The Debate about the Role of the Holocaust in the Post-War Human Rights Revival
Keywords:Polemics, Holocaust, Genocide, United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The debate I discuss here revolves around the question of whether the Holocaust played a pivotal role in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention. The widely shared assumption is that it did indeed. Since 2010, however, some have raised doubts about this view. Who is right in this debate? I try to throw fresh light on it, using new sources and reevaluating old arguments to tackle three questions: what did the drafters of these early human rights instruments know about the Holocaust in 1946–48? What traces of the Holocaust can be found in the travaux préparatoires of these instruments? And who spoke about the Holocaust during the final debates? I argue that the fact that the term “Holocaust” was not used in 1946–48 does not mean that the realities behind it were absent from the minds of the drafters.