Geno­cide in Ukraine and German his­tor­i­cal responsibility

Geno­cide in Ukraine and German his­tor­i­cal responsibility

Open letter to the German Gov­ern­ment and the Bun­destag: Russian warfare fulfils the central char­ac­ter­is­tics of geno­cide. Germany must fulfil its “Respon­si­bil­ity to Protect”.

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen

we would like to draw your atten­tion to the letter which renowned his­to­ri­ans, experts in inter­na­tional law and public figures have addressed to the Bun­destag and the German Government.

In response to the crimes of Nazi Germany, the United Nations General Assem­bly in 1948 adopted the Con­ven­tion on the Pre­ven­tion and Pun­ish­ment of Geno­cide. The Con­ven­tion obliges the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity to take pre­ven­tive action to avert the danger of geno­cide and to protect threat­ened civil­ian populations.

At present, a war of exter­mi­na­tion is taking place before our eyes against the people of Ukraine, which bears all the hall­marks of genocide.

The letter’s sig­na­to­ries call on the Bun­destag and the German Gov­ern­ment to live up to their “Respon­si­bil­ity to Protect”.

Fur­ther­more, law­mak­ers and the gov­ern­ment should ensure that those respon­si­ble for wars of aggres­sion and geno­cide, war crimes and crimes against human­ity are held accountable.

What is the sense in the German “Never Again” mantra if we do not do every­thing in our might to stop the geno­cide in Ukraine – a country where the Wehrma­cht and the SS com­mit­ted hor­rific crimes during World War II.

Marieluise Beck & Ralf Fücks

Center for Liberal Modernity
Rein­hardt­str. 15
10117 Berlin

Open letter to the Federal Gov­ern­ment and the Bundestag


Nobody can say we didn’t know

Ladies and Gen­tle­men, Dear Members of Parliament,

In response to the crimes of the Nazis, the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity came together in 1948 and nego­ti­ated the Con­ven­tion on the Pre­ven­tion and Pun­ish­ment of Genocide.

Whoever holds a polit­i­cal mandate in Germany has got a special oblig­a­tion to protect this core of inter­na­tional crim­i­nal law. Oth­er­wise, the German vow of “never again” would lose any meaning. The German acts of aggres­sion, the Geno­cide of the Euro­pean Jews, the hor­rific war crimes and crimes against human­ity against the Slavic pop­u­la­tion in Eastern Europe during the Second World War put a heavy onus on the German people to do every­thing in their power to prevent those crimes in the future. Not by acci­dent did Ukrain­ian-Jewish asso­ci­a­tions turn to Germany for pro­tec­tion when the Russian war of aggres­sion began on Feb­ru­ary 24.

Today we are con­fronted with a war of exter­mi­na­tion in the middle of Europe, which shows all the char­ac­ter­is­tics of genocide.

Article II of the United Nations Geno­cide Con­ven­tion defines geno­cide as acts com­mit­ted with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or reli­gious group as such. The Con­ven­tion oblig­ates the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity to take pre­ven­tive action to avert the threat of geno­cide and to protect the threat­ened civil­ian population.

A current jurispru­den­tial study by the renowned Wal­len­berg Centre for Human Rights and the New Lines Insti­tute for Strat­egy & Policy[1] metic­u­lously demon­strates that Russian warfare bears the central char­ac­ter­is­tics of an intended geno­cide. These include:

  • Threats of exter­mi­na­tion and sys­tem­atic incite­ment to acts of vio­lence against the Ukrain­ian civil­ian pop­u­la­tion by Russian offi­cials and state media.
  • Nega­tion of an inde­pen­dent national iden­tity of Ukraine.
  • Dehu­man­iza­tion and demo­niza­tion of the Ukrain­ian nation (“fas­cists,” “scum,” “beasts”)
  • Mass killing (exe­cu­tion) of civilians.
  • Tar­geted attacks against shel­ters (for example, in the theatre of Mar­i­upol) and escape routes of the civil­ian population.
  • Bom­bard­ment of purely res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hoods with heavy artillery, rockets and air strikes.
  • Tar­geted destruc­tion of life-sus­tain­ing civil­ian infra­struc­ture (hos­pi­tals, energy, and water supplies).
  • Cutting off human­i­tar­ian cor­ri­dors of besieged cities.
  • Attacks on food sup­plies for the population.
  • Mul­ti­ple acts of unpun­ished rape and other forms of sexual violence.
  • Depor­ta­tion of about one million Ukraini­ans from the occu­pied ter­ri­to­ries to Russia, among them about 200,000 children.
  • Sys­tem­atic ban­ish­ment of Ukrain­ian culture and lan­guage in the Russian-occu­pied ter­ri­to­ries (“Deukrainiza­tion”).

In light of these most serious crimes, we call on the German Bun­destag and the Federal Gov­ern­ment to live up to their “Respon­si­bil­ity to Protect”. This means doing every­thing in our power to strengthen Ukraine’s self-defense, includ­ing the con­tin­ued supply of heavy weapons, and to stop Russia’s war of annihilation.

Given the unin­hib­ited vio­lence of the Russian occu­py­ing power, any spec­u­la­tion on a “ter­ri­to­r­ial com­pro­mise” that would leave Russia in control of the con­quered ter­ri­to­ries is simply irre­spon­si­ble. It would be a nail in the coffin for inter­na­tional law and the Euro­pean secu­rity order if losses of ter­ri­tory due to the crime of aggres­sion com­mit­ted by Russia and its cor­re­spond­ing massive war crimes were de facto accepted.

We also call on the Federal Gov­ern­ment and the Bun­destag to provide per­son­nel and finan­cial support for secur­ing evi­dence and pun­ish­ing the hor­rific crimes com­mit­ted by Russia. Those respon­si­ble for acts of aggres­sion and geno­cide, war crimes and crimes against human­ity must be held accountable.


Prof. Timothy Garton Ash
Marieluise Beck
Volker Beck
Prof. Jan Claas Behrends
Prof. Wolf­gang Eichwede
Ian McEwan
Ralf Fücks
Remko Leemhuis
Prof. Otto Luchterhandt
Prof. Georg Milbradt
Prof. Dr. Tanja Penter
Anne Rubesame
Irina Scherbakowa
Prof. Karl Schlögel
Prof. Martin Schulze Wessel
Prof. Timothy Snyder
Prof. Chris­t­ian Tomuschat

[1] An Inde­pen­dent Legal Analy­sis of the Russian Federation’s Breaches of the Geno­cide Con­ven­tion in Ukraine and the Duty to Prevent, May 2022

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