Raphael Lemkin was a Polish lawyer of Jewish descent. Lemkin is best known for coining the word genocide and initiating the Genocide Convention. Though he survived the Holocaust, 49 of Lemkin’s own family members were killed, including his parents. He worked to ensure that genocide had a name and that international laws were in place to prevent and punish it. In 1946, Lemkin turned to the United Nations General Assembly in an effort to have the newly formed body condemn the act of genocide. He presented a draft resolution to Cuba, India, and Panama, persuading them to sponsor it. He also formed a committee to lobby 23 organizations around the world. A joint petition supporting the adoption of a Genocide Convention was presented to the delegates of the General Assembly. The final draft of the resolution was approved by the General Assembly on December 11, 1946. It affirmed that genocide was a crime under international law. By 1951, 25 nation-states had ratified the treaty, and the Convention was officially introduced into international law. Since then, the Convention has been ratified by a total of 140 countries. Lemkin received a number of awards, including the Cuban Grand Cross of the Order of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes. On the 50th anniversary of the Convention entering into force, Lemkin was also honored by the UN Secretary-General as “an inspiring example of moral engagement.” He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize ten times.

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