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Annette Becker
“Messengers of Disaster: Raphael Lemkin, Jan Karski and Genocide”
Thursday, October 25, 2018, 03:30pm - 05:00pm
Mershon Center for International Security Studies
1501 Neil Ave.
Columbus, Ohio 43201

Annette Becker

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Annette Becker is a professor at the University of Paris-Nanterre and a honorary member of the Institut Universitaire de France. She is deputy director of the International Research Center of the Historial de la Grande Guerre.

Becker is a French historian of World War I. After examining the Great War's commemoration, return of the soldiers, humanitarian aspects and trauma, Becker is now working on the cultural aspects of the wars and the links between the two World Wars, especially the occupation, forms of violence and holiness that continued from one war to another, and the extraordinary changes in mass extreme violence and genocide.

Her latest book, Messagers du désastre, Raphaël Lemkin, Jan Karski et les génocides [Messengers of Disaster: Raphael Lemkin, Jan Karski, and Genocide] (Fayard, 2018) is a history of the concept of genocide from the Armenians until today: the perpetrators, the victims, and the “messengers” who try to warn, to see, to speak. It will be translated into English through the George Mosse series, University of Wisconsin Press.

Her previous books are Les cicatrices rouges, 1914-1918, France et Belgique occupées (Fayard, 2010), Biographie de guerre d’Apollinaire, 1914-2009 (Tallandier, 2009 and 2014), and Voir la Grande Guerre, un autre récit (Armand-Colin, 2014).

She is involved in the National Committee for the centenary commemoration of 1914-1918 and in many exhibitions organized to this occasion. She coordinated the French edition (Fayard, 2014) of the Cambridge History of the First World War, directed by Jay Winter. She is co-chairing with Charles Fordsick (Liverpool University) A special project Labex on “Dark Memory Tourism” from the First World War battlefields to the Rwandan killing fields.


As early as 1941, two Poles -- a Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin, and a Catholic resistant, Jan Karski -- were able to foresee the intensity and the specific nature of the destruction of the European Jews among the war crimes. This talk will recount the fights of these two men and a few others in the long chronology of the 20th century, from the genocide of the Armenians to the one of the Jews. Refugees in Great Britain and the United States, Karski and Lemkin were able to convey the reality of specific crimes, but were faced with general indifference. Why did so few believe them, even Jews? In 2018, almost 20 years after Karski’s death and 70 years exactly (December 2018) after the “Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” was finally accepted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, are we still “not seeing with opened eyes?”


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