Be an Upstander in Peace and Justice
November 14th, 2014 | Posted By

Be an Upstander for Peace and Justice


Give to the Max DayNovember 13, is the giving day to raise money for Minnesota nonprofits.

At World Without Genocide we are dedicated to ending genocide and preventing future atrocities. We honor past and current upstanders – rescuers and prosecutors who are working for justice. We educate young people to be the human rights leaders of tomorrow. We advocate for legislation and policies to build peace.

You can become an ‘upstander’ by supporting our work today. Schedule your contribution to World Without Genocide now to count towards GTMD. Our work depends on your support.

Upstanders for Peace and Justice

Luis Moreno Ocampo

Luis Moreno Ocampo, from Argentina was the first Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. He issued the first arrest warrant for a sitting head of state when he pursued justice against Sudanese President al-Bashir. Moreno Ocampo has dedicated his life to prosecuting individuals responsible for genocide and other atrocity crimes. He is an upstander for justice. You, too, can be an upstander for peace and justice. Contribute today and join thousands of others standing up to end genocide.




Ben Ferencz

Benjamin Ferencz is the last surviving prosecutor from the Nuremberg Trials in 1945, where he tried leaders of the Einsatzgruppen, the Nazi killing squad responsible for the deaths of one million Jews. In the first case of his life, Ferencz got guilty verdicts for all 22 of the accused. Ferencz has dedicated his life to justice. He is a strong advocate for the International Criminal Court, the world’s only permanent tribunal to try individuals responsible for the most serious crimes. Ferencz delivered the closing argument of the Court’s first completed case in 2011.  At age 94, Ferencz continues to lobby for greater global support of the International Criminal Court. Join Benjamin Ferencz in standing up for justice and peace. By contributing today, you are helping to build future human rights leaders and to advocate for justice.


Samantha Power

Samantha Power worked as a journalist during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. She wrote A Problem from Hell:  America and the Age of Genocide, a Pulitzer Prize-winning analysis of US failure to prevent genocides. She currently serves as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Power is a force for peace. She stood up against genocide and advocates for justice. Join Samantha Power as an upstander. Contribute today to support genocide education and human rights advocacy.

Support tomorrow’s human rights leaders
November 6th, 2014 | Posted By

World Without Genocide is building the next generation of human rights leaders — today. Together we can create the legacy of a world without genocide.

Learn more about some of these outstanding young advocates.


Ben Nebo

Liberian civil war survivor and global human rights advocate

I am a survivor of the Liberian civil war. My family fled when I was six years old.  I remember being carried on my uncle’s shoulders for miles and miles, and I remember seeing bodies lining the road.  These memories connect me to the horrors of genocides around the world.  I empathize in particular with the hundreds of thousands of Rwandans and people in Darfur who have so recently lost their loved ones.

My experience at World Without Genocide brought new meaning to Margaret Mead’s words, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

I became part of the team at World Without Genocide in 2006 that advocated for an end to the genocide in Darfur. We knew we had capacity to affect meaningful change.  What I didn’t realize was that this experience would fundamentally change my own life as well.

We lobbied state lawmakers to enact a divestment bill targeting corporations assisting the genocidal government of Sudan. I testified before the Minnesota House and Senate, sharing my own childhood experiences during the Liberia’s brutal war.  Minnesota became the 13th out of 28 states to pass divestment bills.  I am so proud to have been part of this local effort to influence global human rights – and I was only a sophomore in college.

After I graduated, I joined the Peace Corps and spent two years in western Africa.  I came back to the US and finished a master’s degree in public administration. Today, I direct programs in New York that assist refugees, people who have fled mass atrocities and seek political asylum, and recent immigrants.

I continue my involvement at World Without Genocide.  I speak at colleges on the east coast and inspire young students to become part of our work.  I give my time and resources to World Without Genocide because I believe that our work will truly change the face of global human rights.


