From February 28 to April 10, the Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities (AIPG) organized the second online edition of its Global Raphael Lemkin Seminar for Genocide Prevention, developed with the support of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. The 2022 online edition of the seminar welcomed 22 international attendees from Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Belgium, Chile, Fiji, Indonesia, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Panama, Romania, Serbia, Tanzania, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The discussions were facilitated by AIPG’s instructors and were monitored by an independent evaluator and an academic observer. A complete list of participants and the seminar’s agenda can be viewed here.
The Global Raphael Lemkin Seminar for Genocide Prevention was founded on the conviction that preventing genocide and other atrocity crimes is an achievable goal if stakeholders are prepared and committed to recognize their warning signs and symptoms. The 2022 Lemkin Seminar came in the form of a 6-week online program that featured a unique virtual tour of the Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II–Birkenau concentration and extermination camps developed in collaboration with the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. The virtual tour consists of archival images, video materials, and two interactive maps of the camps, allowing the participants to virtually experience the “power of place.”
The first week of the seminar’s curriculum was dedicated to analyzing the Holocaust as a process by introducing participants to its historical context and examining the Final Solution. Theoretical and historical analysis of the Holocaust undertaken during the initial days of the seminar was complemented by the virtual tour. Afterward, participants were able to engage with the Museum’s renowned expert and Director of the Center for Research at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz, who responded in detail to their questions.
The second week of the program began with an overview of the concepts of genocide, mass atrocities, and their prevention, as well as an introduction to Raphael Lemkin and his work. Lemkin was a Polish-Jewish lawyer who first coined the term genocide and spent his entire life working for its codification in law through the passage of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Participants then examined legal definitions of genocide and the other categories of mass atrocities: crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing, closing the week with a presentation of AIPG’s three-phase approach to mass atrocity prevention.
The third week of the Seminar introduced participants to primary or “upstream” atrocity prevention. Upstream prevention measures focus on analysis that takes place before atrocity violence occurs. This analysis centers on long-term governance as well as historical, economic, and societal factors that leave a country at risk of genocide and other mass atrocities. The week closed with a discussion of the concept of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and its three pillars.
In the fourth week of the seminar, attendees focused on secondary or “midstream” prevention. Approaches to midstream prevention include strategies that can be used to stop mass atrocities when upstream prevention has failed and crises have begun to unfold. The week ended with a discussion of the wide range of political, legal, economic, and military tools available in the midstream prevention “toolbox.”
The next two weeks were dedicated to tertiary or “downstream” prevention. Downstream prevention measures can be used after large-scale violence occurs, as societies begin rebuilding. Downstream efforts foster resiliency by dealing with mass atrocities’ acute, long-term consequences. The fifth week of instruction introduced participants to the concept of transitional justice, which encompasses a variety of legal and other means by which a society can address past atrocities and human rights violations. These discussions touched on processes that shape downstream prevention, especially those related to the pursuit of truth and justice, as well as reparations and other reforms.
In the last week of the seminar, attendees learned about the role of memory as a vital component of transitional justice and prevention. Participants examined the significance of memory within the context of downstream prevention and its relationship to ideas of truth and justice. The program concluded with a closing discussion about different initiatives that focus on the role of memory, such as civil society activism, historical dialogue, education programs, arts, and sites of memory, as well as crucial aspects of the politics of memorialization.
Dr. Gabriela Ghindea, Program Director of the Raphael Lemkin Seminar for Genocide Prevention, explains:
Two of the most common misconceptions about genocide and mass atrocities are that they are confined to the past or remote regions, thus having a limited impact on our direct wellbeing! Yet, this year’s events prove that war and atrocities can happen anytime and anywhere. Without constant education, specific policy development, and especially international and cross-sectoral cooperation, we are doomed to fail our moral promise of Never Again!
I am proud that the second online edition of the Global Raphael Lemkin Seminar for Genocide Prevention, one of AIPG’s pillar programs, has successfully reunited various stakeholders in a virtual conversation about the crucial need to think about atrocity prevention as a holistic endeavor of different stakeholders: governmental institutions, civil society, academia, international organizations, but also individuals. More than ever, we need to stand in solidarity together and speak in different fora about our work and vision of preventing mass violence of any kind! In this sense, I am looking forward to continuing our conversation in other initiatives and welcoming them to our growing network of AIPG alumni!