Avid Editor's Insights

Subtle Holocaust Denial

Posted by Glezele Vayne on January 29, 2010

BS”D

by Rabbi Shafran Avi

Others were persecuted and killed by the Nazis, but only the Jews were to be annihilated.

Never had the appearance of a word on a page so shocked me.  It just made no sense.  Those English letters, in that order, simply didn’t belong there.

It was nearly twenty years ago, in the library of a Jewish day school in Providence where I was teaching at the time.  The word was “Holocaust” and it so discombobulated me because the book I had opened had been published in the late 1800s.

Even stranger, it was an English translation (likely the first one) of the Mishna, the backbone of the Talmud.

After a moment’s reflection on that fact, I realized I hadn’t gone mad.  In context, the word was how the translator had rendered the Hebrew word “olah” – a sacrifice in the times of Jerusalem’s Holy Temple that, unlike all other offerings, was burnt in its entirety on the altar, without any portion set aside for human consumption.  “Holo” in Greek means “entirely”; and “caust” means “burnt.”

Indeed, whoever first applied the word to what occurred on the European continent over the years 1939-1945 may well have chosen it because of its Jewish source.   After all, the Third Reich aimed to rid the world of Jews, considering them the  ultimate, mortal enemy of civilization.  And, when all was tragically said and done, Hitler and his helpers in fact succeeded in murdering nearly two out of every three European Jews – if not an olah, staggeringly, devastatingly close.

Others, to be sure, were persecuted and killed by the Nazis too: Romani (Roma and Sinti peoples), political dissidents, criminals of various sorts, physically and mentally disabled people, Jehova’s Witnesses, homosexuals, Poles and Slavs.

But the “Endlösung” – the “Final Solution” – was for “der Judenfrage” – “the Jewish Question.”  There was no “Romani Question” or “Homosexual Question.”  The Nazis hated many types of people and for a variety of reasons, but they singled out only one group of people for utter destruction.

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From Glezele Vayne

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