Jenny Lind

Advocate for North Korean refugees

I am a high school English teacher in Daegu, South Korea, a city with over 2.5 million people. I am also the Director of Events and Advocacy at Daegu LiNK, a chapter of Liberty in North Korea (LiNK), the largest organization devoted specifically to the human rights crisis in North Korea.

Before I moved to South Korea in fall 2012, I worked at World Without Genocide, where I learned that passion, skill, persistence, and a dedicated team can create change in attitudes, legislation, and justice.

With the skills and leadership experience I gained at World Without Genocide, I formed Daegu LiNK in South Korea. My group and I know that most South Koreans are aware of the human rights abuses committed by the Northern regime, but are not directly involved in making a difference.

We work to raise money to fund the safe passage for North Korean refugees hiding in China to a safe third country, a program we have dubbed our Power of One campaign.

My own experience and World Without Genocide and the many examples of human rights advocates with whom I collaborated give me the courage to press on with this challenging work.

In time I will pass the torch on to a new group of leaders, but for now this is where I belong. I am so thankful  for my experience at World Without Genocide, which led me to where I am today.


Rachel Beecroft

Founder, World Without Genocide Summer Institute for High School and College Students

Mid-way through my college career, I learned that the Holocaust wasn’t the only genocide that had ever occurred. I was shocked and appalled that as a well-informed college student, I didn’t know about the conflicts in Armenia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur, Cambodia, and Congo, among others.

I couldn’t excuse my ignorance by claiming it was ‘before my time’ because I was alive in 1994, when both the Rwandan and Bosnian genocides occurred.

I was compelled to learn more.  I immersed myself in learning about genocide, reading memoirs of survivors and endless textbooks about past and current genocides. I began having nightmares and I would wake up, sweating, trembling, crying, trying to remember that I was safe – a college student in America. The nightmares continued for most of the semester, and I began to fear and eventually to avoid sleep.

These nightmares led me to a stunning moment of clarity.  These nightmares that felt like they were consuming my consciousness, my unconscious, and my life are real people’s daily lives. These nightmares that scare, disturb, and traumatize me are a daily reality for millions of people. The accident of birth made my life very different from the lives of people in countries where violence is a way of life. There is nothing that separates me from my counterpart born in Cambodia, Bosnia, or Rwanda, except that I was born in America to a middle-class family where I never had to fear for my safety or wonder where my next meal would come from. I will never again take these things for granted.

In that moment of clarity, I committed myself to work in human rights because I feel a sense of responsibility to the human race – a responsibility to stand up for those less fortunate because I would hope that if my situation were reversed, someone, somewhere, would stand up for me.

Being involved with World Without Genocide, first as a volunteer and later as a full-time staffer, changed my life. I can attribute nearly every one of my professional skills to things I learned from World Without Genocide. It changed the way I work, the way I interact with others, and the way I see the world.

World Without Genocide changed my life. The organization does so many things – it raises awareness about genocide, educates students and others, but most importantly, it creates leaders. World Without Genocide taught me how to lead, a skill I will take with me for the rest of my life. It has an exponential effect on the people it touches, creating a global network of people committed to the anti-genocide movement.


Heather Schommer

USAID Specialist, Rwanda

As a freshman in college, I knew little about genocide beyond the Holocaust. One day I attended a film screening of Ghosts of Rwanda.  It opened my eyes to a genocide that had occurred in my own lifetime and informed me about another one occurring in Darfur as I sat there. When I walked out of the auditorium I knew that my life was changed forever.

I worked with other students and our professor, Dr. Ellen Kennedy, to start a group to educate about genocides and take action to prevent them. This group became World Without Genocide.

My time working at World Without Genocide has been one of the most important parts of my adult life and  a formative aspect of my political and professional growth.  I quickly began to understand the complexity of the world and my personal role within it. I realized the power of the individual and the importance of exercising that power to make the world a better place. This experience made me into the leader that I am today.

I currently work in Kigali, Rwanda as the Outreach and Communications Specialist for the Rwanda Mission of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It is a “full circle” experience to live in Rwanda now, since the story of the genocide here inspired my anti-genocide involvement.

