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  1. Bob Brecher

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee388

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Brecher, B. 2013. Holocaust. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


Minimally, the term “Holocaust” – from the ancient Greek participle holokaustos, “burnt in entirety,” which is in turn a compound of holōs, “entirely,” and kaiein, “to burn” – refers to the actions of the Nazis and their sympathizers in killing some 6 million European Jews – two-thirds of the Jews in Europe (Gilbert 1988) – during the course of World War II. The victims were killed in death camps, in work camps, and across Central and Eastern Europe, by death squads of ordinary soldiers (see Killing). As a proper name, Holocaust is, however, doubly controversial. First, in its range of applicability: some writers include in its sphere the Roma and Sinti genocide and the systematic murder of Slavs, gays, disabled people, and other groups; others reserve it for the Jews alone. Hence the name Porrajmos – which, in some Roma dialects, means “devouring” – is preferred to Holocaust by most Roma and Sinti. Second, notwithstanding the differences above, arguments from etymology prompt some writers to prefer the name Shoah (which is the Hebrew for “calamity”) in reference to the Jewish Holocaust. On the wider view, at least 11 million people were killed (Niewyk and Nicosia 2000). Many were subjected to horrific medical experiments (Müller-Hill 1998).


  • twentieth century;
  • ethics;
  • Europe;
  • politics;
  • practical (applied) ethics;
  • crimes against humanity;
  • evil;
  • genocide;
  • holocaust