Anonymous asked in TravelAfrica & Middle EastIsrael · 1 decade ago

Why is the holocaust called Holocaust?

Knowing where the word holocaust is coming from, why ist the genocide of Jews under the Nazi Regime called Holocaust? Why with a capital? Why not genocide like in other cases? I do know the holocaust refers to fire and has it's anchestry in burning animals being alive to sacrisfy God. But Jews never got burned alive. They got killed in gas chambers. (Bad enough).

I am just wondering where the term "Holocaust" (with a capital) is coming from.

Does anybody know?


edit hamaker: thanks for your response. I know this link - but WHO came up with H (capital)olocaust reffering the Jew's Holocaust. Why is it not called genocide like other mass killings?

Update 2:

edit ashera: stop asuming things. There is not need for me to draw any attention. I just ask a simple question - that's it.

Update 3:

edit all: thanx for your answers so for. Appreciated. - But - I still do not know who or how it came up with to call this genocide Holocaust. Who decided to do so?

Update 4:

edit Micheal J: I do know that. But who came up with that? Where it the Germans? Americans? Israelis? When and by whom got it changed to write holocaust with a capital "H" and why?

Btw.: I like your answers.

18 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Jews tend to use the term Shoah.

    This is from an article by an expert on the English language, William Safire:

    " . . . In English, the word holocaust (from the Greek holokaustos, ''burnt whole'') first appeared in the language around 1250, in a biblical song telling the story of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering to God. In its application to the Nazi era, the capitalized word was used first in this specific sense in the title of a 1965 book of memoirs about the Warsaw ghetto by Alexander Donat, ''The Holocaust Kingdom.''

    "However, the word holocaust, even when capitalized to refer to the specific Nazi era, has been used to encompass more than the murder of Jews. From the casualties in our Civil War (then described as ''a holocaust of lives'') to the wholesale murder of gypsies in World War II to later genocide in Cambodia, the coverage of the term has not been limited to any single group; hence, Jews sought a term for their particular tragedy. Shoah, a Hebrew word, has filled that need; Claude Lanzmann used the word to title his powerful 1985 documentary, a nine-hour oral and visual history of the killing. "

    Sean Warsch addresses your question here.

    "My aim is to trace the evolution of this word, starting before World War II when the word solely referred to destruction by fire, tracking its usage during World War II, when it was used in the previous manner and also as a term to specifically describe the Nazis killing of the Jews, and finally how the common usage of the noun has diminished greatly while its proper usage, the Holocaust, has increased."

    This scholarly article at JSTOR also answers the question, but requires membership as a researcher to access the full text. (It can perhaps be found in some university libraries when you are overseas.)

    I can't ignore the comment regarding burning. On this point, you have erred. Many people were burned alive.

    (My own great grandmother, her daughters, and her little grandson were sealed inside a building and burned alive. I don't have a link for that. )

    Here's testimony regarding Auschwitz from an exchange between prosecutor and a Polish witness, S. Smaglewska, before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1946.

    "When the extermination of the Jews in the gas chambers was at its height, orders were issued that children were to be thrown straight into the crematorium furnaces, or into a pit near the crematoriu, without being gassed first."

    Prosecutor: "How am I to understand this? Did they throw them into the fire alive, or did they kill them first?"

    Witness: "They threw them in alive. Their screams could be heard at the camp. It is difficult to say how many children were destroyed in this way."

    " . . .when the crematoria became too full to accommodate the thousands of Jews streaming into the camp, he had trenches dug, which were then filled with gasoline and set ablaze. Both the dead and the living, adults as well as children and infants, were thrown bodily into these pits to be destroyed under Mengele's supervision."

    In numerous sources, witnesses described the extent to which smoke from the oven chimneys turned the sky black in European towns adjacent to concentration camps. Further, the stench of burning flesh was everpresent while the cremetoria functioned. Years after the war, survivors of such camps can not stomach the smell if someone accidentally burns a chicken while cooking.