One of the things I cherish most about my time with World Without Genocide was the chance to stand alongside and learn from Alice Musabende, Ting Mayai, Fred Amram, and Dragana Vidovic, survivors from, respectively, Rwanda, Sudan, the Holocaust, and Bosnia. World Without Genocide brought us together and I now call them friends.  Their examples give me perspective and motivation in the long and difficult battles for human rights. I am ever grateful to them.

MJF volunteer opportunities
July 31st, 2014 | Posted By

Minnesota Justice Foundation Positions

Fall 2014 – Spring 2015

Intern, Brittany Nicholls Clinic For and About Battered and Abused Women – 2 positions

Gender-based violence is endemic in our local communities and around the world.  Brittany Nichols, Mitchell alumna and World Without Genocide associate, coordinates an annual clinic to be held on Thursday, April 9, 2015 at William Mitchell College of Law with the following components:

  • A job fair of organizations that provide safety and support for abused women inform about their services and internship, volunteer, and career opportunities;
  • A legal clinic staffed by lawyers and law students is available to prepare orders for protection and other legal services at no cost;
  • A speaker panel of leaders from local organizations shares information about national and international advocacy to end violence against women, with CLE credit available.

MJF students will work with Ms. Nicholls to plan, promote, and implement the Clinic, The students will:

  • Contact leaders from local organizations to participate;
  • Arrange the speakers’ panel;
  • Coordinate lawyers and law students to staff the legal clinic;
  • Organize a drive to gather donations of clothing and other necessities for a local women’s shelter;
  • Solicit grant funding for honoraria, print materials, and refreshments;
  • Prepare information to seek CLE credit for the speaker panel;
  • Plan and implement publicity and outreach for the clinic, including participation in radio and TV interviews as available; and
  • Organize and run the clinic.


  • Strong organizational skills
  • Ability to work independently and to meet deadlines
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Ability to work with a wide range of people
  • Time commitment: an average of 2-4 hours weekly through April 9.

Download an application here. Download a description of the position here.

To apply: Submit a completed application, résumé, and a 200 to 250-word letter of intent by August 25, 2014. For additional information, contact 651-695-7621.

Academic credit: Credit may be arranged for students at William Mitchell College of Law.


Editor, Current Prosecutions for Genocide – 1 position

World Without Genocide is preparing a volume of papers about current and recent prosecutions of perpetrators of genocides and mass killings from the Holocaust to current crises in Congo and Darfur. The anticipated publication date is December 2014. The MJF student in this position will do the following:

  • Edit the papers for factual accuracy;
  • Edit the papers for appropriate format and uniformity of tone across all submissions;
  • Solicit ‘blurbs’ for the volume from experts in the international human rights field;
  • Add graphic design content where appropriate.


  • Outstanding legal research skills;
  • Knowledge of genocides from the Holocaust to the present;
  • Familiarity with a range of current and recent cases on the topic;
  • Ability to work independently and to meet deadlines;
  • Excellent written skills;
  • Time commitment: an average of 3-5 hours weekly through December 1.

Download an application here. Download a description of the position here.

To apply: Submit a completed application, résumé, and a 200 to 250-word letter of intent by August 25, 2014. For additional information, contact 651-695-7621.

Academic credit: Credit may be arranged for students at William Mitchell College of Law.


Research Associate, Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia – 3 positions

World Without Genocide’s website is used extensively by high school and college students as a resource on the history, background, and legal outcomes of various genocides.  The website information for Rwanda, Bosnia, and Cambodia needs to be revised to reflect current legal issues. The MJF students in these positions will do the following:

  • Review the current material;
  • Verify and edit the current content;
  • Re-write the material to include recent outcomes at the following three tribunals:
    1. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
    2. International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia
    3. Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
  • Include graphic design features where appropriate.


  • Outstanding legal research skills;
  • Significant knowledge of these three genocides;
  • Ability to work independently and to meet deadlines;
  • Excellent written skills;
  • Time commitment: an average of 5 hours weekly through December 1.

Download an application here. Download a description of the position here.

