1950 --- International lawyer Raphael Lemkin helped draft the Genocide Convention, which maps out prevention and punishment for the crime of genocide

Totally Unofficial: Raphael Lemkin and the Genocide Convention

This unit explores the legacy of Raphael Lemkin, who coined the word "genocide" and drafted the Genocide Convention. A study of Lemkin's work helps students understand traditional world history themes such as sovereignty, diplomacy, and law; as well as deepen students’ understanding of political responses to mass violence.


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At a Glance



English — US


  • History
  • Social Studies




One 50-min class period
  • Genocide


About This Mini-Unit

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. 

The lessons contain options regarding how to use the accompanying case study text, primary source materials, and videos.

The readings in these lessons are from our resource Totally Unofficial: Raphael Lemkin and the Genocide Convention.

This mini-unit supports a week long exploration of genocide. It includes:

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