– RAPHAEL LEMKIN AND GENOCIDE –
His campaign to promote the convention became an all-consuming obsession: he left adjunct posts at Yale and New York University, neglected himself, forgot to pay his rent, was evicted, went without food while spending all his days lobbying, cajoling, browbeating diplomats, politicians, public figures and newspapermen about genocide. Unfinished fragments of autobiography poignantly document his decline:
As I am devoting all my time to the Genocide Convention, I have no time to take a paying job, and consequently suffer fierce privations . . . Poverty and starvation. My health deteriorates. Living in hotels and furnished rooms. Destruction of my clothes. Increased number of ratifications . . . The labors of Sisyphus. I work in isolation, which protects me . . .
He collapsed at a bus stop on 42nd street in New York in August 1959 and died at the age of 59, friendless, penniless and alone, leaving behind a bare rented room, some clothes and a chaos of unsorted papers.
Donna-Lee Frieze, an Australian academic, spent four years in The New York Public Library, where the Lemkin material is deposited, reading faded typescripts, collating different drafts, deciphering illegible scribbles in ink and occasionally filling in gaps between or within sentences.
Now his autobiography has been published under Lemkin’s chosen title, Totally Unofficial, a phrase from a New York Times editorial that praised him for what