Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Raphael Lemkin papers, 1931-1947

Summary Information

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1653
Bib ID 10250472 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Lemkin, Raphael, 1900-1959
Title Raphael Lemkin papers, 1931-1947
Physical Description 2.5 linear feet (5 document boxes)
Language(s) Material is primarily in English and German with some Polish.
Access You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located on-site.

This collection has no restrictions.



Material is arranged into two series.



The Raphael Lemkin Collection holds some of the documents related to lawyer and scholar Raphael Lemkin's research and writing on the topics of war crimes and genocide. Some of the documents Lemkin collected include the official regulations published by the Nazi government concerning its governance over occupied territories. Other documents in the Lemkin collection concern the International Military Tribunals, the war crimes trials at Dachau, and some documents concerning the discussion of war crimes produced by United Nations committees. There are also a set of articles dealing with Japanese militarization, propaganda, and war crimes. A small portion of Lemkin's writing is also present. Materials are primarily in English and German with some Polish.

  • Series I: German Government Regulations, 1938-1944

    Series I: German Government Regulations contains gazettes and copies of official documentation created by the Nazi government concerning its regulations generally and specifically in the occupied territories identified as the Sudetenland and Poland. These documents were likely obtained by Lemkin while teaching and researching law in Sweden and became part of his research into writing Axis Rule In Occupied Europe.

  • Series II: Other Research and Writings, 1931-1947

    Series II: Other Research and Writings contains some of the other research Lemkin collected in his studies of genocide and war crimes. In addition to some material from the International and Nuremberg Military Tribunals, this series has documents from the Dachau Trials and United Nations committees dealing with classifying war crimes. The series also contains a set of articles on Japanese militarization and war crimes and a small set of Lemkin's writing. The documents come in the form of official memoranda and reports, copies from microfilm, correspondence, and printed drafts.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located on-site.

This collection has no restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Raphael Lemkin Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.


Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact rbml@columbia.edu for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2012.2013.M127: Source of acquisition--Law Library Special Collections. Method of acquisition--Transfer; Date of acquisition--04/10/2013.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Papers processed Craig Savino 2010.

Revision Description

2013-06-18 File created.

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Dachau (Concentration camp) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Genocide -- Germany Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Germany -- Politics and government -- 1933-1945 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lemkin, Raphael, 1900-1959 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Nuremberg War Crime Trials, Nuremberg, Germany, 1946-1949 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
United Nations Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
War criminals -- Germany Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Raphael Lemkin was born in June 1900 near Bezwodene, now part of Balarus. After studying law Lemkin became public prosecutor for the District Court of Poland in 1929. Lemkin had been developing an interest in crimes of racial mass murder, particularly after learning about the Armenian genocide when he was a teenager. By 1933 Lemkin was already arguing for the punishment and prevention of mass murder and he appeared before Legal Council of the League of Nations in Madrid with a legal proposal to this end, but could not find support for his ideas. After the Nazi invasion of Poland Lemkin fought for a time with Polish guerilla fighters until being wounded. Lemkin lived in the forest for months until he had a chance to leave the country. Lemkin would eventually lose 48 family members to the war and Nazi occupation.

When Lemkin did flee Poland in 1940, he went to Sweden where he became a visiting lecturer of law at the University of Sweden, Stockholm and began collecting documents on Nazi regulations and law in the territories it was occupying. Lemkin then went to the United States in 1941 joining the law faculty at Duke University. In 1944 he published his most notable book, Axis Rule In Occupied Europe wherein he took a legal analysis of German rule in occupied countries and defined the term genocide. Due to his research in this subject Lemkin acted as an advisor to chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, Robert H. Jackson.

Lemkin remained in the United States after the war and lectured on criminal law at Yale University from 1948 and became a Professor of Law at Rutgers School of Law in 1955. Lemkin also continued his campaign to have genocide recognized as an international crime. Lemkin turned to the United Nations and began spending time there trying to persuade the delegates of various countries to take up a resolution making genocide a crime under international law. The General Assembly adopted a resolution approving his convention in December of 1948 and in Ocotober of 1950, 90 days after ratification by a twentieth country, it became international law. 140 states have ratified or acceded to the international agreement, the United States ratified the treaty on November 11, 1988. Lemkin died in August of 1959.