The Birth of the Word “Genocide”

Raphael Lemkin
Raphael Lemkin

In the fall of 1944, the word “genocide” appeared for the very first time in the book “Axis Rule in Occupied Europe” by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish lawyer who lost most of his family in the Holocaust and who fled to the U.S. in 1941. The book, which was published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, introduced the word as “A New Term and New Conception for Destruction of Nations.”[1]

Lemkin was inspired to create the term after listening to a 1941 radio speech by Winston Churchill, who talked about “the barbaric fury of the Nazis” and the world being “in the presence of a crime without a name.” Lemkin considered and then rejected terms like “barbarity,” “vandalism,” and “ethnocide.” Finally he created the word “genocide” by combining the Greek “genos” meaning “people” or “nation” with the Latin-derived suffix “-cide” for “killing.”

Lemkin then embarked on the mission of convincing governments to use the term to define a new crime under international law. In 1948 the United Nations General Assembly agreed with its approval of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. As of October 27, 2014, there are 146 states that are parties to this treaty.[2]

The treaty defines the crime of “genocide” as “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; [or] (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Now genocide is one of the crimes that is within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and within the customary international law principle of universal jurisdiction whereby any state may prosecute an individual for the crime regardless of where the crime occurred.

A new documentary film, “Watchers of the Sky,” brings Lemkin’s creative process to the screen by animating pages of his notebooks and by telling the stories of contemporary crusaders like Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and the author of a book about post-World War II commissions of genocide, “A Problem from Hell.”

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[1] This post is based upon the citations embedded above and upon Ben Zimmer, How ‘Genocide’ Was Coined, W.S. J. (Oct. 27, 2014). The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace was created by Andrew Carnegie in the early 20th century as discussed in a prior post.

[2] Although the Convention was unanimously adopted by the General Assembly in 1948 and signed two days later for the U.S. by President Harry Truman, it was not ratified by the U.S. until 1988 as discussed in a prior post.

Andrew Carnegie’s Quest for Peace

Andrew Carnegie
Andrew Carnegie

 

Andrew Carnegie (November 25, 1835 – August 11, 1919) was a Scottish-American industrialist who led the enormous expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century.[1] He also was one of the highest profile philanthropist of his era who had given away almost 90 percent of his large fortune to charities and foundations by the time of his death.[2]

 

Carnegie also was a pacifist at heart, and starting in 1903 devoted significant time and money to promoting peaceful resolution of international disputes, especially by arbitration pursuant to treaties.

Hague Peace Palace
Hague             Peace Palace

He helped to create the Palace of Peace at the Hague in the Netherlands with his 1903 formation of a Dutch foundation and his funding of the Palace’s construction that was completed in 1913. It initially was the site for the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which was established in 1899 and which now is an intergovernmental organization with 115 member states that provides dispute-resolution services for various combinations of states, state entities, intergovernmental organizations, and private parties.[3] From 1922 to 1946 it also was the site for the Permanent Court of International Justice of the League of Nations and since 1946 the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.

Carnegie also funded the construction of the headquarters building for the Pan-American Union (later the main building for the Organization of American States) in Washington, D.C. and the building for the Central American Court of Justice in Costa Rica.

In 1910 he funded the establishment of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, whose trustees were charged to use the fund to “hasten the abolition of international war, the foulest blot upon our civilization.” The Endowment is still operating today with its headquarters in Washington, D.C. Now it describes itself as “a unique global network of policy research centers in Russia, China, Europe, the Middle East, and the [U.S.]. Our mission . . . is to advance the cause of peace through analysis and development of fresh policy ideas and direct engagement and collaboration with decision makers in government, business, and civil society. Working together, our centers bring the inestimable benefit of multiple national viewpoints to bilateral, regional, and global issues.”

Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall

Another activity Carnegie organized to promote peace was the April 1907 National Arbitration and Peace Congress at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The Hall, as its name suggests, was another Carnegie-financed project that opened in 1891 in Midtown Manhattan.[4]

The Congress with over 1,200 registered delegates was described as the “greatest gathering ever held in advocacy for the abolition of war as a means of settling national disputes.”

