Changing Attitudes to the ‘European-ness’ of the Holocaust and of its Victims

  • George Wilkes


The statement that the Holocaust was a ‘European’ event is so common that it seems self-evident. It seemed an obvious point of reference to the perpetrators of ‘the Final Solution of the European Jewish question’ and it has subsequently been taken for granted in most academic works which attempt to tell the story of ‘the destruction of European Jewry’. The adoption of these terms has come with a distinct price, leaving open a number of questions about the intention of the perpetrators of the Holocaust and the suffering of their victims. The use of the term by the architects of the Final Solution belies the evidence that they did not confine their vision to a Judenrein Europe, and organizations dedicated to saving Jewish lives began to use the term ‘European Jewry’ despite the fact that the vast majority of the victims of the Holocaust did not see themselves as ‘European’. Before the Holocaust the Jews of Europe were hardly ever described as European: the Holocaust marked the birth of the concept of ‘European Jewry’, both in the lexicon of Europe’s antisemites and also in the annals of Jewish history as Jews have conceived it.


Final Solution Jewish Community Jewish History Mass Murder European History 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

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  • George Wilkes

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