In honor of Human Rights Day, December 10, Jewish Treats presents a brief biography of René Samuel Cassin (October 5, 1887 – February 20, 1976), the author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Nobel Peace Prize winner (1968) René Cassin was a native of Bayonne, France. After studying literature and law, Cassin was called to the bar in 1909. He continued his studies while practising law and, in 1914, received a doctorate in juridical, economic and political sciences. Then came World War I. Cassin joined the French infantry and was severely wounded by shrapnel in 1916.

Shortly after returning to his law career, Cassin accepted a teaching position at the University of Paris. He lectured around the world, published dozens of articles and organized/administered several organizations related to disabled war veterans. Cassin was also a delegate for France to the League of Nations. 

As a French Jew during World War II, Cassin was all too aware of the horrors of nationalism and abuses of human rights. He was one of the first civilians to respond to General Charles de Gaulle’s call for resistence and, in response, made his way to London. 

When the Alliance Israelite Universelle’s central committee fell under Vichy control, General de Gaulle asked Cassin to take charge of it. From 1943 until his death, Cassin was the president of this renowned Jewish organization.

The first official meeting of the United Nations was in January 1946. Cassin was one of the first members of the UN’s Commission of Human Rights. The commission was responsible for the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was accepted by a vote of 48 to 0 (8 abstentions) on December 10, 1948. It is the basis for the laws of human rights used in international law today.

*In our brief biography, Jewish Treats cannot list the multiple organizations with which Cassin was involved.

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