IHRA Reflections on Terminology for Holocaust Comparison



New practices in Holocaust comparison

  • Holocaust comparison is a growing trend
  • Encourage a cautious approach to comparison

New popularization of terms

  • Popularization of terms such as “Holocaust” and “genocide” has confused their meaning
  • Reflect on the use of popularized terms

New audiences

  • Communicate the relevance of the Holocaust to younger and more global audiences
  • Choose words responsibly related to your audiences

Conclusion: Reflecting on our choice of terminology can encourage fruitful comparisons

Resources and references

  • Relevant IHRA resources
  • Definitions of genocide
  • Definitions of the Holocaust
  • Selected additional references

Words matter.

When we seek to compare the Holocaust with other events in which mass atrocity crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes) were committed, we engage with comparative approaches. When we strive to shed light on aspects that intersect or parallel one another, our choice of terms can communicate respect and bring clarity, or they can offend and distort. In comparative approaches, we strive neither to obscure the distinct features of the Holocaust nor different mass atrocity crimes. We can demonstrate contrasts between events.

The questions for reflection in this resource can help policymakers, educators, museums, memorial organizations, and journalists adopt good practice and make responsible choices in terminology when making comparisons between the Holocaust and other mass atrocities that:

  • Avoid Holocaust distortion 
  • Build critical thinking skills 
  • Enhance understanding of the Holocaust and other mass atrocities