The term, Holocaust, means, sacrifice. Understandably many in the Jewish community would like to change this term.
The new term that many are using is called, "The Shoa". Shoa, means disaster. So when someone says, "The Shoa" they are saying, "The disaster". Understandably, for many Jews the Holocaust was a disaster.
But there is something disturbing about the new term and the eagerness about the American liberal class's willingness to adopt this new term.
When someone says, "The disaster" the implication given is that this disaster should be elevated above all others. It is the difference between, the disaster, and, this disaster, or, a disaster.
Of course because the word, shoa, is a Jewish word, when someone refers to, "The Shoa" or "The disaster" they obviously mean the holocaust.
The holocaust was, the disaster. It was a disaster above all other disasters.
This is why the term bothers me. It's not because the holocaust wasn't a disaster, it was, 6 million people died, but there has been a cocnerted effort, to take the holocaust, and to use it as a tool to crowd out all other disasters, here in the US.
So, the genocide of Native Americans & 1st People's; was not the disaster.
Apartheid in South Africa; not the disaster.
Genocide against the Palestinians; not the disaster.
40 million killed by Stalin in the Soviet Union; not the disaster.
Slavery of Africans in The New World & elsewhere; not the disaster.
Conflict in Bosnia in the early 90's; not the disaster
War between the English and the Scottish, or genocide of Scots; not the disaster
Civil war happening in Syria; not the disaster
Genocide in Rwanda; not the disaster
6 million Jews killed by Hitler; The disaster, the one disaster that is more important than all others
There is a reason for this.
Unlike many other disasters, the Holocaust makes America look good. We entered the war for other reasons, and once we discovered that the Holocaust was happening, we stopped it. We're the heroes. The anti-semitic heroes ironically (many people forget that prior to WWII America hated Jews too, and to this day many Americans still do). But we were the good and moral nation, Germany was the evil nation, the nation that was the quintessential nation, whose entire history could be narrowed down to a single event, prior conditions leading to fascism considered irrelevant.
Germany was a place that was so evil, the German people were a people who were just so bad, that what they did could never have happened anywhere else, and our victory over Germany shows America's moral superiority. It showed how America was a force for good. Of course, for obvious reasons, elements in America try to paint German fascists as communist-lovers, this is to create further distinction between us and to emphasize that what happened in Germany could never happen here because we're capitalists and we love corporations ("corporations are people my friend" - Rommney 2012 R presidential candidate).
More liberal classes in America are better informed about what fascism is and we haven't all forgotten that the Nazi's hated communists. In fact they turned against the Soviet Union in the middle of the war. Getting back to the Holocaust.
The Holocaust is an unusual narrative. Technically, Jews were not the only people persecuted. They were the majority of people persecuted, and so an emphasize on this is justified. However mention of other groups persecuted are sometimes omitted entirely. Homosexuals, political dissidents (like socialists & communists) and Polish people. But again, to get back onto the main topic of the Holocaust as, The Shoa.
How do Polish survivors, or gay survivors feel about the event as a whole being considered a, Jewish, disaster? When we refer to the Holocaust as a Jewish disaster, do we mean that if Hitler had only stuck to gays, communists, and Pols, that it would not be a disaster?
Focusing again on the terms themselves.
So, here in the US we have the genocide of Native Americans and 1st People's. This is not someting we can play ignorant towards. We can't pretend that it was an accident, or that we were only the best and most benevolent of guests in their land; we cleared them out, plain and simple. This wasn't just something American settlers did. The US government sent troops to do this kind of work. The US only ever negotiated with Native American tribes when it was within US self-interests (the US couldn't fight on all fronts at once).
It was a genocide. Even the Declaration of Independence refers to the Native Americans as, "savages" and decries King George for not doing enough to protect the good citizens of the New World colonies from them.
However, to this day, any kind of apology given to the Native Americans is not without controversy. Many people in the US feel that if you apologize to the Natives for the genocide, you are essentially apologizing for American Greatness. There is a believe among Evangelical Christians in something called, American Exceptionalism. Essentially this philosophy says that because the US is God's chosen nation, anything the US does, any war it fights, is a good war, fought for a just cause. You can see this moral outrage at work in Obama's recent interaction with the Native American people, apologizing to them for the genocide commited against them and arguing in favor of greater autonomy of Native American reservations.
To say the political right-wing of this country was upset would be an understatement. They were enraged. 'How dare he' - they said. 'He is apologizing for what makes America great! Killing Native Americans was our God-given right! How dare he apologize!'
