Holocaust trivialization

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Many authors argue that a metaphorical (or otherwise comparative) use of the word Holocaust constitutes Holocaust trivialization, and many consider such uses offensive.[1] In the words of Holocaust survivor and memoirist Elie Wiesel:

I cannot use [the word 'Holocaust'] anymore. First, because there are no words, and also because it has become so trivialized that I cannot use it anymore. Whatever mishap occurs now, they call it 'holocaust'. I have seen it myself in television in the country in which I live. A commentator describing the defeat of a sports team, somewhere, called it a 'holocaust'. I have read in a very prestigious newspaper published in California, a description of the murder of six people, and the author called it a holocaust. So, I have no words anymore.[2]

Manfred Gerstenfeld identifies trivialization and universalization of the Holocaust as one of eleven forms of Holocaust distortion. Holocaust trivialization involves the application of language that is specific to describing the Holocaust to events and purposes that are unrelated to it.[3]

On the other hand, David Stannard argued that attempts to eliminate Holocaust comparisons belittle other events of comparable magnitude.[4]

Notable cases[edit]

The Anti-Defamation League has accused Gilad Atzmon of trivializing and distorting the Holocaust specifically in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The ADL states that, among other abuses, Atzmon invoked the word Shoah to describe Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.[5]

The Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs condemned the United Church of Canada for trivializing the Holocaust. According to the Center, the United Church published a document[6][7] in which they placed a statement decrying the "loss of dignity" on the part of the Palestinians, attributed to Israel, promptly after a similar statement acknowledging "the denial of human dignity to Jews" in the Holocaust.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Antisemitism and Hate in Canada, from the League for Human Rights of Canada
  2. ^ Comprehending the Holocaust: Historical and Literary Research, ed. Asher Cohen, Joav Gelber, and Charlotte Wardi.
  3. ^ Gerstenfeld, Manfred (28 October 2007). "The Multiple Distortions of Holocaust Memory". Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  4. ^ Stannard, David E. "The dangers of calling the Holocaust unique", The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 2, 1996.
  5. ^ "Backgrounder: Gilad Atzmon". Anti-Defamation League. 30 January 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  6. ^ "Government Advocacy Around Palestine and Israel". The United Church of Canada. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  7. ^ The Working Group on Israel/Palestine Policy (2012) (DOCX (Microsoft Word)). 41st General Council (2012). The United Church of Canada. 1 August 2012. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  8. ^ Lungen, Paul (7 May 2012). "CIJA slams United Church stance on Mideast". The Canadian Jewish News. Retrieved 31 May 2012.

Further reading[edit]