Cover image for The Holocaust encyclopedia
The Holocaust encyclopedia
Laqueur, Walter, 1921-
Publication Information:
New Haven : Yale University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xxxix, 765 pages : illustrations, maps ; 26 cm
Format :


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The Holocaust has been the subject of countless books, works of art, and memorials. Fifty-five years after the fact the world still ponders the enormity of this disaster. The Holocaust Encyclopedia is the only comprehensive single-volume work of reference providing both a reflective overview of the subject and abundant detail concerning major events, policy decisions, cities, and individuals. Up-to-date and designed for easy access, the encyclopedia presents information on the major aspects of the Holocaust in essays by scholars from eleven countries who draw on a number of sources--including recently uncovered evidence from the former Soviet bloc--to provide in-depth studies on the political, social, religious, and moral issues of the Holocaust as well as short entries identifying events, sites, and individuals. The book also has more than 250 photographs, many of them rare, and 19 maps.
The volume includes:
* Raul Hilberg on concentration camps and Gypsies
* Ruth Bondy, Israel Gutman, and Dina Porat on major ghettoes
* Roger Greenspun on the Holocaust in cinema and television
* Richard Breitman on American policy
* Michael Berenbaum on theological and philosophical responses
* Saul Friedl#65533;nder on Nazi policy
* Michael Hagemeister on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion
* Michael R. Marrus on historiography
* Christopher R. Browning on the Madagascar Plan
* Robert S. Wistrich on Holocaust denial
* James E. Young on Holocaust literature

Author Notes

Walter Laqueur, co-chairman of the International Research Council of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., is among the world's preeminent historians of modern Europe and a leading authority on the Holocaust. He is the author of nearly twenty books on World War II, the Holocaust, fascism, and Soviet politics. Judith Tydor Baumel teaches modern Jewish history at Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Although this resource, the work of more than 100 contributors, concentrates on the Nazi persecution of the Jews, there are articles on other persecuted groups, such as Gypsies and Jehovah's Witnesses. Preceding the entries is a day-by-day chronology beginning with January 1933 and continuing until May 8, 1945. The alphabetical encyclopedia entries vary greatly in length. Most biographies are very brief, some exceptions being those for Anne Frank, Adolf Hitler, and Raoul Wallenberg. Even figures such as Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Goring, and Adolf Eichmann warrant only a paragraph (Eichmann's trial, however, receives greater coverage in a separate entry). Longer signed articles, many several pages in length, cover places (concentration camps, German occupied countries, etc.), concepts (Literature, Rescue, Restitution), events, policies, and groups (Polish Jewry, Refugees, Righteous among the Nations). Black-and-white illustrations consist mostly of captioned photographs but also include documents, maps, and posters. Limited cross-references direct readers to related articles, The inclusion of see references would have made the content more accessible; for example, researchers looking for an entry on the U.S. might not think to look under American policy. Instead of a traditional bibliography, there is a "Bibliographical Essay" written by the director of the Yad Vashem Library, discussing the vast amount of Holocaust literature, including Web sites. Minimal bibliographic information embedded in the essay makes it difficult to use for collection development. The analysis of events is what sets this title apart, and in many instances serious researchers will find a satisfying depth of information. Recommended for public and academic libraries needing an up-to-date, single-volume reference on the topic.