    Survivor testimony by A. Bubnic: " . . . we were also forced to stomach the putrid-smelling smoke entering our cells. There was such a stench of burnt human flesh that you could hardly breathe, and it turned your stomach."

    The smell still lingered in the air when allied soldiers entered the camps.

    "The stench was so terrible. After one or two minutes, the stench of feces, urine, the acrid smoke of burning flesh – indescribable, unbelievable. I couldn't stand it much longer, so I went out, retching."

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    It may be capitalized to attempt to imply that it was somehow the most egregious instance of population cleansing. I agree w/ you, though, it shouldn't have been capitalized, but that's history. It's kinda like how we call Native Americans "Indians." Now, most people w/ a decent education know that they ain't from India, but good luck ever changing that. Sometimes, too, some Jewish people may exploit the holocaust guilt to further their agenda.

    Remember, Jews weren't the only ones exterminated in WWII Deutschland. A big number of non-Jews were cleansed in death camps too.

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  • April
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    It is because of the way the Jews were slaughtered. Holocaust comes form the Greek word holokaustus, which means to burn or consume by fire. Those others slaughters did not utilize the means of fire as did the Nazis.

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  • 1 decade ago

    See the modus operandi of killing or finishing of humamn life through the ages.

    From fire to neuclear bombs.

    Poisoning and crucification,imprisonment ,extradition ,gas chambers and what else.Ever somany heart breaking news like this.

    Holocaust offering the soul and body to fire.

    Only GOD shall save like that of EBRAHIM considered to be the father of the believers saved from fire .Finishing off as ordered by king namrood.

    Jews are considered to be the sons of GOD.

    GOD has special love for them ,un deniable truth.

    They failed to follow the words of GOD to follow the messaiha from GOD.Waiting to correct their mistake,may GOD help them.

    Any way it was a Holocaust in finishing of them from the world.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    no, not all of them were gassed. There were also children burnt alive.

    My guess is that the term is written with capital, because of the huge numbers of Jews and other people being killed under the Nazi regime which had never happened before on such a large scale.

    I think you're more wondering how to keep people's attention away from the Holocaust, so Jews have less of an argument to remain in Israel, why else this interest anyway?

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  • 1 decade ago

    Because the Holocaust was not just mass-genocide: it was a degree of dehumanization and ethnic cleansing never before seen on Earth and not seen since. The Holocaust was not just the wholesale murder of 6 million Jews and 5 million others. It was everything that happened: concentration camps, ghettos, forced labor for never coming freedom, starvation, disgusting treatment etc. It wasn't just riding into town, rounding up the Jews and killing them all; it was the methodical and dehumanizing aspect which sets it apart, and that is why the 'H' is capital.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    The Jews got burned and the place where they were burned in was called the hot showers. I have got a movie about holocoust and I watched it twice. It is very sad.


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  • The word "holocaust" means fire. The Holocaust was, in great sense, a huge fire..if not always physically, then metaphorically. that'd be why, I'm guessing.

    Source(s): The Mona Lisa
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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    dunno. sounds like a term from a western historian.

    we jewish type folks do call it that, but more often the word we use is Shoah, a hebrew word.

    it's just a word. it signifies meaning. that's all. the term was used for other things before, and is still used for other things today. it's not the word that's important, but what happened.

    by the way, many jews were burned alive during ww2, especially near the end of the war, just for the record.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Hi 'h' :)

    Many Jews refer to it as 'Shoah' which means 'calamity' in Hebrew.

    To answer your question, in fact the best and most concise response I've ever seen was offered by a non Jew, in the R&S forum, two days ago!

    He stated: 'Any religious group that has lost six million of their members purely because people were determined to exterminate them all, has earned the right to call that event whatever they want and to memorialise it in any way they see fit.'

    I thought it was a very down to earth and good response!

    EDIT *******************************

    According to Eli Wiesel first used the term Holocaust. Try getting hold of his book 'Night'; it's a short but extremely powerful read.

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