Genocide in Ukraine and German histor­ical responsibility

Foto: Imago Images

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