"Historians are not always trustful guides when we have to reconstitute past". Those words, of Lucy DAWIDOWICZ -an American historian who wrote quite a lot of books about the historiography of genocides- directly aimed at criticizing historians of genocides, who treated the murder by the Nazis as a "normal" historical object, that is, comparing it with other historical phenomena, and categorizing it. Categorizing involves, among other things, to give precise and adapted definition of the genocides, and, at first, a relevant name for this historical event. Thus, we can say that the controversy about the proper name to give to the genocides perpetrated by the Nazis during the Second World War is a sensitive subject. Many historians have been, and are still today for some of them, arguing about this. Indeed, this field of the Holocaust studies is particularly interesting, because it started much earlier than the main stream of Holocaust studies. Indeed, after the Second World War, the public attention, and the historians' interest too, was mainly focused on the Resistance and the survivors.
[...] Hence, according to LEMKIN, the creator of the notion, the murder of the Jews was not the only genocide, and maybe this is something some should remember when they claim the uniqueness of the Jewish genocide. LEMKIN explained that the Nazis had committed two types of genocide: one with immediate physical destruction, like those of the Jews or of the Gypsies, and one progressive and socio-cultural, that of the Slavic population. The famous Nuremberg's trial did not take after this notion, and preferred the more general notion of “crime against mankind”. [...]
[...] For instance, the terms Holocaust and Shoah, have in common that they put forwards the singularity of the genocides of the Second World War, and even maybe that of the Jews. It is even truer with the use of capital letters. We already talked about his as far as Holocaust is concerned; it is the same for Shoah. In some Israeli writings, the word is referring to the “Armenian shoah”, that is, the genocides of the Armenians by the Turks. [...]
[...] To a certain extent, that's what the use of “holocaust” would imply, it is an attitude indeed that many historians or experts, and among the most famous, have adopted. Elie WIESEL, Yehuda BAUER, think that an historical approach of the genocide of the Jews would vulgarize it and would diminish the respect that is owned to this major event. This is something that, according to me, we should refuse. This is dangerous, among other reasons, because people who have really endured, in some way or another, the massacres by the Nazis during the Second World War, will disappear progressively; from this moment, history, and historical studies, will be necessary to memory. [...]
[...] This new word was to be first used to define the massive murder of the Jews perpetrated by the Nazis during the Second World War. In the wake of this definition, the United Nations Organization (UNO) invented a new crime, of “genocide”, and gave a juridical definition of it. This was a “mini-revolution” as far as international public law is concerned, but also as far as human sciences are concerned. From this moment on, sociologists, historians, ethnologists, jurists, worked again and again on those definitions, in order to make them clearer, more relevant, so as to classify all kinds of massive murder, and first of all, the genocide of the Jews. [...]
[...] A lot of names are acceptable when talking about the genocides perpetrated by the Nazis; the intention of the deliverer of the speech is the main explanation for the use of this and not that word. However, we have to remember too that some words are not acceptable. For instance, Raul HILBERG refused the word “extermination”, because it remembers us of the extermination of the pest. Indeed, this is first and foremost a sensitive issue, not only because it was a major historical event, but also because it is still a political issue: Jewish community is still present today through Israel. [...]
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