To apply: Submit a completed application, résumé, and a 200 to 250-word letter of intent by August 25, 2014. For additional information, contact 651-695-7621.

Academic credit: Credit may be arranged for students at William Mitchell College of Law.


Coordinator, Study Trips, Israel and NY-DC- 1 position

World Without Genocide participates in a summer study-abroad program at Bar-Ilan Law School in Tel Aviv, Israel and organizes and leads an annual study trip to New York and Washington, DC for law students to explore careers in human rights. The MJF student in this position will do the following for the study-abroad program in Israel, to be held in July 2015:

  • Coordinate externships for law students at Palestinian and Israeli organizations;
  • Arrange student and faculty transportation and housing;
  • Prepare materials about current legal issues regarding nationality status, voting rights, etc. for Israelis and Palestinians;
  • Prepare background materials about UN resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;
  • Coordinate panel discussions about Jewish and Muslim religious laws and practices;
  • Arrange meetings with NGO peace advocates and leaders in West Bank and Israeli communities; and
  • Other activities as appropriate.

The MJF student in this position will do the following for the spring break study trip to New York and Washington, D.C., to be held in March 2015:

  • Arrange student and faculty transportation and accommodation;
  • Coordinate all meetings with NGOs, elected officials, and staff at the US Holocaust Museum and United Nations;
  • Prepare detailed agenda and biographical/organizational information for participants;
  • Investigate internship and career opportunities and disseminate information to participants in advance of the trip.


  • Prior participation in the Israel study-abroad experience and the New York-Washington, D.C. study trip;
  • Strong organizational skills;
  • Ability to work independently and to meet deadlines;
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills;
  • Time commitment: an average of 2-4 hours weekly.

The MJF position will report to Dr. Ellen Kennedy, Executive Director, World Without Genocide.

Download an application here. Download a description of the position here.

To apply: Submit a completed application, résumé, and a 200 to 250-word letter of intent by August 25, 2014. For additional information, contact 651-695-7621.

Academic credit: Credit may be arranged for students at William Mitchell College of Law.


Minnesota State Bar Association passes Conflict-Free Initiative
April 28th, 2014 | Posted By

Minnesota State Bar Association Passes Conflict-Free Initiative

On Friday, April 25, 2014, the Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA) passed a resolution to limit the purchase of electronics that use ‘conflict minerals’ mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Conflict minerals

For almost two decades, Congo has suffered conflict driven by armed groups struggling for control over minerals used in all small electronics. Over six million civilians have died in the deadliest conflict since World War II.

The Enough Project, a policy organization in Washington, D.C., has initiated a campaign called the ‘conflict-free initiative’ to generate city, state, business, and private support for clear-sourcing mineral and electronic purchases. Three cities, two states, several hundred colleges and universities, and many organizations around the world support this policy.

MSBA is the first bar association in the country to support the initiative; the MSBA will purchase electronics from sources that are moving toward conflict-free status.

This action was initiated by World Without Genocide.

Learn more about the Conflict Free Initiative and the Enough Project.

Christmas Eve at Dachau and Liberation at Auschwitz
January 27th, 2014 | Posted By

Christmas Eve at Dachau and Liberation at Auschwitz

Ellen J. Kennedy, Ph.D., Executive Director

World Without Genocide at William Mitchell College of Law

Hitler became chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933.  Fifty-five days later the Nazis opened Dachau, the first Nazi concentration camp and the prototype for the thousands of concentration camps that followed.  My husband and I went to Dachau on December 24, Christmas Eve.

We were in Germany over the winter holidays. World Without Genocide, a human rights organization I direct at William Mitchell College of Law, St. Paul, will co-sponsor a trip to Poland and Germany in October 2015 with Congregation Shir Tikvah, Minneapolis.  The purpose of that trip is to visit Holocaust memorials and to connect with today’s expanding and vibrant Polish and German Jewish communities.

