How should we remember the Holocaust? In the next decade or so, many of the last living Holocaust survivors will pass away. It will then fall to us later generations to confront what Hannah Arendt called ‘the abyss that opened up before us’ by telling their stories. In doing so, we aim to guard against the spectre of Holocaust denial. But when we vow to ‘never forget’ the terrible crimes of Nazism, what exactly is it that we seek to remember?
What is sometimes forgotten is that the way we remember the Holocaust is as much a historical process as the event itself. Though the term ‘holocaust’ was used already in the 1950s, it was popularised (and capitalised) only in the 1970s, serving to distinguish the Nazi genocide from other wartime atrocities.