Publisher's Weekly Review

The last two decades of the 20th century witnessed a veritable explosion of Holocaust scholarship. We have endowed university chairs devoted to Holocaust studies, and museums and monuments to the Shoah bloom. Yet the public at large is no closer to an understanding of those momentous events today than we were two generations ago. Now comes a book that can at least partly remedy that situation. Editor Laqueur, a notable Holocaust historian (Generation Exodus, Forecasts, Feb. 19), has done a masterful job of bringing together more than 100 contributors from nearly a dozen countries, including such leading scholars in their fields as James Young, Stanley Payne, Michael R. Marrus, Raul Hilberg, Israel Gutman, Saul Friendlnder, David Cesarani, Daniel Carpi and Christopher Browning. The result is a comprehensive one is tempted to say exhaustive, but the subject can never be exhausted volume. Of particular value are a 17-page chronology of events; the bibliographical essay by Robert Rozett, director of the Yad Vashem Library in Jerusalem; and Adam Kaczkowski's haunting and powerful photographs. These are joined by approximately 250 illustrations that cover all aspects of the Nazi extermination program but also offer intimate portraits of the culture of Jewish life in Nazi-occupied Europe. Entries range in length from a few sentences to a dozen pages on Hitler, anti-Semitism and Auschwitz. Laqueur asks, "Is it possible now, more than fifty years after the Holocaust, to write about it with authority?" The encyclopedia itself is authoritative, and Laqueur argues that "it is most unlikely... that any future revelations will necessitate a radical revision of the present picture." Finally, Laqueur is eloquent and humble in acknowledging the epistemological shortcomings of this (or any) work on the subject: "Documents cannot possibly tell the full story; they do not smell, they do not starve or freeze, they are not afraid." But this is no ordinary reference work; in it we can indeed see and even smell the horrors of the Final Solution, and yes, we are afraid. (Apr. 19) Forecast: There will undoubtedly be much media attention paid to this momentous book, aided by its publication on Holocaust Remembrance Day. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Cochair of the International Research Council of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, Laqueur has assembled a virtual "Who's Who" of Holocaust scholars to provide both brief and detailed entries on the major players, events, concepts, and themes in contemporary Holocaust studies. Although the encyclopedia provides only brief articles on individuals, with the exception of figures such as Adolf Hitler, it refers readers to more detailed analyses in thematic articles, where these individuals receive their due. Fortunately, these longer entries do not come at the expense of information on individuals but treat their topics thoroughly. The encyclopedia also contains articles of contemporary relevance, such as "Holocaust Denial" and "Cinema and Television." Bibliographic references are not included, even with longer entries, although there is a bibliographic essay at the end of the volume. While Donald Niewyk and Francis Nicosia's recent The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust (LJ 3/15/01) is more a research tool for those doing in-depth investigation, the Laqueur volume is a wonderful compendium of state-of-the-art research and an easy reference for readers on all levels who need factual and conceptual information. Jointly, the two works cover most of the topics that should be addressed. Recommended for all libraries. Frederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

In The Forgotten (1992), Elie Wiesel quotes the wisest king in the Bible, "He that increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow." In reference to the Holocaust, Solomon's quotation takes on manifold meanings. In 2001, any single-volume encyclopedia attempting coverage of the Holocaust must come up short, but when the editor is Walter Laqueur and its more than 100 contributors include Raul Hilberg, Israel Gutman, Richard Breitman, Saul Friedlander, Christopher Browning, and James Young, one must take notice. With hundreds of alphabetically arranged entries, Laqueur's encyclopedia provides fresh and lengthy articles on such topics as antisemitism, historiography, Jewish women, memorials, and resistance, just to brush the surface. Its 16-page chronology is excellent. But one comes away frustrated at a cursory paragraph on death marches, and no entries for Flossenburg, Harvest Festival (Erntefest), Kindertransport, Lebensborn, or Muselmann. Although Laqueur notes in his "In Place of a Preface" that the encyclopedia "focuses on issues rather than personalities and the geography of mass murder," the distinction does not always hold. Criticism aside, this solid addition to Holocaust studies reflects much of the research carried out since the collapse of the Soviet bloc. Even if it falls short of being comprehensive, it should be an essential acquisition for any academic library. C. P. Vincent Keene State College



