The Malaysian government and activists accuse Myanmar of committing genocide against Rohingya Muslims. Myanmar, of course, rejects these claims. In a DW interview, historian Boris Barth explains this often misused term.
DW: How would you explain the term “genocide”?
Boris Barth: The term “genocide” was first coined by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish-Jewish lawyer, in 1944. He was of the opinion that the term “atrocity” was inadequate to describe what happened in Auschwitz. The Holocaust was something entirely new. Obviously, there was a strong need to come up with a new term to describe this new crime. In 1948, the term “genocide” entered the United Nation Convention.
To make sense of the confusion around this term, one must examine its development in different languages. In Germany, and in international law also, the term “genocide” is restricted to the intention of killing or massacring a group of people. This is different in the United States, for example, where the term is used more broadly. There, it is even applied to events where no-one is killed.
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