Holocaust vs Shoa

I have an honest question about the topic and find it a bit hard to crack.

So there are two terms out there (and here in Germany) “Holocaust” and “Shoa”.
Shoa is by far the easier one to define. It is the (attempted) Genocide of all Jews, ideally everywhere, all of them. No questions asked.

So my question is about the term Holocaust. I sometimes find it used for the extermination attempt of the Jews alone, but sometimes used as the term for the whole Nazi butchery as a whole. And if I understood my history lessons twenty years ago well, I was taught to use it the latter way.
Now this might seem trivial to some, but as Spartacus showed in the Feb1943/1 episode, the Jews were without a doubt the main victims, but the Nazi killing machine also took an roughly equal number of “others” prematurely out of live.

So how is it used by others in this context? And if you use it only for the jewish victims, what term do you use for the others?

And I mean in this context. It is a fixed, metaphorical term. Please no “but literally it means burned city” smart stuff. I know what it means, thanks in advance.

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such einfach nach eins von beiden.

Often times terms change. Yes Holocaust could be used in it’s dictionary term but events of world war 2 forever changed it’s historical meaning.

I think it is common to think of Holocaust as referring to “only” the 6 million of Jewish ancestry and that is fine.I would lean toward it defining the entire program of eliminating undesirable racial and social elements from the third Reich.

I don’t include the millions of Soviet POW who were deliberately starved to death or the elimination of whole towns as part of reprisals. The Germans killed lots of groups indiscriminately but the holocaust was the purposeful elimination of specific groups.

That’s how I feel. I’m sure others feel differently. I’m not sure there is 1 right answer because it is so personal to lots of different groups. I’m thinking that gypsy’s surely feel part of the holocaust.

I did ot find in the English wikipedia entry about holocaust. The murder of the "gypsy´s is called Porajmos by the Sinti and Roma (Porajmos - Wikipedia)

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In our Wikipedia they directly equate Holocaust and Shoah. Not sure why you didn’t see the link but then I couldn’t pull the German version up.

Imho, Wikipedia is poor history, not that I am a good historian but it’s content control is extremely poor.

Thanks for the info on the terms.

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any encyclopedia is bad on science. But at least they give the basics. The most trusted source about the Shoa in my opinion is Yad Vashem.


Ja, ne lesen kann ich schon selber. Ich fragte eher nach Meinungen und Gebräuchen. Danke.
(I can read myself. My question was more about opinions and actual uses. Thank you.)


[quote=“markuskoester85, post:7, topic:8679”]
(I can read myself. My question was more about opinions and actual uses. Thank you.)

Good point.

To me the exact definition as in which victims/groups exactly and who not isn’t super relevant as it can lead to long discussions that seem to distract from the subject. For example whether the Judenrat should be excluded etc.

in papers I tended to work with working definitions and/or narrow the subject down to what I wrote about. This is probably not entirely satisfactory but that is my view/experience.

Best Regards,

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I found on The Anne Frank House website, they say that Holocaust comes from Greek: " Burnt Offering"; Shoa, comes from Hebrew: " Catastrophe". Essentially They mainly apply to the genocide of the Jews. However, it is of course known that The Nazis used the same facilities to exterminate any people they took offence at


Good point, have you been to the Anne Frank house, it is a very sad and impressive place (and the actually have a free VR app now which shows it as it was with WW2 even with the Shirly Temple and other moviestar pictures hanging in the room of Anne Frank and her family.

And of course a very heartfelt welcome to the forum Ian and let me/us know should their be any queries.


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I’ve always thought of them as being somewhat synonymous. Shoah is a Hebrew word meaning utter destruction. It is the what the Jewish people (and the state of Israel) call the holocaust. Many of the peoples who were the victims of the German (Nazi) slaughter refer to it using a word in their own native language; Jewish people use Shoah, the Roma use Porajimos. I believe that no matter the specific language, all of these terms refer to the same despicable program of directed mass murder conducted by the Nazis.


This is an interesting take I totally support. But in more toxic discussions Shoa and Porajimos are often used exclusively to refer to the relevant ethnical aspect in my experience. Which for example led to two different memorials in Berlin for Jews and Sinti/Roma. You can also see the difference in reckognition of the terms Shoa and Porajimos in the public discourse and my initial post. Until you brought it up, I didn’t even consider Porajimos to cover the entire event. So thanks for that.

I will also note I know no inherently German word, but the rather extensive circumscription of “industrialised mass murder of Jews, Roma, Dissentors and others considered undersirable by the Nazis” (industrialisierter Massenmord an Juden, Roma, Andersdenkenden und anderen von den Nazis als “Unwert” betrachteten) or similar. Precise wording can differ. Shortest version might be “industrialised Nazi mass murder” and usually everyone gets the point and by naming no one, everyone is included. So usually Holocaust or Shoa get used, which brings me full circle to my initial question, I guess.


Very good points, In the Netherlands :netherlands: WW2 was remembered with 2 minutes silence and some WW2 speeches. Somehow as it gets further in the past some organizations started IMO not very useful discussions and research papers on which victims are included and which should not be.Also some antisemites insist on listing every persecuted group during the Nazi regime and then finally Jews.

Guess what: anyone can think for itself who to remember, fine if some group wants a separate memorial. Bickering about categories is possibly the most unimportant aspect of the Holocaust. It is about many millions of murdered people.


I agree. We need to remember all of the atrocities committed and eerybody will do that in their own way.


and this is why I think the question matters, because the antisemite strategy here is basically to include so many groups that they can start arguing the jews were not ‘really’ targeted (even though they were) as many people were killed at the hands of the nazis, there just happened to be a lot of jews in there. That’s why it’s important to keep emphasizing the jews that died, even though many more people did and all deserve a monument in their own respect.