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World Genocide Commemoration Day

World Genocide Commemoration Day on December 9 is a global event instituted by the United Nations (UN) to commemorate victims of genocide and highlighting humanity's responsibility to prevent future genocides.

Images of Jews deported by the Nazis displayed in the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Pictures of Anne Frank, one of the millions of Jews murdered by the Hitler regime during the Holocaust, displayed in the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.

©bigstockphoto.com/Giuseppe Crimeni

Officially, the event is called the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of This Crime.

Preventing Future Genocides

The event is an opportunity to memorialize and honor victims of past genocides. According to the UN resolution defining the event's scope, it is also designed to stress “the responsibility of each individual State to protect its populations from genocide, which entails the prevention of such a crime, including incitement to it, through appropriate and necessary means, and that fighting impunity for the crime of genocide is an important factor in its prevention.”

The day is also intended to recall the significance of the United Nations Genocide Convention. The UN General Assembly signed the agreement on December 9, 1948—precisely 67 years before World Genocide Commemoration Day was first observed in 2015.

Genocide: Definition and Statistics

Genocide is the intentional and systematic eradication of an ethnic, racial, or religious group. In terms of the death toll, the Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany during World War II was one of the worst genocides in recorded history. According to some estimates, up to 11 million people were systematically murdered between 1942 and 1945.

The number of people killed in genocides has drastically decreased since the end of the last world war. Still, there have been a number of genocidal atrocities in recent decades, the Rwandan genocide in 1994 with up to 1 million victims constituting one of the bloodiest examples.

The 1948 Genocide Convention

The UN Genocide Convention provides a legal framework for defining, prosecuting, and punishing instances of genocide. The agreement was signed in 1948, after rigorous campaigning by Raphael Lemkin, a lawyer of Polish-Jewish descent. Lemkin also coined the term genocide, which derives from the Greek word for people (génos) and the Latin suffix for killing (-cide).

The document is officially called the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

World Genocide Commemoration Day Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
2015WedDec 9World Genocide Commemoration DayUnited Nations observance
2016FriDec 9World Genocide Commemoration DayUnited Nations observance
2017SatDec 9World Genocide Commemoration DayUnited Nations observance
2018SunDec 9World Genocide Commemoration DayUnited Nations observance
2019MonDec 9World Genocide Commemoration DayUnited Nations observance
2020WedDec 9World Genocide Commemoration DayUnited Nations observance
2021ThuDec 9World Genocide Commemoration DayUnited Nations observance
2022FriDec 9World Genocide Commemoration DayUnited Nations observance
2023SatDec 9World Genocide Commemoration DayUnited Nations observance
2024MonDec 9World Genocide Commemoration DayUnited Nations observance
2025TueDec 9World Genocide Commemoration DayUnited Nations observance

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