Next, students will do a barometer activity to help them understand the notion of sovereignty in international law. Post two signs in the room. On one side of the room, the sign should read "national sovereignty" on the other side of the room, the sign should read "foreign intervention". Explain to students that you will give them a scenario and that they should stand closest to the side of the room that best represents their opinion about how the situation should be handled. To promote deeper critical thinking, you might encourage students not to stand in the center of the room, but to stand at least a bit toward one side or the other. Once students are in their spots, you can ask them to explain their placement decision. Some teachers allow students to move their position if they hear something that causes them to change their opinion.
For a practice round, you can start with the chicken/farmer metaphor used in the reading.
Situation: A farmer owns a flock of chickens. He kills them. If students believe the farmer has the right to kill his chickens, they should stand on the side of the room that says "sovereignty". If they believe that someone should intervene to protect the chickens, they should stand on the side that reads "intervention". You might make this more complicated by asking students: What if you knew the farmer was killing chickens in a particularly gruesome manner? Would that change where you are standing?
Below are situations you might use for subsequent rounds. All of these represent historical examples of situations when national sovereignty has been called into question. If you have limited time, just use the situation "crimes against humanity and civilization" because this is the one most relevant to the case study of Raphael Lemkin. When you ask students to explain where they are standing, ask them to explain how they defined "crimes against humanity and civilization." This will segue to the next activity.
Situations for Barometer Activity
- Slavery: Should the international community intervene if a nation is using people as slaves, or does a nation have the right to decide policies regarding slavery?
- Mistreatment of prisoners of war: Should the international community intervene if a nation is mistreating prisoners of war, or do nations have the right to treat prisoners as they see fit?
- Terrorism: Should the international community intervene if a nation is harboring terrorists or do nations have the right to decide how to handle terrorists?
- Crimes against humanity and civilization: Should the international community intervene if they think another nation is committing crimes against humanity and civilization?
To debrief this activity (or as an assessment task), you might ask students to reflect in their journals on the question: Under what circumstances should nations be able to intervene in the affairs of another nation? Under what circumstances should a nation lose its sovereignty?
In this next activity, students will go through a process similar to that which Lemkin went through when he coined the term genocide. In groups, ask students to come up with a list of acts that they think constitute crimes against humanity and civilization. Then have groups suggest a word to represent this list-a word that could be used in place of the phrase crimes against humanity and civilization. You can have groups write their lists and names for them on poster board in order to share with the class. After groups have shared their work, students can discuss the following questions:
- What did you notice about how groups defined crimes against humanity and civilization? What were the similarities? What were the differences?
- Compare the different words students chose to represent their lists. How might different words evoke different responses or interpretations?
- Does it matter if people have different definitions of what crimes against humanity and civilization are? Is it possible to punish people for committing a crime that does not have a single definition?
- Raphael Lemkin thought it was necessary to define what crimes against humanity and civilization meant and to invent a new word to represent this definition. Why might he think this was important work to do? Do you agree?
Students can apply what they have learned to the case study of Raphael Lemkin. Explain that in defining crimes against humanity and civilization and coming up with a word to represent this definition they are grappling with the same questions that challenged Raphael Lemkin in the years before and after World War II. Readings 2 and 3 of the case study explore this material. You can have students read them or you can summarize the key ideas for them. Some important material to highlight includes the following:
- Lemkin himself had to flee Europe to protect himself against persecution by the Nazis. Indeed, most of his family were victims of the Holocaust. Lemkin's outrage against crimes against humanity and civilization began in the 1920s, well before the Nazis had power in Germany, and over a decade before the concentration and death camps came into existence. How do you think Lemkin was influenced by his historical context? How might his identity as a Polish Jew have played a role in his struggle to prevent future crimes against humanity and civilization?
- In 1941 Winston Churchill told listeners to a radio broadcast "whole districts are being exterminated. Scores of thousands-literally scores of thousands-of executions in cold blood are being perpetrated by the German police troops..." Then he said, "We are in the presence of a crime without a name." How might these words have influenced Lemkin? What are the implications when a crime remains nameless?
Pass out Excerpt from Axis Rule in Occupied Europe by Raphael Lemkin, found in Reading 3 of Totally Unofficial. Focus on the first paragraph and in groups or pairs, ask students to read the paragraph, highlighting important terms and phrases. Then ask them to rewrite the paragraph in their own words. Or, you might ask students to write a dictionary definition of genocide based on the ideas in this paragraph. Students can share their summaries or definitions with the class. You can also have students compare the word genocide to the terms they used earlier to label crimes against humanity and civilization.
After coining the term genocide, Lemkin drafted a law to prevent and punish this crime. In the next lesson, students will learn more about the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which was adopted by the United Nations in 1948. For now, share with students the definition of genocide as it appears in Article II of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Reading 5). Ask them to compare Lemkin's original definition to this one. Reading 5 of the case study explain compromises Lemkin made in order to have the United Nations adopt the Genocide Convention, such as omitting political groups from protection under Article II of the treaty. This final activity could also be given for homework.