I had never gone to Germany before.  I am a Jew. Distant family members perished in the Vilna ghetto during the Holocaust.  I knew I would wonder about every elderly German I encountered – was he a Nazi?  Had she been one of the women guards at a concentration camp?  Were they members of the Hitler Youth, or perhaps part of the Einsatzgruppen, the mobile killing squads that murdered more than a million Jews?  Or were they worse, in some ways – were they bystanders, not supporters of the Nazis but refusing to stand up when their friends and neighbors were rounded up to be slaughtered?

Dachau is a small town about ten miles northwest of Munich. It felt like being in a different reality to take a train from central Munich and, twenty minutes later, to arrive at a station marked with a sign that reads simply “Dachau.” The sign looks like every other German train station sign: white letters on a blue background, completely ordinary and banal.  Yet –  Dachau.

At the train station we had to take a bus to the camp. We had no trouble finding the right bus stop; the sign said “Bus 726 Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site.” Fifteen minutes later we were there.

It was a crisp winter day with no snow on the ground and a bright blue sky overhead.  The camp was closed, the only day of the year it closes.

Several hundred thousand people were incarcerated at Dachau from 1933 until liberation in 1945.  It was originally a place for political dissidents but its purpose quickly expanded to include forced labor and the imprisonment of Jews, German and Austrian criminals, and eventually people from 30 countries which Germany had occupied or invaded.

And it was used to train SS guards.

Nearly 40,000 people died at Dachau from starvation, disease, or execution.  The bodies were disposed of in crematoria.

Almost every German community had somebody who was sent to Dachau.  According to an academic article published in 1946, a jingle went around shortly after Dachau opened. The words were, “Dear God, make me dumb, that I may not to Dachau come” (“Lieber Gott, mach mich dumm, damit ich nicht nach Dachau kumm”).

My husband and I walked around the perimeter of the camp.  It was absolutely still.  At one point he turned to me and said, “I can almost see Nazi guards in their tall black boots, with their dogs.”  At that very moment we heard a dog bark in the distance, the only sound in that frosty morning air.

Millions of people visit genocide memorials every year. This ‘black tourism’ draws people to Cambodia’s killing fields, Rwanda’s memorials, Auschwitz, Srebrenica  -  Dachau.  Why do they go?

Six years ago, when Renee Schwartz was in the eighth grade in St. Paul, she learned about the Holocaust.  She came home after school one winter day and said to her parents, “I have to see Dachau.” Her parents understood that she needed to verify, validate, and understand what she had been studying.

The family went to Dachau for Renee’s eighth-grade spring vacation.

Renee took her camera and documented everything she saw.  She came home and held a photography exhibit about Dachau at her church.

I recently gave her a gift, a little pin with the word “Zachor,” Hebrew for “remember,” an imperative to remember those who perished in the Holocaust.  Renee laughed and said, “You’ve seen my tattoo.”  I had not; I had no idea what she meant.  She said, “A few years after I went to Dachau, I had “Zachor” tattooed on my shoulder,” and she showed me the word forever inked into her skin in Hebrew.

Renee’s visit to Dachau left a mark, not only the mark on her shoulder, but a mark on her heart and on her conscience.  She has attended the World Without Genocide Summer Institutes for high school and college students since their inception four years ago.  She was the guiding artist on the Holocaust section of our traveling exhibit Tents of Witness:  Genocide and Conflict. Social justice is part of her identity.

But I fear that most of the millions of ‘genocide tourists’ visit memorial sites to learn about the macabre, the grotesque, and the depravity of human behavior, not to honor and remember those who perished.

That Christmas Eve morning in Dachau, my husband and I cried in the silence.  We didn’t need to see the photographs and exhibits in the museum or to buy books and memorabilia in the gift shop.  We simply needed to be there, just our quiet presence on the grounds where the bones and ashes of thousands and thousands of people lay, underneath our very feet.

We will remember.  But remembering doesn’t bring back those who were murdered, nor does it bring justice to their perpetrators.

After the Holocaust, the American military held trials at Dachau, at the time the most widely-known of the Nazi concentration camps.  What a powerful setting that must have been, with an almost-palpable presence of the 40,000 dead hovering in the courtrooms.

