Terminology and scope
The term holocaust, previously used in 1895 to describe the massacre of Armenian Christians by Ottoman Muslims, comes from the Greek: ὁλόκαυστος, romanized: holókaustos; ὅλος hólos, "whole" + καυστός kaustós, "burnt offering".[e] The biblical term shoah (Hebrew: שׁוֹאָה), meaning "destruction", became the standard Hebrew term for the murder of the European Jews; Yom HaShoah is Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day. According to Haaretz, the writer Yehuda Erez may have been the first to describe events in Germany as the shoah. Davar and then Haaretz both used the term in September 1939.[f]
On 3 October 1941 the American Hebrew used the phrase "before the Holocaust", apparently to refer to the situation in France, and in May 1943 the New York Times, discussing the Bermuda Conference, referred to the "hundreds of thousands of European Jews still surviving the Nazi Holocaust". In 1968 the Library of Congress created a new category, "Holocaust, Jewish (1939–1945)". The term was popularized in the United States by the NBC mini-series Holocaust (1978), about a fictional family of German Jews, and in November that year the President's Commission on the Holocaust was established. As non-Jewish groups began to include themselves as Holocaust victims, many Jews chose to use the term Shoah or the Yiddish term Churban.[g] The Nazis used the phrase "Final Solution to the Jewish Question" (German: die Endlösung der Judenfrage).
Most Holocaust historians define the Holocaust as the genocide of the European Jews by Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1941 and 1945.[a] In Teaching the Holocaust (2015), Michael Gray, a specialist in Holocaust education, offers three definitions: (a) "the persecution and murder of Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators between 1933 and 1945", which views Kristallnacht in 1938 as an early phase of the Holocaust; (b) "the systematic mass murder of the Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators between 1941 and 1945", which has the disadvantage of excluding victims before 1941 but the advantage, in Gray's view, of recognizing that there was a shift in policy in 1941 toward extermination; and (c) "the persecution and murder of various groups by the Nazi regime and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945", which includes all the Nazis' victims, a definition that fails, Gray writes, to acknowledge that only the Jews were singled out for annihilation.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum distinguishes between the Holocaust (the "systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators") and "the era of the Holocaust", which began when Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in January 1933. Victims of the Holocaust era include those the Nazis viewed as inherently inferior (chiefly Slavs, the Roma and the handicapped), and those targeted because of their beliefs or behavior (such as Jehovah's Witnesses, communists and homosexuals). The persecution of these other groups was less consistent, Peter Hayes writes. For example, the Nazis regarded the Slavs as "sub-human", but their treatment consisted of "enslavement and gradual attrition", while "some Slavs—Slovaks, Croats, Bulgarians, some Ukrainians—[were] allotted a favored place in Hitler's New Order". Against this, Hitler regarded the Jews very differently: as what Dan Stone calls "a Gegenrasse: a 'counter-race', that is to say, not really human at all".[d] Donald Niewyk and Francis Nicosia, in The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust (2000), favor a definition of the Holocaust that focuses on the Jews, Roma and handicapped: "the systematic, state-sponsored murder of entire groups determined by heredity".