cover image: Holocaust, Shoah, Hurban: Naming and commemorating the unspeakable


Holocaust, Shoah, Hurban: Naming and commemorating the unspeakable

26 Apr 2024

The words and names used to refer to events are important; they shape people's understanding of the notions they refer to, fix events in the collective memory, and define the necessary acts of commemoration and remembrance. This process is particularly sensitive when it comes to the Nazi regime and the antisemitic atrocities it perpetrated. The Nazis' obsession with race had many dimensions and applied to a wide range of people whom they considered detrimental to racial purity, in terms of both ethnicity and physical and moral standards. These ideas found fertile soil in the age-old racial prejudices of antisemitism, and well-rooted discrimination against various minorities, such as Roma and Sinti, and homosexuals. When they came to power, the Nazis immediately put various measures in place, all aimed at the physical annihilation of all Jews, whether assimilated or not, practising or not, and wherever they were, even bringing them from the most remote areas to their purpose-built extermination camps. Their goal was the total destruction of Jewish culture and Judaism as a religion, and any trace of their existence. Various groups of Jews and non-Jews have designated this dark period in Jewish and European history by different names, evoking differing underlying notions and understandings of the conditions in which the events happened. It took a long time to decide how best to commemorate the victims. In today's Europe, antisemitism and Holocaust denial, distortion and trivialisation have grown exponentially, amplified by digital technologies and social media, as well as foreign interference and propaganda. The European Union (EU) therefore has a duty to step up its efforts to counter these toxic trends. It must make sure that its strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life and its efforts to promote Holocaust education are implemented across the Member States, so that Jewish communities can live in safety, and not be subjected to hatred, including through the distortion of history.
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