Perpetrator Studies Network


17 January 2017
00:00 - 00:00
Het Literatuurhuis, Oudegracht 237, Utrecht

Staged Reading: If the Whole Body Dies

If the Whole Body Dies.
Raphael Lemkin and the Treaty Against Genocide,

by Robert SKLOOT

If the Whole Body Dies focuses on Raphael Lemkin, a Polish-born Jew and lawyer, who escaped the Holocaust by emigrating to the U.S. in 1941, and who coined the term genocide in 1944. He campaigned throughout his life to establish the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Even though today historians are unanimous in their assessment of Lemkin’s extraordinary achievement, he was until recently one of the forgotten figures of history. The play, written in 2006, approaches the subject of genocide through the perspective of the man, not the treaty. Fluent in nine languages, Lemkin was obsessed with the creation of a Genocide Convention from his early thinking in the 1930s until his death in 1959. He wrote an autobiography and several books on genocide, for which he was never able to find a publisher, and remained a profoundly lonely person. Only seven people attended his funeral. If the Whole Body Dies takes place largely in Lemkin’s mind, alternating between on the one hand imagined conversations with Anne Frank or with his mother, who was murdered in a Nazi concentration camp along with 48 other members of his family, and, on the other hand, real-life correspondences with Senator William Proxmire from Wisconsin and others. The narrative moves back and forth through time, presenting the struggle to have the treaty ratified as an analogy of the struggle for the world to acknowledge that genocide is (still) happening.

The staged reading will be followed by a discussion with the author.

For more information on the play please visit the website:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Skloot is professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is the author and editor of many books and essays about the theatre of the Holocaust and genocide, including The Darkness We Carry: The Drama of the Holocaust (1988) and the two-volume anthology The Theatre of the Holocaust (1981; 1999) and The Theatre of Genocide: Four Plays about Mass Murder in Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia and Armenia (2008). In 2011, Skloot was chosen for inclusion in Fifty Key Thinkers on the Holocaust and Genocide, ed. Bartrop and Jacobs (2011).

This event is co-organized by the Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies and The Perpetrator Studies Network and has been made possible through the generous support of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Utrecht University Research Focus Area Cultures, Citizenship and Human Rights (CCHR).