“Genocide” is an amalgam of the Greek genos (race or tribe) and the Latin cide (killing), speaking literally to the destruction of a group. The term was conceived in 1944 by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish law professor who narrowly escaped the Nazi occupation of his homeland. In Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, a seminal text on Nazi race policy, Lemkin noted that genocide signifies:
a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups. Genocide is directed against the national group as an entity, and the actions involved are directed against individuals, not in their individual capacity, but as members of the national group.