Preface In Place of a Preface There have been massacres of hundreds of thousands, even millions of people before and since World War II. Throughout history millions have died in various periods as the result of war, forced starvation, expulsion, and deportation. The present work limits itself to one period, the Third Reich. It concentrates on one group of persecutors, Nazi Germany and its collaborators, and, in the main, one set of victims, the Jews. For the Nazis, antisemitism leading to the physical elimination of the Jews was a central issue, and it is the central topic of this book.     The term holocaust is unfortunate because it means a religious sacrifice, usually made by burning. (Its origin is in the Greek word holokauston , "burnt whole.") Whatever the cause and the significance of the mass murder of Jews and others by the Nazi regime, it was not a sacrifice. In Europe the term appears less and less; genocide or the Hebrew shoah (the preferred term in Israel) are used instead. But in the English-speaking world the word is so deeply rooted that it is impractical to deviate from it.     Is it possible now, more than 50 years after the Holocaust, to write about it with authority? Many new facts became known during the last decade of the twentieth century, especially in the former Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern Europe, including the former East Germany. Not all archives have been opened or will be accessible in the foreseeable future, certainly not many of those of the KGB and the GRU (Soviet civil and military intelligence), which would enable us to know what was known in Moscow at the time about the situation in the occupied territories. The same is true, by and large, with regard to the archives of most secret services, including the British, and of the Vatican. Some of the relevant materials may have been destroyed. Even some of the Jewish archives have become available only recently, including the papers of Nathan Schwalb, who played a leading role among the Zionist emissaries in Switzerland. It is most unlikely, however, that any future revelations will necessitate a radical revision of the present picture. They may confirm what we now know, or may do away with certain dubious theories, but basic reappraisals seem unlikely. Thus it is doubtful that a written order by Adolf Hitler concerning the extermination of European Jewry will ever be found; there is no reason to assume that such an order ever existed in writing. The greater the crime, the less the likelihood that written evidence will be found at the highest level of government.     It seems equally improbable that the exact number of victims will ever be established. This will come as a surprise only to those unfamiliar with the limits of statistical accuracy in the twentieth century, especially in wartime. The German authorities to this day do not know the number of German wartime casualties, civilian and military, despite the fact that German statistics were more complete and reliable than those of other countries. Existing records were destroyed during the last phase of the war; of those hundreds of thousands of German soldiers listed as missing in action, many may have deserted or surrendered; others may have survived battle but died in captivity, or they may have returned to Germany after the war without having been registered. There is no possible way to know the exact number of victims of the Allied bombing of Dresden in 1945 because we do not know the number of residents at the time; many Dresdeners may have fled the town, and many refugees in transit from the East may have been trapped there. If this is true with regard to the vanquished, it is equally true concerning the victors: there are considerable discrepancies in the U.S. statistics concerning American losses in World War II.     As to the Jews of Central Europe, there is a fairly accurate accounting of how many were deported to the East in 1942 and 1943. But the great concentrations of European Jews were in Poland, the Baltic countries, and the former Soviet Union. As for Russia and Ukraine, only estimates exist; with regard to other Eastern European countries the statistics were often out of date and incomplete. Nor can the reports of the agencies engaged in the murder of Jews be implicitly trusted. Some of the records were destroyed; others were inaccurate in the first place. The assignment, after all, was to kill a maximum number of people in a minimum amount of time, rather than to submit accurate figures. And yet, in the final analysis, the margin of error cannot be more than 10-15 percent, and it might well be less. Thus the fact that emerged in the late 1980s that fewer Jews were killed in Auschwitz than earlier thought is not a matter of great overall significance affecting the total number of victims. It is now accepted that the number of those who died of starvation or froze to death was considerably higher than previously thought, so that the difference in the overall death toll may have been small. During the Third Reich between 5 million and 6 million Jews were killed.     If there are major differences among scholars, they concern interpretation rather than fact. Did the Nazis kill Jews for ideological reasons or, as a few argue, did the German leadership merely want to create open space for German settlers in Eastern Europe? When--if possible, on what date--was the decision taken to liquidate European Jewry? Was there a deliberate and consistent policy, or was the genocide accidental in the sense that general ideas led willy-nilly to engagement in mass murder which, once begun, the Nazi leaders had no alternative but to continue to the end? These and similar questions have been endlessly discussed. Once the spadework had been done, historians and social scientists tended to engage in reinterpretation and revision, usually with diminishing returns.     