Problem From Hell, A: Chapter 4

Notes for chapters 1, 2, 3.

Chapter 4

Scholars urge that sacrosanct sovereignty does not include slaughter.

Hans Frank: (former German minister of justice)

Law is that which is useful and necessary for the German nation.

The shiny new United Nations would decide if genocide would go in the same container as piracy, forgery, sex trade, slaves and drugs (and later, terrorism).


It seems inconsistent with our concepts of civilization that selling a drug to an individual is a matter of wordly concern, while gassing millions of human beings might be a problem of internal concern.

Nuremberg trials chip away but treat agressive war as the crime – crimes committed after Hitler crossed an internationally recognized border. Atrocities before WWII were not included in the jurisdiction.

49 of Lemkin’s family members (incl parents) perished in Warsaw ghetto, death camps or death marches.

1945 October: Genocide mentioned in Nuremberg trials – first mention of the word in an int’l legal context.

19 Nuremberg defendants convicted of ‘crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity’ – but not genocide.

1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide:

Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Criteria for guilt – party had to:

  1. Carry out one of the acts
  2. With the intent to destroy all or part of
  3. One of the groups protected.

Key word is intent – not success.

What mattered was that one set of individuals intended to destroy the members of a group not because of anything they did but because of who they were.

Convention closed loopholes of internal aggression, pre-war agression. (Of course, prevention and prosecution was a huge concern)

1948 December: 48 signatories vote yes.

40 years would pass before the United States would ratify the treaty.

50 years would pass before the int’l community convicted anyone of genocide.







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