A question for my Jewish readers

In discussing cultural sensitivities to certain issues, a reader could not seem to understand a point being made. I looked for another instance of a similar issue, the following logic chain occurred to me, and I wanted to ask if it made sense:
1) Like all human beings, Jews are concerned with their survival.
2) Within living memory, that survival has been severely threatened.
3) Their greatest protection against reoccurrence is a clear memory of what happened–both their own cultural memory (“Never Again” requires a memory of what happened) and that of other nations and peoples, that we not ignore the early signs of monstrosity.
4) A great danger therefore is a fading of that memory, or a deliberate distortion of the events and costs of the Holocaust.
5) A great problem is therefore those who who deliberately or accidentally, consciously or unconsciously diminish the horror of that experience. Claim it did not happen, or was “not as bad as they say”, or degrade and defuse the term by applying it to lesser events: (“the election was a holocaust”). It is notable that Jews rarely use the term “holocaust” to apply to anything other than a particular historical event, perhaps for this reason.
6) Those concerned with #1 therefore have less tolerance and more sensitivity to what they see as deniers and corruptors of language to this specific end. By having no tolerance for what they see as precursive behaviors, they are attempting to “kill the monster while it is small.”
Does this make sense?
Steven Barnes


  1. Makes sense. However, there are two failure modes, two ways in which we can fail to learn from the holocaust and hopefully prevent another one(1).

    1. Forgot and trivialize until every politician is Hitler and every setback is a holocaust.

    2. Remember and magnify until no politician is Hitler, even when by any objective criteria they are worse (Stalin and Mao racked a higher body count, and there is no moral superiority in starving people instead of gassing them).

    #2 is no better than #1.

    (1) As opposed to deciding we don’t care enough to intervene, as in the Great Leap Forward, the Khmer Rouge, and all the other instances of genocide that happened post WWII.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I would agree with this. And to add to what qbzzt wrote, I heavily despise the way people have devalued the term Nazi in phrases like “Feminazi,” “Grammar Nazi,” “Soup Nazi” or anything else. It trivializes the murder of 6 million Jews and the 5 million homosexuals, Romany, Catholics, etc. who were murdered.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Actually, many Jews use the term “Shoah” (catastrophe). Technically, “Holocaust” means “entirely burned” and is used to refer to a certain type of ritual sacrifice(*) in which the animal is entirely burned up. That’s by contrast to the normal sacrifice, in which the bones and fat are burned, but the (nicely cooked) meat is available for the people. Sort of an obligatory ritual feast.

    But for ordinary discourse, “Holocaust” will do and is easily understood to refer to that one genocidal program.

    (*) Since the destruction of Herod’s Temple, we no longer do sacrifices. We pray instead.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There is also an explicit challenge in modern Jewish movements for “tikkun olam” (repair the world) by applying the concept of “never forget” to recognizing when atrocities are happening to others. Not forgetting, for me, means applying the concept of human rights and freedom from violence and oppression to all.

    Liked by 1 person

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