Holocaust trivialization is any metaphorical or otherwise comparative use of the word holocaust that is perceived to diminish the magnitude of the Holocaust, the genocide of six million European Jews during World War II.
Originally, the word meant a type of sacrifice which is completely burnt to ashes, but starting from the late 19th c., it started to denote an extensive destruction of a group, usually people or animals. For example, the 1915 Armenian genocide was described as a "holocaust" by contemporary observers. However by the last quarter of the 20 c., both earlier senses mostly fell out of use.
Many authors and scholars actually consider such uses offensive. In the words of Holocaust survivor and memoirist Elie Wiesel, "I cannot use [the word 'Holocaust'] anymore. First, because there are no words, and also because it has become so trivialized that I cannot use it anymore. Whatever mishap occurs now, they call it 'holocaust.' I have seen it myself in television in the country in which I live. A commentator describing the defeat of a sports team, somewhere, called it a 'holocaust.' I have read in a very prestigious newspaper published in California, a description of the murder of six people, and the author called it a holocaust. So, I have no words anymore."
Manfred Gerstenfeld identifies trivialization and universalization of the Holocaust as one of eleven forms of Holocaust distortion. Holocaust trivialization involves the application of language that is specific to describing the Holocaust to events and purposes that are unrelated to it. On the other hand, David Stannard argues that attempts to eliminate Holocaust comparisons belittle other events of comparable magnitude.
Double genocide theory
Michael Shafir writes that the double genocide theory's worst version is Holocaust obfuscation. In The Holocaust/Genocide Template in Eastern Europe, Ljiljana Radonić writes that the double genocide theory proposes the existence of an equivalency between communism and Nazism. Radonić argues that this theory and charges of Communist genocide both come from "a stable of anti-communist émigré lexicon since the 1950s and more recently revisionist politicians and scholars" as well as the "comparative trivialization" of the Holocaust that "results from tossing postwar killings of suspected Axis collaborators and opponents of Tito's regime into the same conceptual framework as the Nazi murder of six million of Jews", describing this as "an effort to demonize communism more broadly as an ideology akin to Nazism."
During the Historikerstreit, many scholars believed the position taken in the Holocaust uniqueness debate by conservative intellectuals led by Ernst Nolte, namely that the Holocaust was not unique, Germans should not bear any special burden of guilt for the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question", there was no moral difference between the crimes of the Soviet Union and those of Nazi Germany as the Nazis acted as they did out of fear of what the Soviet Union might do to Germany, or that the Holocaust itself was a reaction to the Bolshevik Revolution and the Soviet Union, trivialized the Holocaust and echoed Nazi propaganda.
Historian Thomas Kühne writes that "[t]he more provocative historians were in doing so and the more they thereby questioned the uniqueness, or the peculiarity, of the Holocaust, the more their work was met with resistance or even disgust, most prominently and controversially the German Ernst Nolte in the 1980s."
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) accused Gilad Atzmon of trivializing and distorting the Holocaust specifically in the context of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The ADL stated that, among other abuses, Atzmon invoked the word Shoah to describe Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) condemned the United Church of Canada for trivializing the Holocaust. According to the CIJA, the United Church of Canada published a document in which they placed a statement decrying the "loss of dignity" on the part of the Palestinians, attributed to Israel, promptly after a similar statement acknowledging "the denial of human dignity to Jews" in the Holocaust.
The term communist holocaust has been used by some state officials and non-governmental organizations to refer to mass killings under Communist states. The term red Holocaust was coined by the Institute of Contemporary History (Munich Institut für Zeitgeschichte) at Munich. Soviet and Communist studies scholar Steven Rosefielde also referred to a "Red Holocaust" for all "peacetime state killings" under Communist states.
According to German historian Jörg Hackmann, this term is not popular among scholars in Germany or internationally. Alexandra Laignel-Lavastine writes that usage of this term "allows the reality it describes to immediately attain, in the Western mind, a status equal to that of the extermination of the Jews by the Nazi regime." Michael Shafir writes that the use of the term supports the "competitive martyrdom component" of the double genocide theory. George Voicu states that Leon Volovici has "rightfully condemned the abusive use of this concept as an attempt to 'usurp' and undermine a symbol specific to the history of European Jews."
In "Secondary Anti-Semitism: From Hard-Core to Soft-Core Denial of the Shoah", German political scientist Clemens Heni writes:
Contrary to the hard-core version, soft-core denial is often not easily identifiable. Often it is tolerated, or even encouraged and reproduced in the mainstream, not only in Germany. Scholars have only recently begun to unravel this disturbing phenomenon. Manfred Gerstenfeld discusses Holocaust trivialization in an article published in 2008. In Germany in 2007 two scholars, Thorsten Eitz and Georg Stötzel, published a voluminous dictionary of German language and discourse regarding National Socialism and the Holocaust. It includes chapters on Holocaust trivialization and contrived comparisons, such as the infamous "atomic Holocaust", "Babycaust," "Holocaust of abortion", "red Holocaust" or "biological Holocaust."
Soviet and Ukrainian holocaust
According to Elazar Barkan, Elizabeth A. Cole and Kai Struve, there is a competition among victims in constructing an "Ukrainian Holocaust." They note that since the 1990s the term Holodomor has been adopted by anti-communists due to its similarity to the Holocaust in an attempt to promote the narrative that the Communists killed 10 million Ukrainians while the Nazis only killed 6 million Jews. They further note that the term Holodomor was "introduced and popularized by the Ukrainian diaspora in North America before Ukraine became independent" and that "the term 'Holocaust' is not explained at all." This has been used to create a "victimized national narrative" and "compete with the Jewish narrative in order to obscure the 'dark sides' of Ukraine's national history and to counter accusations that their fathers collaborated with the Germans."
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A coining of communism as 'red Holocaust,' as had been suggested by the Munich Institut fur Zeitgeschichte, did not find much ground, neither in Germany nor elsewhere in international discussions.
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- ^ Voicu, George (2018). "Postcommunist Romania's Leading Public Intellectuals and the Holocaust". In Florian, Alexandru (ed.). Holocaust Public Memory in Postcommunist Romania, Studies in Antisemitism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp. 41–71. ISBN 978-0-253-03274-4. Retrieved 2 December 2020 – via Google Books. Quote at p. 46.CS1 maint: postscript (link)
- ^ Heni, Clemens (Fall 2008). "Secondary Anti-Semitism: From Hard-Core to Soft-Core Denial of the Shoah". Jewish Political Studies Review. Jerusalem. 20 (3/4): 73–92. JSTOR 25834800.
- ^ Barkan, Elazar; Cole, Elizabeth A.; Struve, Kai (2007). Shared History, Divided Memory: Jews and Others in Soviet-Occupied Poland, 1939–1941. Leipziger Universitätsverlag. pp. 120–121. ISBN 978-3-86583240-5. Retrieved 2 December 2020 – via Google Books.