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October 29, 1982 - Image 57

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1982-10-29

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Friday, October 29, 1982 51

Dangerous Threat in Misuse
of Holocaust Terminology


National Institute
on the Holocaust

more and more cities and
states wake up to the impor-
tance of Holocaust educa-
tion, some of the same ques-
tions bob to the surface and
focus attention again and
again. Two of the points
which frequently arise, and
on which clarity is needed,
threaten to flatten out the
very concept of "Holocaust."
Except for the popular
journalists — as slovenly in
their use of the term
"Holocaust" as they are in
their use of "leftwing,"
"rightwing," "genocide,"
"invasion," "democratic,"
"conservative," "liberal,"
etc. — writers limit the
term to the Nazi policy of
murdering targeted peoples
during the World War II.

The Nazi killing program
did not begin the Holocaust.
Before 1941-1945 there was
already a program of killing
directed against "life un-
worthy of life" (lebensun-
wertiges Leben). The vic-
tims, who numbered at least
80,000, were persons per-
manently damaged and in-
capable of surviving with-
out constant care: epilep-
tics, birth-damaged, Mon-
goloids, limbless, etc. It was


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during the Nazi euthanasia
program that a number of
medical officers received
the training which they put
into practice in the death
The claim is often
entered that Roman
Catholic and Protestant
pulpits, the signal given
on the same Sunday
morning by Cardinal von
Galen and Bishop
Theophil Wurm, stopped
the euthanasia program
by sermons of public de-
nunciation. The question
then arises what might
have happened had the
Christian leaders of the
German Reich shown a
like public concern for
the fate of the Jews.
In retrospect, the ques-
tion puts again the larger
question: What were the
churchmen doing during
the Third Reich? And the
answer must be, in spite of
present efforts to gloss over
the issue, with few excep-
tions, the churchmen were
either supporting Hitler
and his crusade or keeping a
low profile.
The euthanasia program
was part of the larger pro-
-gram of Nazi eugenics, and
it included breeding as well
as killing. Basing their ap-
proach upon the remarka-
ble results obtained in
breeding horses and dogs,
the Nazis set up a breeding
program ("Lebensborn")
where selected young "A-
ryan" females were impre-
gnated by selected male
stalwarts who passed both
physical and ideological
tests. (Medical technology
was not then sufficiently
advanced to establish
"sperm banks," arrange in
vitro fertilization, etc.)
The Nazi eugenics pro-
gram, with its euthanasia




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dimension, anteceded the
Holocaust and is not part of
it, even though it provided
theory, personnel and pro-
cedures for the later killing
This is generally rec-
ognized, but the
parameters of the event
are still not thoroughly
fixed. For example, the
Marxists of eastern
Europe commonly throw
into the theme
"Holocaust" 22 million
Russians and six million
Poles. And they delete
any reference to Jews, as
such. This goes too far for
most west Europeans
and Americans. But what
of the 11 million that
Simon Wiesenthal talks
about? What of targeted
groups like the gypsies,
the homosexuals? Aren't
they part of the
Unhappily, it must be
said without hesitation that
Wiesenthal's use of the fig-
ure 11 million victims of the
Holocaust is based upon a
profound misunderstanding
and lends confusion rather
than clarity to the moral
imperatives which arise
from the event.
Like a number of well-
meaning Jews who also use
the figure of 11 million
rather than six million are,
however, disastrous. The
costs are very many, but the
most serious are these:
first, the gentiles of Chris-
tendom are freed from any
intensive self-criticism or
self-examination; second,
the lessons of the event are
flattened out into banalities
about cruelty and violence
and dictatorship.

