Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.
Discussion of the Holocaust continues to be fiercely contested in the present, as it has been since the time of its historical occurrence in Europe during the Nazi era, 1933-1945. The Nazis were experts in propaganda and the use of spectacle to help achieve political aims—setting the stage for claims and counter-claims. They also mounted an elaborate charade to deceive the world, including their victims, about what they actually were perpetrating. Many Europeans in the vicinity of concentration and death camps claimed not to know what was occurring. When accused and tried, many perpetrators claimed to be mere cogs in the system.
The "Holocaust," a term whose use has grown in frequency since the 1970s, and the term most often used in common American parlance to describe the Nazi years and actions towards the Jews (and increasingly, also referring to other persecuted groups), itself continues to be contested. Does the term have Judeo-Christian sacred meaning? Is the Holocaust unique? Should the word be capitalized? Does it refer to the persecution of non-Jews, as well as Jews? Who is considered a 'survivor'? When did the Holocaust begin? Who has or should have 'ownership' of the Holocaust? Competing terms in English are the Hebrew Shoah, and the Yiddish Khurbn, each with its symbolic nexus. These issues have social, political, cultural, and economic consequences with implications that extend to such things as the inclusion in, or exclusion from, memorializations, designations of funds for reparations, representation on decision-making boards and in educational and cultural institutions.
Some of the discussion concerning terminology is conducted online, and revolves around the religious/sacred connotations of the word Holocaust and its synonyms. A few websites below give the flavor of the debate, in which some of the participants display attitudes that overlap in places with those of Holocaust deniers.
PHILOLOGOS: Best Way To Say the Unsayable http://www.forward.com/issues/2001/01.08.31/arts5.phil.html
Petrie, Jon. The Secular Word "HOLOCAUST": Scholarly Sacralization, Twentieth-Century Meanings
Myers, Peter. Fighting with Words: the Word "Holocaust". October 24, 2000; update July 30, 2003. Canberra, Australia.
For the majority of the current world population, which did not live through the events in first person, knowledge and understanding about the Holocaust has always been mediated. The mediation of the Holocaust is growing, with the proliferation of representations, greater interest and availability of original documents and photographs (including the more recent availability of Soviet bloc documents), and a growing library of secondary sources (including multi-media and new media expressions, radio programs, television and films, documentaries, fiction, cartoons, plays, music, archival banks of audio and video survivor testimonies, published histories and memoirs, diaries, fictionalized accounts, literary analyses, public apologies, reparation agreements and law suits, Nazi-hunting and prosecutions, memorials, monuments, museums, educational programs, curricula, journals, conferences, and a huge educational and academic infrastructure). Parallel to the aging and death of many survivors is the growing interest in memorials and the mediation of memory. Concomitantly, this has set in motion vigorous explorations of the meanings of both mediation and memory.