The Holocaust, Genocide, and the “Logic” of Racism

  • John K. Roth


When I consider ethics during and after the Holocaust with my students, they often have heard me say that if I had the chance to remove one word, one concept, from human consciousness, my first choice, arguably, would be race. Few ideas, if any, have been more pernicious and destructive than that one. Race has sometimes been used more-or-less benignly as a synonym for species (as in “the human race”) or as a word that refers neutrally or in some historical sense to physical, cultural, or ethnic differences among people (as in “the black race”). Overwhelmingly, however, the term race has done far more harm than good. Embedded in what can be called the “logic” of racism, the reasons are not hard to find, and they shed light on what ethics after the Holocaust needs to do.1


Racial Discrimination Metaphysical Exploration Sewing Machine Historical Sense Racial Thinking 
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  1. 2.
    Danilo Kig, Garden, Ashes, trans. William J. Hannaker (Chicago, IL: Dalkey Archive Press, 2003), pp. 34, 37, 39.Google Scholar
  2. David Patterson and John K. Roth, eds., Fire in the Ashes: God, Evil, and the Holocaust (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2005).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Carol Rittner, John K. Roth, and James M. Smith, eds., Will Genocide Ever End? (St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2002), pp. 209–11.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Paul Mendes-Flohr and Yehuda Reinharz, eds., The Jew in the Modern World: A Documentary History, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).Google Scholar

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© John K. Roth 2005

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  • John K. Roth

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