Over a three-year period at Dachau, the Americans prosecuted 1,672 German alleged war criminals in 489 separate proceedings and convicted 1,416 members of the Nazi regime.  Of these, 297 received death sentences and 279 were sentenced to life in prison. All convicted prisoners were sent to War Criminals Prison #1 at Landsberg am Lech to serve their sentences or to be hanged.

One of those hanged was Martin Gottfried Weiss, commandant of Dachau.   Among the crimes for which he was convicted:  the construction and use of Dachau’s gas chamber, and for directing heinous medical experiments on the camp prisoners.  He was executed in Landsberg prison in May 1946.

Justice happens after the horrors have ended.  But how do we prevent these travesties to our common sense of humanity?

After a commentary I wrote appeared recently in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, I received a hand-written note from a lawyer in Richfield.  He asked, “What can I do specifically to help as a student, working person, retired person, etc.?  What can my working or retired friends and our kids do?”

Terrible tragedies are happening today in many places in the world – Burma, Congo, Central African Republic, Syria, Darfur, South Sudan.  The US sends critical aid; displaced people need food, water, medicine, and shelter, which many nations, groups, and individuals generously provide.

But it is a moral affront to think that we would have sent rice to Auschwitz or to Dachau and assuaged our conscience that we had done enough.  We must think beyond aid. We must encourage our leaders to broker peace, to engage in political, diplomatic, and economic measures to end conflict.  Call Senator Klobuchar (888-224-9043), Senator Franken (202-224-5641) and urge them to do more.  Call every day. Ask your friends to call.  Call Congressman Ellison, who is on the House Foreign Affairs Committee (202-225-4755).

At a local level, World Without Genocide advocates for specific city and state legislation to make a difference.  Governor Dayton recently signed into law a bill that designates every April as Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month, a bill we initiated and that we support in other states around the country.  In 2008 Governor Pawlenty signed into law a bill divesting our state public pension funds from companies complicit in funding the genocide in Darfur.  We will be involved in city and state legislation this spring to make a difference in the crisis in Congo and to prohibit medical personnel’s complicity in torture.  Visit our website to become part of our work.

Today, January 27, is the United Nation’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  The date is the anniversary of the day on which Auschwitz was liberated, the largest Nazi death camp where more than a million Jews were exterminated.  We must remember.  We also must act.

Auschwitz and Justice
January 27th, 2014 | Posted By

Auschwitz and Justice

by Ellen J. Kennedy, Ph.D., Executive Director

World Without Genocide at William Mitchell College of Law

We all know the name Auschwitz, one of six extermination sites during the Holocaust where Jews were murdered in gas chambers and then turned into ashes in crematoria.

Auschwitz, near Krakow, Poland, was actually a whole network of concentration camps: a main camp, a forced-labor camp, an extermination site, and 45 satellite camps.  As many as 1.3 million people were sent to this complex, including Poles, Roma and Sinti, Soviet prisoners of war, Jehovah’s witnesses – and, of course, Jews.


Shocking research from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum revealed that the Nazis had organized more than 42,500 concentration camps throughout the occupied areas.  But Auschwitz is perhaps the most horrific of all these camps because it was at Auschwitz where more than a million Jews perished, 90 percent of all who were killed at the camp.  Those who were not murdered in the gas chambers died of starvation, torture, medical experimentation, individual execution, and disease.

Extermination operations at Auschwitz occurred from 1941, when the Nazis put into place the ‘Final Solution’ of what to do with the Jews of Europe, until the end of 1944.  Auschwitz was finally liberated by the Soviet army on January 27, 1945.

It is estimated that nearly 7,000 German SS members were on the staff at Auschwitz.  What happened to them after the war?

Many people know about the trials at Nuremberg, Germany in 1946 at which 23 top-ranking Nazis were prosecuted, with most found guilty of terrible crimes and many of the guilty executed.  Although the commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolph Höss, was not on trial at Nuremberg, he gave detailed testimony that was used in subsequent trials.