No concept or theory, however far-fetched, should be dismissed out of hand if it is buttressed by solid facts. But it is pointless to consider all of them of equal importance, to look for the historical truth somewhere in the middle, and to pursue these debates forever. Some historians will always come forward with new interpretations irrespective of the subject, sometimes for ideological reasons but, equally often, simply in order to say something new. Nor is there any purpose in engaging in lengthy debates with antisemites, who are beyond rational persuasion; as soon as one set of their arguments concerning the Holocaust is refuted, they will submit a new one. Furthermore, the differences between bona fide experts are often minute. The issue in these debates is not, for instance, whether a decision was made to exterminate European Jewry. The mass murder began with the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, and as the starvation and disease; not a few froze to death in the harsh winters, as they were allowed neither warm clothing nor heating. Millions of Russian soldiers had been taken prisoner and were later killed by the Germans; these were fighting men, and yet most of them offered no resistance. To expect that the Jews would have acted any differently shows a lack of imagination as well as a lack of understanding concerning the hostile conditions that made such resistance nearly impossible. This is not to say that Jews were right to serve as police in the ghettos or that no members of the Jewish councils ( Judenräte ) were traitors. But it is ahistorical, if not unethical and indecent, to pass judgment on the behavior of persons in the most extreme peril for their lives and the lives of their families in the 1940s from the vantage point of the present and with the benefit of hindsight.     These are just a few of the hurdles that the contemporary student of the Holocaust has to overcome in trying to understand the plight of people who were living and dying in conditions unprecedented in human history. I hope that the present work, which focuses on issues rather than personalities and the geography of the mass murder, will make a contribution to such an understanding, even though there are questions and problems to which we may never have answers.     This encyclopedia is the collective work of more than 100 authors from 11 countries. They include Jews and non-Jews, academics and eyewitnesses, young men and women who grew up in peace and relative security well after the events described in these pages, and older people who went through the inferno but, owing to good fortune, survived to see the stars again.     I dedicate this work to the memory of my parents, who were deported from Germany in June 1942 and were murdered that same month at Izbica Lubelska, a camp in Poland, and to the memory of all the other parents and children who perished. Walter Laqueur Chapter One A Agudat Israel [Society of Israel] Anti-Zionist movement, founded in 1912, which functioned as a political party of Orthodox Jewry in Poland and elsewhere in Europe. See Orthodox Religious Thought Albania Nation on the western edge of the Balkan peninsula, home to a very small Jewish community (200 in 1930) before the Italian invasion on 7 April 1939. The Italian forces deported some Jews to Italy, but they and the Albanian population generally treated the Jews well, and many Jews from Germany and Yugoslavia sought refuge in Albania. After the German conquest of the other Balkan countries in 1941, the provinces of Kosovo and Cameria were separated from Yugoslavia and Greece, respectively, and annexed to Albania, thus placing ethnic Albanians under the control of Italy. At the behest of Germany, Italy deported the Jewish refugees held in the Pristina prison in Kosovo to Belgrade, where they were executed. Germany took control of the ethnic Albanian sector after the Italian surrender in 1943 and in 1944 transported about 400 Jews from Pristina to Bergen-Belsen, where approximately 300 died. A somewhat greater number, as well as a few hundred refugees, hid with the assistance of the local population and survived. Algeria See North Africa Aliyah B (Bet) Organized, clandestine immigration of European Jews to Palestine, in order to circumvent British mandatory restrictions on Jewish immigration. See Illegal Immigration Althammer Satellite camp of Auschwitz, established in September 1944 near Katowice to supply slave labor in the construction of a power station. Most of the 500 Jewish prisoners died during a death march in January 1945 when the camp was evacuated. American Jewish Committee Jewish organization founded in 1906. See American Jewry American Jewish Congress Jewish organization founded in 1918. See American Jewry American Jewry The reactions of American Jewry to the plight of European Jews under the Nazis were made known to the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt primarily through 300 national Jewish