Historians look back on the Holocaust as the most tragic episode of the 20th century. Beginning with tactics of victimisation and the denial of civil rights in 1933 when Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, it eventually led to over 11 million people being persecuted and murdered by the Nazis across Europe.
The word ‘Holocaust’ derives from the Greek term that translates to ‘sacrifice by fire,’ and has since been used as the definitive term for the systematic attempt to murder European Jewry. Whilst Gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and disabled people were subjected to persecution, over two-thirds of Europe’s Jews were murdered in extermination camps between 1941 and 1945.
1933 was also the year that the term ‘genocide’ was first used, as a response to the atrocities suffered by the Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1918. In 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations came to agree that genocide would be defined as the deliberate intent and perpetration of acts harming or killing members of a national, ethnic or religious group.
Although the phrase ‘never again’ has been repeated around the world since the Holocaust, genocides have gone on to occur in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. Some of these genocides have been denied by academics, journalists and key figures in political spheres.
Each year in January the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust holds Holocaust Memorial Day to preserve the memory of those who lost their lives in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides, as well as those who survived. They aim to raise awareness of the past, in part to prevent atrocities like this from occurring again, and so the trust organises a number of events to commemorate survivors, with activities taking place around the UK.
Preserving the memory of the Holocaust and informing others is an important issue for many of our authors at Bloomsbury and is a vital aspect of the list, with a number of recently published titles reflecting this:
- Writing the Holocaust, edited by Jean-Marc Dreyfus and Daniel Langton
- The Holocaust and Genocides in Europe, Benjamin Lieberman
- Holocaust Legacy in Post-Soviet Lithuania, Shivaun Woolfson
- Sobibor: A History of a Nazi Death Camp, Jules Schelvis
- Victims and Survivors of Nazi Human Experiments: Science and Suffering in the Holocaust, Paul Weindling
- The Forgotten Kindertransportees: The Scottish Experience, Frances Williams
- Filming the End of the Holocaust, John J. Michalczyk
Our forthcoming book, Holocaust Representations in History by Daniel H. Magilow and Lisa Silverman, presents a series of chronological case studies to introduce critical questions and debates surrounding the depiction and memorialization of the Holocaust. Discussing photographs, novels, drama and films such as Shoah, the book is a significant insight into the memory of one of the most devastating events of the 20th century.
As a marker of the liberation of the largest Nazi death-camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Holocaust Memorial Day takes place on 27th January 2015.