In May 1946, the first of several prosecutions was held in Poland for those culpable with the terror at Auschwitz.  Höss was put on trial for murder. During his trial, he was accused of murdering three and a half million people.  Höss replied, “No. Only two and a half million—the rest died from disease and starvation.” He was sentenced to death and hanged in April 1947 adjacent to the crematorium at Auschwitz.

Six months later, Polish authorities put 40 former Auschwitz staff on trial including Maria Mandel, head of the Auschwitz women’s camp and known as “The Beast,” who was responsible for the deaths of at least 500,000 women; and Therese Brandl, charged with crimes against humanity for her part in the selection process that sent people to the gas chambers.  Both women were hanged, as were 19 others; one person was acquitted; and the rest were imprisoned, most for life.

Nearly twenty years later, another series of trials was held to prosecute mid- to lower-level Auschwitz officials.  These trials ran from December 1963-August 1965 and charged 22 defendants under German penal law.  The proceedings were held in Frankfurt, Germany, and are known as the ‘second Auschwitz trial’ or the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials.  Most of the accused were imprisoned, although some were acquitted and released.

Fritz Bauer

The chief prosecutor was Fritz Bauer, who had been interned in a concentration camp himself.  Although the trial attracted a great deal of publicity in Germany, Bauer was extremely upset with the media’s portrayal of the proceedings.  The perpetrators were characterized as abnormal and as monsters, which allowed the general German public to distance themselves from any culpability with the genocide.  Bauer himself commented about the German people, “There were virulent nationalists, imperialists, anti-Semites and Jew-haters. Without them, Hitler was unthinkable.”

The vast majority of SS and other personnel who had served at the Auschwitz complex were never brought to justice. Only sixty-three of approximately 7,000 SS personnel were tried after the war.

Today, 69 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, we join around the world in acknowledging the United Nations International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  We remember those who perished at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators:  6 million Jews, 2 million Roma and Sinti, 15,000 homosexuals, and millions of others.

There will be many ceremonies of memory, but we also need tributes in action.  We also must honor those who attempted to find justice for the victims and their families not only at Nuremberg and at the Auschwitz trials, but also at trials that occurred for decades throughout Europe – and we honor those who are dedicated to making ‘never again’ truly mean ‘never.’

Ben Ferencz
At the Nuremberg Trials in 1945 (right) and in 2002 (left)

One of those people to honor is Benjamin Ferencz.  Ferencz prosecuted the notorious Nazi mobile killing squad, the Einsatzgruppen, responsible for the shooting deaths of more than a million Jews.  He went on to dedicate his life to creating a permanent international court to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.  That tribunal, the International Criminal Court, began operating in 2002.

Ben Ferencz, age 94, continues to be a strong and vocal advocate for the Court.  The legacy of the Holocaust, and of the Nuremberg and Auschwitz trials, is not only memory and remembrance; it is also justice.

Fully 126 nations of the world have ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the principles that guide the Court’s operation.  It is the hope of people like Ben Ferencz that the United States will soon join in supporting global standards to prevent and prosecute mass atrocities.

The Benjamin B. Ferencz Fellowships in Human Rights and Law, sponsored by World Without Genocide, are forming the next generation of lawyers to follow the many who acted for justice in the past and those who work for justice today.

Martin Luther King Day and Genocide
January 20th, 2014 | Posted By

Martin Luther King Day and Genocide

Ellen J. Kennedy, Ph.D., Executive Director

World Without Genocide at William Mitchell College of Law

The United States was charged with genocide in 1951. An organization called the Civil Rights Congress presented a document to the United Nations titled We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government against the Negro People.  In this document the US is accused of genocide against the African-American  people.

The Genocide Convention, which had been ratified by the UN only three years earlier, defines genocide as the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. The Civil Rights Congress document asserted that the lynching of blacks in the US, totaling 3,437 murders between 1882 and 1951, and the systematic and  legal discrimination in education, health care, employment, voting, and virtually every sector of public life, constituted genocide.

