Holocaust Denial - Terminology and Etymology

Terminology and Etymology

Holocaust deniers prefer to refer to their work as historical revisionism, and object to being referred to as "deniers". Scholars consider this to be misleading, since the methods of Holocaust denial differ from those of legitimate historical revision. Legitimate historical revisionism is explained in a resolution adopted by the Duke University History Department, November 8, 1991, and reprinted in Duke Chronicle, November 13, 1991 in response to an advertisement produced by Bradley R Smith's Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust:

That historians are constantly engaged in historical revision is certainly correct; however, what historians do is very different from this advertisement. Historical revision of major events ... is not concerned with the actuality of these events; rather, it concerns their historical interpretation – their causes and consequences generally.

In The Holocaust: Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation, Donald L. Niewyk gives some examples of how legitimate historical revisionism—the re-examination of accepted history and its updating with newly discovered, more accurate, or less-biased information—may be applied to the study of the Holocaust as new facts emerge to change the historical understanding of it:

With the main features of the Holocaust clearly visible to all but the willfully blind, historians have turned their attention to aspects of the story for which the evidence is incomplete or ambiguous. These are not minor matters by any means, but turn on such issues as Hitler's role in the event, Jewish responses to persecution, and reactions by onlookers both inside and outside Nazi-controlled Europe.

In contrast, the Holocaust denial movement bases its approach on the predetermined idea that the Holocaust, as understood by mainstream historiography, did not occur. Sometimes referred to as "negationism", from the French term négationnisme introduced by Henry Rousso, Holocaust deniers attempt to rewrite history by minimizing, denying or simply ignoring essential facts. Koenraad Elst writes:

Negationism means the denial of historical crimes against humanity. It is not a reinterpretation of known facts, but the denial of known facts. The term negationism has gained currency as the name of a movement to deny a specific crime against humanity, the Nazi genocide on the Jews in 1941–45, also known as the holocaust (Greek: complete burning) or the Shoah (Hebrew: disaster). Negationism is mostly identified with the effort at re-writing history in such a way that the fact of the Holocaust is omitted.

Read more about this topic:  Holocaust Denial

Famous quotes containing the word etymology:

    The universal principle of etymology in all languages: words are carried over from bodies and from the properties of bodies to express the things of the mind and spirit. The order of ideas must follow the order of things.
    Giambattista Vico (1688–1744)