Carnegie himself, of course, gave a major speech at the Congress that in retrospect can be seen as an outline of the United Nations created after World War II. Carnegie said, “[W]e are met to urge the speedy removal of the foulest stain that remains to disgrace humanity, since slavery was abolished—the killing of man by man in battle as a mode of settling international disputes.” He also expressed his support for “the League of Peace idea—the formation of an International Police, never for aggression, always for protection to the peace of the civilized world. . . . “ States should agree “that no nation shall be permitted to disturb the peace.” Before use of the international police, there should be a proclamation of “non-intercourse [“sanctions” in our parlance] with the offending nation.”

President Theodore Roosevelt did not attend the Congress, but sent a letter that embraced its purpose. It said, “[I]t is our bounden duty to work for peace, yet it is even more our duty to work for righteousness and justice.” Moreover, the President stated,“[T]here can be at this time a very large increase in the classes of cases which [could ] . . .be arbitrated, and . . .provision can be made for greater facility and certainty of arbitration. I hope to see adopted a general arbitration treaty.” Roosevelt added that  the Hague court [of Arbitration] should be greatly increased in power and permanency.”

On the other hand, Roosevelt cautioned the delegates to not insist “upon the impossible [and thereby] put off the day when the possible can be accomplished.” “[G]eneral disarmament would do harm and not good if it left the civilized and peace-loving peoples . . . unable to check the other peoples who have no such standards.” Indeed, according to the President, “[T]here are few more mischievous things than the custom of uttering or applauding sentiments which represent mere oratory, and which are not, and cannot be, and have not been, translated from words into deeds.”

The Congress adopted resolutions endorsing international peace and international law; calling for permanency for the Hague Court of Arbitration open to all nations; the adoption of a general international arbitration treaty; the creation of a committee to investigate international disputes and attempt to mediate them before the parties resort to war; the establishment of the neutrality of personal property at sea; and limitations on armaments. [5]

Baron de Constant de Rebecque & Andrew Carnegie
Baron de Constant de Rebecque &     Andrew Carnegie

At the end of the Congress Carnegie was presented with the French Cross of the Legion of Honor by France’s Baron de Constant de Rebecque (nee Paul Henri Benjamin Balluet), a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration and the 1909 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. The Baron praised Carnegie for “his interest and energy in behalf of the peace movement” and for being “a good citizen of the whole world.”

According to the New York Times, Europeans were not interested in, or impressed by, this Congress. First, they did not have “a large number of peace propagandists.” Instead their prevailing view was that “universal, permanent peace is a long way off” and that the major issue was the practical one of adopting an agreement on the manner in which wars should be conducted. Second, many Europeans believe that U.S. policies regarding the Western Hemisphere threaten world peace, especially with respect to Germany’s interests in that part of the world. Indeed, The Times of London called Carnegie “an ardent but ill-informed amateur” and had “rushed in where sagacious statesmen fear to tread.” Another European critic said Carnegie should “endow a chair of contemporary history for his own instruction.”

Carnegie Mansion
Carnegie Mansion

Preceding the Congress, Carnegie hosted a large dinner at his beautiful mansion at Fifth Avenue and 91st Street in New York City to celebrate industrial peace in the U.S. and the upcoming Congress. In attendance were 100 “sons of toil” or workers’ representatives; prominent merchants; manufacturers’ executives; bankers; leaders of universities and other educational institutions; church leaders; publishers and editors; lawyers; and railroad executives, including William C. Brown, then Senior Vice President of the New York Central Railroad (and my maternal great-great uncle).[6]

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[1] This post is based in substantial part on Chapter XXIII (“The Quest for Peace, 1901-1910”) in Joseph F. Wall’s Andrew Carnegie (Oxford Univ. Press 1970), which won the 1971 Bancroft Prize for best book about history of the Americas (or diplomacy). Professor Wall was a revered History Professor at my alma mater, Grinnell College, and I was fortunate to have known him and learned from him.

