For Yom HaShoah, things that you shouldn’t say when talking about the Holocaust (my pet peeves):
- “It’s not just the Jews. Five million non-Jews were killed.” This is fake statistic. It’s a fib Simon Wiesenthal once told in order to get some political support. But it’s false. Sure, not only Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, but the overwhelming majority (perhaps 6 of 7 million) were Jews. And Jews (or, even more accurately, people with Jewish backgrounds) were the only group targeted for complete extermination. Not even Gypsies (mainly Roma and Sinti who also were murdered in large numbers) were targeted in that fashion. Of course millions of others were killed as a result of the war due to military actions, starvation, etc, but that’s not the Holocaust, and it’s not unique to World War II (see, e.g. World War I). Anyway, don’t ever say 11 million were killed in the Holocaust. It’s a fake number. People use it because they feel guilty saying that the Holocaust was just about killing Jews.
- “You cannot compare anything to the Holocaust. You cannot compare anyone to the Nazis.” False. COMPARING is not the same as EQUATING. Of course you can compare. You can compare AND contrast. When talking about other genocides or racist-nationalist political parties, if there are similarities, you can talk about them. If there are differences, and there always are, you should definitely talk about those too. But telling people not to compare anything to the Holocaust or to Nazis is silly. And counterproductive. Comparison is how we learn and apply the lessons of history. As an example, when I used to discuss the invention of the term “genocide” by Rafael Lemkin at the end of WWII, I talked about the genocides in Armenia, Cambodia, Rwanda and Darfur, and noted some of the differences. I also noted that if you took the high estimates of the number of murders for all four of those and added them up, they are still 2 million less than the number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust. That’s a comparison. It’s ok to compare. It explains why we teach more about the Holocaust and less about other genocides. Trust me, the Holocaust can stand any comparison. What people are really saying when they say not to compare, is that they don’t want to talk about why the Holocaust is by far the worst human-caused tragedy in the history of the world. Because that’s what happens when you do actually compare other events to the Holocaust.
- “The Survivors are all dying off.” Oh my Gd, yes, of course people are dying. But I’ve been hearing people say this for decades now and the survivors are still here. And they will be here for quite some time. Some will still be with us and speaking about their experiences into their 100s. The war ended in 1945. It’s 2021. So do the math. Please, you can acknowledge the ones who have passed, but stop saying that survivors, like all people, are going to die eventually. We get it. You don’t need to say it.
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