This outrage, does not help America's image on the world stage. It's poor marketing, and a poor way of presenting ourselves to the rest of the world, to say that we're not all in agreement that the genocide of Native Americans was a bad thing, or even that it was really a genocide.
But, those terrible, horrible Germans, how could they? We gasp in awe, at the horrendousness of their evil, an evil which could never be found anywhere else. An evil that we Americans had nothing to do with!
The Nazi party received much funding from American banks. Wester powers backed Hitler because they feared that Germany's poor economic conditions would cause Germans to turn toward communism, which would be an opportunity for the Soviet Union. This fear was not unfounded, already in Germany many socialist parties were rising to replace the Weimar Republic. Hitler was popular, and he played, in his speeches, on the German people's attraction toward communism.
After the Nazi rise to power, and when the persecution of Jews began to grow in immensity, Nazi's needed a new way to keep track of who they were persecuting, and what for. The American corporation IBM, was hired by the Nazi's to create a new cataloging system for Nazi's to use, to keep track of who was a Jew, who was gay, who was a communist...etc. After the war, IBM collected all of the profit it had made; the Holocaust helped make a minor contribution in the relm of computer science (emphasis on minor). The war itself was a triumph for banks who'd funded both sides of the war, axis & allies.
But because we Americans won the war, we, the victors, were able to decide how the event would be recorded. Americans, and Allies - good, Germans and Japanese - bad.
Ironically Americans care very, very little for the Japanese genocide of the Chinese. In fact most Americans don't even like the Chinese (one word, jobs).
So to get back to the terms involved. The Shoa. It's interesting, to think of WWII as the time of a Jewish genocide. It's true, but it's not all encompassing. What about the genocide of Chinese? For whatever reason even though we defeated the Japanese, we forget to mention that genocide. We only seem to care that the Japanese bombed Pear Harbor.
The only reason I can imagine, of why Japanese atrocities have never really lingered on in th American consciousness, was because the Chinese made the grave mistake, after the war, of becoming Communist. After that, suddenly capitalist Japan doesn't seem so bad. There is outcry, from the international community regarding, Japanese Comfort Women, an evil euphemism for what was forced sexual slavery. But this isn't something that comes up very often in America, outside of small academic circles and activist groups.
When I look at the Holocaust, I see, what must be the single most talked about human atrocity in mainstream American discourse. When I look at the, who, of who is talked about as suffering during the Holocaust, I see Jews given precedence (and rightly so) but it's to the exclusion of many other groups. That is slowly changing. We're now more willing to admit that Hitler did persecute other groups, but we give the entire event a Jewish narrative.
Whether we call it the Holocaust, or the Shoa, those are Jewish words, and while it makes sense for the Jewish community to take this event from a Jewish perspective, it would seem the Jewish perspective has eclipsed the war as a whole. What does it mean, that we are fine with allowing the entire atrocity, the persecution of political dissidents and Polish and Jewish people, to be taken solely from a Jewish narrative and not from a human narrative? If we refer to the event as the Shoa, or the Holocaust, we are saying it was a Jewish tragedy. If we were to refer to the even as simply, Auschwitz, wouldn't we be saying that it was a human tragedy, that no single group of those persecuted gets to, "own" the victimization of this event.
During the Nazi regime's reign of terror, the Nazi's occupied Norway. During this Nazi occupation many Norwegians risked their lives participating in a group called, The Norwegian Underground. The Norwegian Underground played vital roles in sabotaging Nazi efforts into heavy-water research, as well as helping the Allies uncover the location of the Bismarck. During this occupation, many Norwegian Underground members would be taken away by Nazi soldiers. Exactly where they were sent or what happened to them is unknown, but it isn't entirely unreasonable to think some of these captured Norwegian Resistance fighters (whom the Nazi's probably would have seen as, terrorists) were sent to work/death camps.
Does it fit then, to refer to the struggles and sufferings of the Norwegians Resistance fighters who were captured, as being part of a solely Jewish catastrophe? Was the the execution of Norwegian prisoners a crime against the Jewish people?
I am not suggesting that persecution at the hands of the Nazi's needs to be told from a Norwegian narrative. I am saying that the suffering brought upon by the Nazi's needs to be told from a human narrative.
Why must Auschwitz be a solely Jewish tragedy? Why can't Auschwitz be a human tragedy?