[2] One of Carnegie’s philanthropic endeavors was funding the establishment of public libraries throughout the U.S. and other countries. My mother was the Librarian at the Carnegie Library in Perry, Iowa, and I studied at Grinnell College’s Carnegie Library during my first two student years.

[3] I have had two “contacts” with the Permanent Court of Arbitration. First, a Minnesota company had suggested arbitration of its claim against my client, an Asian manufacturer, under the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules. Because my client and I did not believe that there was a valid arbitration clause and the claimant had not appointed the first arbitrator, we did not appoint a second arbitrator and then were surprised to receive a letter from the Permanent Court designating an appointing authority to appoint a second arbitrator. There eventually was a three-person arbitration panel that issued an award in favor of my client. Second, I have researched the life and career of Edward Burnham Burling, a fellow Grinnell alumnus (Class of 1890), whose gift funded the College’s library (the Burling Library) that replaced its Carnegie Library. Burling was the co-founder of the eminent Washington, D.C. law firm of Covington & Burling and represented the Kingdom of Norway against the U.S. over expropriation of shipping contracts during World War I with the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 1922 issuing an award in favor of Norway. Writing blog posts about Burling and the Norway case are on my list of future posts.

[4] This account of the Congress is based upon Andrew Carnegie’s Plea for Peace, N. Y. Times (April 7, 1907); Stead Recommends a Peace Pilgrimage, N. Y. Times (April 8, 1907); Frenchmen Arrive for Peace Congress, N. Y. Times (April 9, 1907); Prelude to Peace Congress To-Night, N. Y. Times (April 14, 1907); Women’s Part in Peace, N. Y. Times (April 14, 1907); War Talk Opens Peace Congress, N. Y. Times (April 15, 1907); The Afternoon Session, N. Y. times (April 16, 1907); Editorial, Peace on Earth, N. Y. Times (April 16, 1907); Peace Conference Not All Harmony, N. Y. Times (April 17, 1907); Honor Carnegie Friend of Peace, N. Y. Times (April 17, 1907); Editorial, Peace Congress Resolutions, N. Y. Times (April 18, 1907); Editorial, Peace Congress Sequels, N. Y. Times (April 21, 1907); Europe Is Amused at Peace Congress, N. Y. Times (April 21, 1907); Proceedings of the National Arbitration and Peace Congress, New York, April 14th to 17th, 1907 (1907).

[5] Roosevelt became a hero for Carnegie, but Roosevelt never liked Carnegie.

[6] Unique Party Carnegie Host, N. Y. Times (April 6, 1907). About one week before this special dinner, Carnegie, after a luncheon meeting with President Roosevelt at the White House, made a statement supporting the President’s policies regarding the railroads. The Carnegie Mansion now is the home for the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

Public Debate About U.S. Regulation of Railroads, January-May 1907

Introduction

As discussed in a prior post, the Hepburn Act, which became law on June 29, 1906, empowered the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), upon complaint, to replace a railroad’s increased freight rates if the ICC determined found them to be “unreasonable” with what the ICC decided were “just and reasonable” rates.

This statute presented a new problem for the railroads. How could they justify any such increase in freight rates to the public at large, including major shippers, and thereby deter any complaint and, if challenged, justify the new rates to the ICC? In addition, various state laws imposed other restraints on the railroads.

A prior post examined the reactions to the new Hepburn Act in the last half of 1906 and President Roosevelt’s Annual Message to the Congress on December 3, 1906 while another post reviewed the general economic and securities markets conditions in 1906-1907. Now we look at additional public debate on this issue and the broader issue of federal and state regulation of the railroads in the first five months of 1907 before President Theodore Roosevelt made a major speech on railroad regulation in Indianapolis on Decoration Day (May 30, 1907).