The facts should be
plain. There is a pro-
found difference be-
tween concentration
camps, large outdoor
jails where people may
die from poor food, lack,
of medical care, brutal-
ity, and death camps,
where people die because
that is what they are
there for.
Although individual
death is a universal fact,
and to the victim distinc-
tions may seem unimpor-
tant, in the religious and
historical importance of the
Holocaust such distinctions
are vital.
Did Jews die because they
were simply part of the
human victims of the Third
Reich, as the Marxists have
re-written the story of Babi
Yar, or did they die because
they were Jews? Or, more
accurately, as Emil Fac-
kenheim has put it: did they
die because their grandpar-
ents had stayed Jews, and
not assimiliated?
In sum, the Holocaust
was the Nazi assault upon
the Jewish people. It was
not an assault upon people
in general. It was not an as-
sault upon those who had a
choice, and could settle
down into assigned jobs
(gypsies) or conventional
sex patterns (monogamy or
celibacy) in Germany. The
lessons of the Holocaust, as
well as the true lines of the
story. itself, are confused


and obscured by extending
the Holocaust to include
gentiles, gypsies, homosex-
That the brutality un-
leashed upon them was
wrong is another matter.
That the individual's
death may have differed
little from another indi-
vidual's death is here
The Holocaust was a mas-
sive event in the history of
the Jewish people and in the
history of Christianity. Its
uniqueness must be made
clear if its universal import
is not to be blurred.
* * *

Holocaust Meetings
Held in Philadelphia

The Eighth Annual Con-
ference on Teaching the
Holocaust will be held this
week in Philadelphia. Sev-
eral hundred people, most of
them teachers in schools or
congregations, will attend
from all over the U.S.
Among the speakers and
leaders will be Jack Eisner,
author of "The Survivor";
Norman Podhoretz, editor
of Commentary; Yehuda
Bauer, author and professor
at Hebrew University; and
Hubert Locke, author and
professor at the University
of Washington (Seattle).
A generation had to pass
before many people were

able to face the sheer mass
of the event, "the
Holocaust." One of the most
remarkable achievements
was Max Weinrich's "Hit-
ler's Professors," published
in 1946. Weinrich's book
provided chapters on the
way persons trained in law,
theology, medicine, educa-
tion, etc. prostituted their
sciences to support the
Third Reich and its aggres-
Another was Raul Hil-
berg's "The Destruction
of European Jewry,"
published in 1961 and in
revisions. It is still a
classic in the field. In lit-
erature, "The Diary of
Anne Frank" dominated
the field of popular con-
sumption for many years.
Today there are more
than a dozen Anne Frank
centers in Western
Europe, about the same
number in Israel, and
plans for-4he first Anne
Frank Center in the
United States have been
announced in Philadel-
In 1969-1970, on the invi-
tation of a black scholar
then at Wayne State Uni-
versity — Dr. Hubert G.

Locke — a committee
worked out the plans for the
first Holocaust conference
in North America. Held in
1970, the Annual Scholars
Conference on the Church
Struggle and the Holocaust
has continued to be the
major center for professors
and graduate students from
many academic disciplines
and countries to report on
their research and findings.
Since 1975, the annual
Conferences on Teaching
the Holocaust in Philadel-
phia have also become
major events.
The National Institute on
the Holocaust was also
founded. It supplies study
materials, bibliographies,
syllabi, conference reports
and other aids to inquirers
all over America and



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Were Jewish
Women Victims
of Massacre

LONDON — A group of
Beirut Jews visiting Israel
believe that nine Jewish
women who had married
Arabs were among the vic-
tims of the massacre in the
Sabra and Shatila refugee
camps last month, the Lon-
don Jewish Chronicle re-
The Beirut group, in
Galilee to visit Jewish rela-
tives, said nothing has been
heard from the nine women
since the massacre.

Solidarity Result
of Church Fire

Many Jewish residents of
Jerusalem interrupted
their Simhat Torah celebra-
tions earlier this month to
stand in solidarity with the
capital's Baptist* congrega-
tion, whose church was gut-
ted by fire Oct. 8.
The Jerusalem munici-
pality has announced the
formation of a special fund
of contributions from the
public towards rebuilding of
the church.

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