I had an interesting conversation last week with Rabbi Eli Mayerfeld, CEO of the Holocaust Memorial Center, Robin Axelrod, HMC director of education, and Arthur Horwitz, editor/publisher of the Detroit Jewish News. We discussed a wide-range of historical topics, as well as the 75th anniversary of the JN and exhibits at the center. An intriguing question came up: When did the term “the Holocaust” first appear in the JN?

The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, did not become universally known as the Holocaust until the post-World War II era, when the Nazi’s “Final Solution,” their plan to eliminate all Jews, became known to the world — visually through photos of Auschwitz and other death camps, as well as through documentation and, shortly after the war, the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals. To say nothing of the personal stories of survivors.

So, I looked at the Davidson Archive to see if I could find a definitive answer to the question above. First, a search for “holocaust” brought 20,033 hits. I could not locate a first usage of “the Holocaust. As early as 1916, the term was used generically to describe ultra-violent acts in the world. As near as I could figure, the first use of a related term in the JN was in the 1930s, when reports began to cite the “holocaust in Europe,” or the “European Holocaust.”

But, 75 years ago this week, in the July 3, 1942, issue of the JN, there was a chilling, ominous headline that related directly to the Holocaust: “Nazis Massacre 700,000 Jews in Poland: Gas Adds to Horror.” Yes, horror indeed.

Mike Smith
Detroit Jewish News Foundation


Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives,
available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.