Raphael Lemkin

If the history of the western moral imagination is the story of an enduring and unending revolt against human cruelty, there are few more consequential figures than Raphael Lemkin—and few whose achievements have been more ignored by the general public. It was he who coined the word “genocide.” He was also its victim. Forty-nine members of Lemkin’s family, including his mother and father, were rounded up in eastern Poland and gassed in Treblinka in 1943.

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The modern idea of human rights was only created after World War II. In the next half-century, it became a global movement.

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