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Opinion My Encounters With Rafael Lemkin, the Penniless, Persistent Hero Who Coined the Term 'Genocide'

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This seemingly unremarkable figure was the leader of a one-man crusade who would make an immense contribution to humanity, for which we are still deeply indebted. There is no better moment to recall his unstinting campaign to protect human life than in the lead up to International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Rafael Lemkin (1900-1959) Jewish, Polish linguist, international lawyer, lonely crusader, had been a ladies’ man in the Warsaw of the early 1930s. Lemkin has been called a hero of humankind, but in his lifetime, he was often regarded as a pest, and a nuisance. He ended his life in New York - ill, penniless, unheralded, a worn-out warrior who championed a new legal mechanism to deter mass murder. He was moved to action by the massacres of Armenians in the First World War; and in the Second, the wholesale murder of the Jewish people – among them members of his own family.

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