This was not the first time African-American supporters had appealed to the UN.  The National Negro Congress had submitted a statement in 1946 and the NAACP presented a plea in 1947.

Did the UN label the treatment of American blacks as genocide?

The UN never even acknowledged receiving We Charge Genocide and American media gave the document no coverage.

After all, these were the years of the Cold War.  America’s leaders were committed to presenting a positive and idealized picture of life in the US, a picture that certainly didn’t include the word ‘genocide’ to describe relations between blacks and whites. The US, the most influential member state in the UN, insured that the race issue was never addressed.

Not only was the possibility of genocide not raised, but African-Americans were actually accused of alliances with the Communists for portraying American life in a negative light.  Leading members of African-American groups advocating to be heard were punished or intimidated in a variety of ways.

How much have race relations changed since that document in 1951?  Today, on the anniversary of King’s birthday, we celebrate his courage in challenging the structural inequalities faced by American blacks.  But today, nearly half a century after King’s assassination, American blacks continue to be critically disadvantaged in education, health, politics, housing, and economic life.

We must acknowledge our own complicity in tolerating a society that is so uneven, unequal, and unjust.  We must ask ourselves what we can do to dismantle the structures of discrimination and prejudice. And then we must act.

Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  We must help bend that arc.


Genocide of the American Indians
January 15th, 2013 | Posted By

by Ellen J. Kennedy, Ph.D.

In 1948, the United Nations passed the Genocide Convention, making it a crime to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.  Forty years later the Convention finally was ratified by the United States Senate, and then only because of truly heroic efforts by Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin.  Proxmire gave 3,211 speeches on the floor of the Senate, a speech a day for 19 years, every one of them unique, until the Convention was finally passed in 1988.

Why did it take forty years for the Senate to ratify the Convention?  One reason was that our leaders were afraid that the United States would be accused of genocide. [1]

In 1455 Pope Nicholas V proclaimed that Portugal and Spain could conquer North America in the name of Christian expansion. This ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ was used to justify stripping Indian tribes of their lands and their ways of life.

Indian Land For Sale

The resulting genocide of the American Indians was carried out against every aspect of their existence.  The buffalo, essential to the Indian way of life for food, clothing, weapons, decoration, shelter, fuel, and spiritual practice, was almost completely wiped out.  Tens of thousands of Indians were sold as slaves alongside African slaves and were even sold to other colonies in the Caribbean and South America.

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 forced almost 50,000 Indians off their lands in the southeastern part of the country and marched them to present-day Oklahoma; thousands died of starvation and disease on this Trail of Tears.  Thousands more were housed in three concentration camps and an insane asylum.

From the 1850s to the early 1900s, Indian land was even further reduced by the Dawes Act; 90,000 more Indians became homeless and 90 million acres of Indian land were lost.

Dakota hangings, 1862

Mass executions occurred throughout the country.  Soldiers massacred women and children at Sand Creek, Colorado in 1812; no one was ever held responsible.  The U.S. 7th Cavalry killed hundreds of Lakota Sioux in 1890 at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, with impunity; and of course the largest mass execution in the United States – 38 Dakota were hanged in Mankato, Minnesota in 1862, ordered by then-President Abraham Lincoln only one month before he signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Genocide includes not only extermination but also the transfer of children of the group to another group.  Indian children were taken from their parents and their communities to be raised in white-run boarding schools where they were forced to assimilate to white Christian culture. Native religions were outlawed until 1978.

The trauma continued on into the 20th and, now, the 21st centuries.  In the 1970s the U.S. Government Indian Health Services forcibly sterilized 25-50 percent of American Indian women.  And the centuries of brutality reverberate today in a legacy of familial violence, human trafficking, alcoholism, and disease.

The City Councils of Minneapolis and St. Paul have resolved to rectify some of the wrongs that were committed here in Minnesota.  We must all support efforts to bring truth, honor, and justice to those whose lives and cultures were so brutally destroyed.


[1] The Genocide Convention Hearings before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Foreign Relations.  United States Senate, 1950, Eighty-first Congress, Second Session on the International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 204-205.