organizations, each one representing a particular constituency and ideology. Most suggestions for the rescue of European Jews from Nazi Germany and from German-occupied lands could be implemented only with government approval and through government action. Though linked, the response of the American Jewry should not be mistaken for the response of the reluctant American government, through which it had to act. American Jews possessed insufficient political power to change national priorities. In the 1930s, because of the Depression, maintaining restrictive barriers against mass immigration was a high priority of the U.S. government; later, winning the war in Europe in and the Pacific quickly, with as few casualties as possible, was the uppermost national goal. Saving the Jews of Europe remained a minor issue throughout those years. When Hitler came to power in 1933, there were about 4.7 million Jews in the United States. Some 15 percent were foreign-born, mostly from Eastern Europe. About one quarter lived in the New York metropolitan area, which served as the cultural hub of American Jewry. On the eve of the Holocaust, the sons and daughters of East European Jewish immigrants were gaining a foothold in the American middle class and assuming leadership roles in the major American Jewish organizations. Jews had established a prominent place in the garment, jewelry, and motion-picture in security police Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units). Himmler was not convinced by this report, since in his opinion the number of Jews destroyed must have been greater than 6 million. On 3 January 1946 a close associate of Eichmann's, Dieter Wisliceny--formerly in charge of the mass deportations of Jews from Slovakia, Greece, and Hungary--was asked by the Nuremberg tribunal how many Jews had been murdered. He testified in a deposition that Eichmann had always spoken of at least 4 million and that "sometimes he even mentioned a figure of 5 million." At his trial in Jerusalem in 1961 Eichmann did not deny these conversations or figures. One of the most important statistical sources on the death toll is still extant: the 19 April 1943 report of Richard Korherr, who was attached to the SS as inspector for statistics. By 31 March 1943, the report states, Nazi policy concerning the Jews of Europe had already cost more than 2.5 million lives. Korherr cautioned that "Jewish population figures are in general to be taken as lowest figures only." He also made the general observation that Jewish population statistics should "always be taken with some reserve" because "partly from expedience, partly through the extensive correlation between Jewish race and Jewish faith, partly through confusion in nineteenth-century denominational thinking, the Jews are in the last resort thought of, not according to their race, but according to their religious adherence." The Korherr report offers essential clues for statistical methodology in calculating the total number of Jews murdered. In addition, historical research has at its disposal the Einsatzgruppen reports on the destruction of Jews, primarily in the Soviet Union. Helmut Krausnick and Hans-Heinrich Wilhelm have made full use of this material in their pioneering study, in which Krausnick confronted the general question of the Einsatzgruppen and their relationship to the Wehrmacht, while Wilhelm concentrated on Einsatzgruppe A and attempted an overall balance sheet for the extermination of Jews in the Soviet Union. The murder of at least 535,000 Jews is documented in 194 surviving "incident reports USSR" (out of a total of 195) made by the heads of the security police and the SD covering the period 23 June 1941 to 24 April 1942, in 55 "reports from the occupied Eastern territories" by the heads of the security police and the SD command staff (1 May 1942 to 21 May 1943), and in 11 comprehensive "activity and situation reports by the Security Police and SD Einsatzgruppen in the USSR." From available source materials relating to further extermination operations, pogroms, and massacres it is apparent that a minimum of 700,000 to 750,000 Jews were murdered in the first nine months alone of Nazi occupation in Soviet territory. One of the earliest investigations into victim numbers, undertaken to counter revisionist claims, was presented in mid-1951 by the Institute of Jewish Affairs in New York. The report compared the European Jewish population in 1939 (9.5 million) with the 1945 population (3.1 million), and after allowing for some 600,000 emigrants, concluded that on the order of 5.8 million European Jews had perished during that six-year period. In 1959 the population statistician Jacob Lestschinsky, basing his calculations on the 1939 statistics as well as on data indicating that 2.75 million European Jews remained alive in 1950, estimated the number of Jewish victims of Nazi genocide to be more than 6 million. An investigation carried out by Léon Poliakov on behalf of the Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine in Paris put the figure at more than 5.5 million. Poliakov followed Lestschinsky in establishing the number of victims of the SS Einsatzgruppen at 1.5 million; he also used the assessment by the Polish Commission for Research into War Crimes that 1.85 million Jews died by gassing in the extermination camps of Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, and Chelmno. Similarly, he accepted the figure of 200,000 dead at Majdanek. Rudolf But Maybaum's framework collapsed. For in the words of theologian Irving Greenberg, "no statement--theological or otherwise--should be made that cannot be said in the presence of burning children." Indeed, how can one speak of God's love and God's justice when we are in the presence of such memories? How can one speak of the Holocaust as punishment? What sin would merit such a punishment? Thus, there were early attempts at lamentation, statements of woe, and protest against God and humanity. Perhaps Emil Fackenheim's response was most typical of the early silence. A survivor of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp who found refuge in Canada, for the first 25 years after the Holocaust this distinguished Jewish philosopher endeavored to prove that no event between Sinai and the final redemption can change the content of Jewish faith. Like Franz Rosenzweig, Fackenheim situated Jewish faith apart from history and regarded it as inviolable by human events. Enter Richard Rubenstein, an American-born ordained rabbi, who in I966 published a collection of essays entitled After Auschwitz: Radical Theology and Contemporary Judaism . Rubenstein argued that after the Holocaust the belief in a redeeming God who is active in history and who will redeem humankind from its vicissitudes was no longer tenable. Belief in such a God and an allegiance to the rabbinic theodicy that attempted to justify God would imply that Hitler was part of a divine plan and that Israel was being punished for its sins. "To see any purpose in the death camps," Rubenstein wrote, "the traditional believer is forced to regard the most demonic, antihuman explosion in all history as a meaningful expression of God's purposes. The idea is simply too obscene for me to accept." Rubenstein called for a new, vital theology based on acknowledgment of the absence of God. Such a theology would be "rooted in the fact that it has faced more openly ... the truth of the divine-human encounter in our times. The truth is that it is totally nonexistent. Those theologies which attempt to find the reality of God's presence in the contemporary world manifest a deep insensitivity to the art, literature, and technology of our times." For Rubenstein, Jewish consciousness of the death of God did not entail a triumphant exultation or a glorious freedom but rather a sober acceptance of the impossibility of affirming God's presence after Auschwitz. Nor were Jews exempt from rethinking their own theology. He even challenged the notion of the Jews as a chosen people. Rubenstein wrote: Can we really blame the Christian community for viewing us through the prism of a mythology of history when we were the first to assert this history of ourselves? As long as we continue to hold to the doctrine of the election of Israel, we will leave ourselves open to the theology ... that because the Jews are God's Chosen People, God wanted Hitler to punish them. ... Religious uniqueness does not necessarily place us at the center of the divine drama of perdition, redemption, and salvation for mankind. All we need for a sane religious life is to recognize that we are, when given normal opportunities, neither more nor less than other men, sharing the pain, the joy, and the fated destiny which Earth alone has meted out to all her children. The widespread reception accorded to Rubenstein's work demanded a response, and Emil Fackenheim, who had struggled in vain to situate Judaism outside history, was the first to answer. He declared his enterprise of the quarter-century after the Holocaust a failure. For the March 1967 symposium "On Jewish Values in the Post-Holocaust Future," sponsored by the magazine Judaism , Fackenheim wrote his most famous dictum on the "614th commandment": Jews are forbidden to hand Hitler posthumous victories. They are commanded to survive as Jews, lest the Jewish people perish. They are commanded to remember the victims of Auschwitz, lest their memory perish. They are forbidden to despair of man and his world, and to escape into either cynicism or otherworldliness, lest they cooperate in delivering the world over to the forces of Auschwitz. Finally, they are forbidden to despair of the God of Israel, lest Judaism perish. A secularist Jew cannot make himself believe by a mere act of will, nor can he be commanded to do so.... And a religious Jew who has stayed with his God may be forced into new, possibly revolutionary relationships with Him. One possibility, however, is wholly unthinkable. A Jew may not respond to Hitler's attempt to destroy Judaism by himself cooperating in its destruction. In ancient times, the unthinkable Jewish sin was idolatry. Today, it is to respond to Hitler by doing his work. Fackenheim touched a raw nerve of anger among Jews, and the cry of no posthumous victories echoed deeply within the Jewish community. Yet his theological response was less an act of religious belief than it was a demonstration of his fear of consequences--the key word in his argument is "lest." Since the consequences of a failure to believe were so drastic, we dare not follow the thought to its logical conclusion. Fackenheim himself later rejected these views.

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