Discussion

Frederick A. Delano
Frederick A. Delano

In a January 6, 1907, article, Frederick A. Delano, the President of the Wabash Railroad, said that railroad business “has been very good” and promises to continue to do so, but their costs are increasing along with demands for many improvements. But where will the railroads get the money? Investors are finding more remunerative returns than railroads. “Reducing passenger fares and freight rates will not help” the railroads raise the necessary capital.[1]

James J. Hill
James J. Hill

A week later, James J. Hill, the President of the Great Northern Railway, reentered the public debate with a January 14, 1907, letter to the Governor of the State of Minnesota, John A. Johnson that was covered by the press.[2] The letter reiterated the main points of his previously discussed November 10, 1906, speech. Hill complained about the inadequacy of railroad trackage and terminals and said railroads needed to spend $5 billion over five years for such equipment, but that they had difficulty raising the necessary capital because investors decline “to put [their] money into enterprises under bias of unpopularity, and even threatened by individuals and political parties with confiscation or transfer to the State. This feeling must be removed and greater confidence be mutually established if any considerable portion of the vast sum necessary is to be available.”

On February 1, 1907, a Wall Street Journal editorial came to the aid of the railroads. It said they need “material and moral encouragement.” They need coal. They need cars and engines. They need more trackage. They need money. They need mercy. “They have been hammered and hammered by their critics from all directions and for so long that the time [has come for a] . . . sense of human appreciation . . . . Criticism . . . should not be carried to the point of abuse. The morale of the railroad service can be maintained at a high level only by the feeling that it is receiving and deserving a reasonable measure of public encouragement.”[3]

William C. Brown
William C. Brown

The next day (February 2nd) William C. Brown, the Senior Vice President of the New York Central Railroad (and my maternal great-great uncle), after privately supporting the Wall Street Journal editorial,[4] made public a letter he had sent to a friend in Washington, D.C. about these issues.[5] Brown asserted that no prudent investor would invest in railroads, “against which every man’s hand, from the President down, seems to be raised, and in the defense of which few men hoping for political preferment dare raise their hand.” Indeed, said Brown, “the spirit of hostility against the railroads which seems to be felt by members of both parties and by the Administration . . . is rapidly creating a feeling of distrust, and is discrediting the railroads of this country . . . as to make it very difficult . . . to secure any money for needed improvements and promises to make it almost impossible to do so in the near future. The President [must make] . . . an appeal for fair and reasonable treatment for [the railroads in order to] restore confidence.”[6]

By February 6th it had become apparent that at least the railroads headquartered in New York City agreed with James J. Hill of the Great Northern that an increase in freight rates would soon be necessary. W.C. Brown made it emphatic in a New York Times article: an increase in freight rates “will have to come.”[7]

As mentioned in a prior post, on March 12th after a meeting with President Roosevelt, J. P. Morgan told reporters that the President had agreed to meet with four leading railroad executives to discuss these issues. This supposed meeting between Roosevelt and the four railroad presidents, however, never happened. Instead, Roosevelt met separately with railroad presidents: B. F. Yoakum of the Rock Island Railroad; E. H. Harriman of the Union Pacific; A.B. Stickney of the Chicago Great Western Railroad, who opined that the unrest in the financial world was not due to Roosevelt’s policies, but rather to hostile state legislation; Charles S. Mellen of the New York, New Haven & Hartford; Marvin Hughitt of the Chicago & Northwestern; and Edward R. Bacon of the Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern. Other prominent individuals and representatives of shipping interests were also consulted in this time period on railroad issues by Roosevelt.[8]

Andrew Carnegie
Andrew Carnegie

After a White House luncheon meeting on March 27th, Andrew Carnegie said, “The President is the best friend the railroads have. . . . [T]he President’s railroad measures are moderate, and that if the railroads do not accept them they may be confronted by some other President very much more radical . . . . I indorse the President’s position on the railroad question without reservation. His influence on that subject I regard as entirely wholesome and conservative.”

