History Never Repeats itself, but Sometimes it Rhymes: comparing the Holocaust to different Atrocities

The goal of this report is to explore what we mean by “compare” when we relate the Holocaust to other genocides and crimes against humanity. It builds on IHRA’s Education Working Group (EWG) paper, “The Holocaust and other Genocides.” This earlier paper introduced educators to the idea of relating the Holocaust to other atrocities, established a sound rationale for a comparative approach, identified pitfalls to avoid, explored the history and definitional debates of key terms, looked at current efforts to prevent and punish crimes against humanity and provided web links to resources for further study. This working paper can be regarded as an addendum to the earlier EWG paper.

The current paper will add to this discussion by focusing more narrowly on the meaning of comparison. We will look at what is involved in comparing the Holocaust to other genocides and consider how we might engage in comparative analyses between the Holocaust and other atrocities, such as crimes against humanity and war crimes, in a manner that can contribute to Holocaust education, commemoration and scholarship. It will also consider some specific practical outcomes that such comparison might illuminate or afford.