany the case study Totally Unofficial: Raphael Lemkin and the Genocide Convention, which can be adapted to fit the needs of your students. They were developed as a mini-unit but can also be used independently if students have the prerequisite knowledge to use the material. Each lesson is designed to run between 60 and 90 minutes long. Lessons contain options regarding how to use the accompanying case study text, primary source materials, and videos.


Lesson 1 of 3
Genocide & Mass Violence

Identifying Raphael Lemkin's Outrage

Students examine how Lemkin’s outrage over the crimes committed by the Ottoman Empire during World War I inspired him to take action.

Lesson 2 of 3
Genocide & Mass Violence

Exploring Raphael Lemkin's Actions: The Invention of the Word "Genocide"

Students learn about the challenges Lemkin faced from the international legal community, including its lack of sufficient language to talk about crimes against humanity and civilization.

Lesson 3 of 3
Genocide & Mass Violence

Continuing Lemkin's Legacy: What Can We Do to Prevent and Stop Genocide?

Focusing on the crisis in Darfur, students examine what it means to pursue Lemkin’s mission to stop and prevent genocide in today's world.

Search Our Global Collection

Everything you need to get started teaching your students about racism, antisemitism and prejudice.