Apparently the railroad men were urging Roosevelt to make a statement about his position regarding the railroads while Roosevelt was learning all he could about the railroads and a possible federal requirement for appraisals of the value of their physical assets in preparing a speech about railroad issues that he in fact delivered in Indianapolis, Indiana on Decoration Day, May 30th and that will be covered in a subsequent post. In late March the White House let it be known that the President did not intend to have any appraisal of railroad assets would not affect previously issued securities.

One idea that received a lot of coverage was put forward in late March by Jacob H. Schiff, the head of banking-house Kuhn, Loeb & Co. Responding to financial markets turmoil, he said steps must be taken “to allay the anxiety which exists among all classes of investors and business interests over the agitation against railroads.” Therefore, he proposed (1) the Interstate Commerce Commission host a conference with representatives of the railroads; (2) such a conference to review all legislative proposals affecting railroads and recommend some for new federal laws making further state laws unnecessary. ICC commissioners and J.P. Morgan liked the idea.[9]

On April 18th William C. Brown reentered the public arena as a featured speaker at a banquet held for 1,000 guests by the Buffalo, New York Chamber of Commerce. Brown said “Money for the great improvement and extension of our transportation facilities . . . must be provided . . . by private capital; and, in order to secure the vast amount of money required, the investment must be made reasonably attractive and secure. . . . But unless assurances can be had . . . of friendly co-operation, of protection, and aid, in every fair and legitimate manner against oppression and injustice; of such guarantee as the government can give of protection against [unjust] legislation . . . it is going to be impossible for the railroads to obtain the money necessary for such improvements.”[10]

Brown added, “the great business interests of the country should unite with the railroads in an appeal for a cessation of agitation looking to the enactment of further restrictive legislation.” Nevertheless, Brown said, President Roosevelt has exerted his “powerful influence . . . fearlessly and forcefully in correcting abuses by the railroads and I believe it will be exerted just as fearlessly and effectively in protecting the railroads from injustice.” Moreover, Brown admitted he was “firmly and unalterably in favor of the regulation of railroads and all other corporations by the Nation and by the States. . . . I would not, if I could, materially change the laws thus far enacted by the Congress.”

The New York Times article about Brown’s speech came to the attention of Roosevelt, and on April 29th, Brown had an extended meeting with the President about the railroad situation.[11]

The debate about railroad regulation continued that May with the President meeting with the general counsels of two railroads and the revelation that the President would be seeking legislation authorizing the federal government to undertake appraisals of railroads’ assets.[12]

On May 29th, the day before the President’s Indianapolis speech on railroad issues, the stock market prices were up, and a journalist opined that this strength was due “to the belief and in fact to the knowledge prevalent in the Street that Mr. Roosevelt’s Indianapolis address to-day will be at least so evenly balanced in its treatment of the railroad question that no harm to stocks will result from it.”[13]

Conclusion

From documents available from the Roosevelt archives, details about Brown’s meeting with Roosevelt and their 1907 correspondence on these issues have been obtained for discussion in a subsequent post. Another post will then examine the President’s May 30th speech in Indianapolis on railroad issues.

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[1] Delano, The Solution for Problems, N.Y. Times (Jan. 6, 1907).

[2] Must Spend Billions for Tracks, Says Hill, N. Y. Times (Jan. 15, 1907). Hill repeated these contentions the next day at a meeting in Minneapolis and added, “The railroads today are blamed for everything, practically that is wrong.” (Slow Paralysis, Says Hill, N.Y. Times (Jan. 16, 1907).)

[3] Editorial, Railroads Need Encouragement, W.S.J. (Feb. 1, 1907).

