Holocaust and Genocide in Yad Vashem Studies, Volume XIII

Uriel Tal


On the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide

The term ‘genocide’ was coined in 1943 by Raphael Lemkin, an advisor in the US War Department. In 1946 the UN General Assembly declared genocide directed at national, ethnic, racial, or religious groups an international crime against humanity. The physical and biological persecutions of genocide were expanded to include an increasing number of definitions. The controversial matters of cultural and political genocide were not included. Genocide has been perpetrated over thousands of years. However, that was prior to the emergence of rational thought, which the French Revolution and the Enlightenment brought to the fore. Did the Church’s antisemitism and missionary work contribute to the annihilation of the Jews in modern Europe? Varied motives have been proposed for the spread of Nazism throughout Europe including the geopolitical expansion demand for more space (Lebensraum) for the German people in the East. Hitler and Himmler stressed that the Jews symbolized all the poisonous, disruptive forces to Nazism and expansion and must be entirely eradicated. Except for the destruction of the evil Jew (the father of Bolshevism), the genocide of other races was only carried out in part. In retrospect, Nazism realized few of its goals. However, its political myth concerning the Jewish genocide was achieved because it was hardly opposed by intellectuals, the Church, and public opinion in the Reich and abroad. Appendix: In biblical tradition the Hebrew word Shoah originally referred to personal desolation. Others enriched the meaning to catastrophic destruction. In 1940 it began to be used to indicate the mass annihilation of European Jewry. Shoah is now widely used in Modern Hebrew.

Products specifications
ISSN 0084-3296
Year 1979
Catalog No. 197901
Format Electronic article in Yad Vashem Studies, Volume XIII, pp. 7-52, Edited by Livia Rothkirchen
Publisher Yad Vashem