Defining the Holocaust for future generations: Not just Genocide

Genocide, defined as partial murder, has occurred numerous times in history, but the Holocaust was unique in that it was the official purpose of a national government which attempted to annihilate an entire people.

Rabbi Dr. Bernard H. Rosenberg

OpEds "Chamber of the Holocaust" at mount Zion in Jerusalem's old city
"Chamber of the Holocaust" at mount Zion in Jerusalem's old city
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The Holocaust is the systematic mass murder of European Jewry by the Nazis. The term Holocaust literally means a fire that causes total destruction .Yehuda Bauer, one of the world's most eminent historians of the Holocaust, differentiates between the term genocide and Holocaust by defining the term genocide as partial murder .While there have been numerous instances of genocide, the total annihilation of a people was never an officially sanctioned purpose of a national government as it was in Nazi Germany. It is precisely this which differentiates the Nazi action against the Jews from other genocidal attempts against a people.

The Nazis wished to conquer the world and therefore threatened the very existence of every single Jew in the world. The principle target of the Nazis was always the Jews. Yes, it is true that as many as 50 million human beings were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. The Nazis destroyed the lives of Gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally disabled, Jehovah's Witnesses, communists, socialists, trade unionists and religious opponents. But it was only the Jews who were singled out for the Final Solution.

The Jews, according to Hitler were maggots, a virus that had to be eliminated. Hitler saw himself as the German Messiah doing God’s work by destroying the Jew. Let us not forget that all people with three or four Jewish grandparents were sentenced to death.

Regarding the Polish population, there were no plans for total annihilation. Slavs were looked upon as being inferior Aryans; however Slovaks, Croats, and Bulgarians were Slavs who served as German allies, It was only the Jew that Hitler and the Nazis considered to be like the Devil and therefore inhuman. In the Jew Hitler saw the image of Satan. According to Hitler it was only the Jew who wished to dominate the world, and it was the Jew Hitler wanted to destroy.

Hitler and the Nazis created a policy of selective mass murder against the homosexuals, Gypsies, Poles, Russians, prisoners of war, Catholic priests, Jehovah's Witnesses', the physically and mentally disabled, dissidents and others. But it was the Jew that was seen as a virus, a bacillus that had to be destroyed before it infected the entire world. It was the Jews who poisoned the mind of mankind. The policy of making the world Judenrein applied to the entire world. The group Hitler hated above all was the Jews. He made himself the supreme racist.

In his final hours, Hitler continued to urge the destruction of the Jew . Hitler had diverted trains and soldiers to Concentration camps when he desperately needed them for the war effort. Germany was destroyed due to this madman and at the end all he could think about was murdering more Jews.

This madman was responsible for the murder of my grandparents, two siblings, uncles, aunts, and cousins. My father, Jacob, of blessed memory survived Auschwitz and my mother, Rachel of blessed memory survived Skazyskokarmiene.

I became a Rabbi to do everything in my power to prevent another Holocaust and to teach the world the lessons of the Holocaust.


My fear is that after the death of the final Holocaust survivor and eventually the death of the children of Holocaust survivors, history will be re-written and the Holocaust will no longer be a Jewish issue but rather a universal one.
My fear is that after the death of the final Holocaust survivor and eventually the death of the children of Holocaust survivors, history will be re-written and the Holocaust will no longer be a Jewish issue but rather a universal one. The number will no longer be The 6 million Jews but 50 million casualties of war. Many still persist in saying there were six million Jews and 5 million non- Jews who were exterminated by the Nazis.

We all should mourn and honor those who fought and died, Jew and non-Jew alike. However, let us never forget and always remember that it was the Jews who were the primary target of Hitler and the Nazi regime. 

I was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany of Polish parents. I came to America as a refugee. I pray that the Holocaust and the memory of those who perished will be kept alive by our grandchildren and future generations.

LET US NOT DILUTE THE MEMORY OF THE HOLOCAUST BY STRESSING GENOCIDE. WHILE IT IS IMPORTANT TO STRESS THAT WE SHOULD NEVER BE INNOCENT BYSTANDERS WHILE OTHERS ARE MUREREDED OR DISRCRIMINATED AGAINST, WE ALSO SHOULD NEVER DILUTE THE SINGULAR SIGNIFICANCE OF THE HOLOCAUST. I FEAR THAT 50 YEARS FROM NOW THE HOLOCAUST WILL BE FORGOTTEN AND BECOME ONLY A DATE IN HISTORY TOGETHER WITH OTHER GENOCIDES. I WILL DO ALL I CAN NOW TO PREVENT THIS.ANOTHER HOLOCAUST CAN HAPPEN. WE MUST BE VIGILANT.

If, G-d forbid, Israel were to lose one war, that would be a Holocaust. Yehudah Bauer , the Holocaust historian, said if it happened once, it can happen again .

I often write about the uniqueness of the Holocaust and state that the Holocaust is completely different from other genocides.

This position is controversial to some people. There are those who believe that the only way to preserve the memory of the Holocaust is by making it a universal lesson regarding the tribulations throughout the world.

Will our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren know? Seventy-five years from when the last of the Holocaust survivors are gone I predict that regardless of Yad Vashem, the United States Holocaust Museum, and all the other museums and books, the memory of the Holocaust will not be preserved. It will be regarded as just another genocide in the history of genocides.

Unless we preserve the memory of the Holocaust and tie it to Jewish observance and ritual by including the Holocaust in prayer service or, as I have done, creating a Holocaust HAGGADAH, the Holocaust will become a mere date in history. It has to be tied into Judaism to keep it alive.

I for one, at this point in my life, no longer stress the pain, suffering and horrors of the Holocaust. Today I speak of the importance of learning about the heroic individuals who survived the Holocaust to make better lives for themselves and their families. Many Holocaust survivors have created synagogues, yeshivot and day schools and still support them financially.

We need to learn about those who resisted the Nazis, not only about the crematoriums. The memory of the Holocaust will be kept alive by future generations if we have pride in the accomplishments of the survivors and preserve Judaism.




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