[4] Brown expressed his appreciation for this editorial in a letter to the newspaper. Brown said, “these words of kindly commendation are appreciated by all railroad men. . . . [Railroads] are not, even taken as a whole, entirely without virtue and merit” and “some roads are entitled to a very great deal of credit for the manner in which they have been operated, and their contribution to the growth and prosperity of the country. . . . Nothing can be more discouraging and disheartening than the wholesale, indiscriminate censure and criticism (which, in many instances, as you say, may almost be characterized as abuse) to which railroads as a whole have been subjected during the last two years.” (Letter, Brown to Dow, Jones & Co. (Feb. 1, 1907) (Image # 71-0626 provided courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Divisions and Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University, www.theodorerooseveltcenter.org.). As we will see in a subsequent post, Brown privately provided President Roosevelt with copies of this correspondence with the Wall Street Journal.

[5] Says Railway Whacking Menaces the Country, N.Y. Times (Feb. 3, 1907). As we will see in a subsequent post, a copy of this letter from Brown to a friend (T.P. Schonts) was privately made available to President Roosevelt.

[6] Brown on February 7th reiterated that “the agitation which is going on all over the country makes it impossible to raise money [for necessary railroad improvements] by the sale of bonds.” (Billions Needed for Roads, N. Y. Times (Feb. 8, 1907).) As discussed in a prior post, on March 14th, in reaction to the huge declines in the securities markets the prior day, W.C. Brown issued a public statement that talked about the problems railroads had in selling new issues of stock or debt.

[7] Railways in Dilemma Over Rate Problems, N.Y. Times (Feb. 7, 1907); Freight Rates going Up? N.Y. Times (Feb. 5, 1907) (Hill said, “{W]ith the present advances in cost the railroads will soon be forced to consider an advance in rates instead of a reduction” ).

[8] Yoakum Favors Federal Control, N.Y. Times (Mar. 12, 1907); Mr. Harriman in the Times, N.Y. Times (Mar. 13, 1907); Roosevelt Refuge of Railroad Men, N.Y. Times (Mar. 13, 1907); Stickney Fears a Panic, N. Y. Times (Mar. 13, 1907); Speyer Hastily Sees Roosevelt, N.Y. Times (Mar. 14, 1907); Railroad Heads Meet in New York, N.Y. Times (Mar. 15, 1907); Plan Meeting of Governors, N. Y. Times (Mar. 15, 1907); Did Not Invite Presidents, N. Y. Times (Mar. 15, 1907); [Mellen Announcement], N.Y. Times (Mar. 15, 1907); Washington’s View of It, N.Y. Times (Mar. 16, 1907); Roosevelt To Ask Hughes To Confer, N.Y. Times (Mar. 17, 1907); Mellen Going alone To See Roosevelt, N.Y. Times (Mar. 17, 1907); Yoakum To See Roosevelt, N.Y. Times (Mar. 18, 1907); Mellen Confers Just 25 Minutes, N.Y. Times (Mar. 20, 1907); President Is Receptive, N.Y. Times (Mar. 27, 1907); Roosevelt Confers on Railway Speech, N.Y. Times (Mar. 28, 1907); President May Modify Plans, N.Y. Times (Mar. 30, 1907);

[9] Get Together Says Schiff, N.Y. Times (Mar. 26, 1907); President Is Receptive, N.Y. Times (Mar. 27, 1907); Morgan Cables Roosevelt, N.Y. Times (Mar. 27, 1907); “Schiff’s Flag of Truce,” N.Y. Times (Mar. 30, 1907).

[10] William C. Brown, Address to the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce (April 18, 1907); Hughes Tells of Republic’s Foes, N.Y. Times (April 19, 1907). Brown also gave a speech on May 13, 1907, to the Syracuse, New York Chamber of Commerce that made many of the same points as the Buffalo speech. He again supported federal and state regulation of railroads so long as it was “undertaken in a spirit of the most liberal conservatism; the radical, the agitator, the reactionist on both sides should be suppressed.” (For Government Control, N. Y. Times (May 15, 1907).)

[11] W.C. Brown at the White House, N.Y. Times (Apr. 30, 1907).

[12] Roosevelt Favors Appraisals of Roads, N.Y. Times (May 17, 1907); Putting Value on Country’s Roads, N.Y. Times (May 20, 1907).

[13] Financial Markets, N.Y. Times (May 30, 1907).