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World War II and the Holocaust


The term Holocaust, literally “burnt whole”, arose in the late 1950s to describe the Nazi programme for the wholesale annihilation of European Jewry. Efforts to replace “Holocaust” with the Hebrew word sho’ah (calamity) or hurban (khurbn in Yiddish for destruction) have not met with success. By the end of the second world war it is estimated that some six million Jews had been killed, one third of the world's total Jewish population. It is debated whether or not the Holocaust statistics should also include the millions of people in other groups, including ethnic Poles, Roma and Sinti, Soviet civilians, Soviet prisoners of war, people with disabilities, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other political and religious opponents. With the extended definition the total number of Holocaust victims would be between eleven and seventeen million people.

Image header (above): Photograph of New Zealand soldier boarding a ship leaving for WW2.  Wiegel, William George, 1890-1980. New Zealand soldiers of the 2nd echelon boarding a ship to leave for a Second World War. New Zealand Free Lance: Photographic prints and negatives.  Ref: 1/2-046053-F.  Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.  http;// Reproduced here with permission.

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