Thursday, January 22, 2009
The Holocaust, Viewed Not From Then but From the Here and Now
narrative” for suffering, shaping discussions about every present
conflict over genocide and human rights even as comparisons distort
history and can serve the purposes of propaganda as often as the truth."
This is an incredibly profound statement about how historical narrative is utilized in our present-day thinking. I looked up the definition of the word quote unquote holocaust. I would guess that the Jewish people knew what they were doing when they picked this word as the first definition is quote unquote A sacrifice wholly consumed by fire; a whole burnt offering. (OED 2nd ed. 1989) However the third definition is an excellent example of how context changes our understanding of words and history . (One of the really nice things about the OED is that it gives quotes from real texts.) The third definition follows quote unquote (A) complete
consumption by fire, or that which is so consumed; complete destruction, esp. of a large number of persons; a great slaughter or massacre. The use of the word holocaust extends back at least as far as circa 1250 (1st definition). The shift of the word is from a sacrificial focus to a victim/victor focus. Reading this word from the context of my history back into these quotes causes some conflict with reading these quotes correctly.