Ruth Bettina Birn
Although the word has a more generalized meaning, the term Holocaust is commonly used today to denote the systematic persecution and mass murder that Nazi Germany perpetrated against European Jewry during World War II. Based on an ideology of racial superiority, the Nazi leadership under Adolf Hitler launched a program of mass killings aimed at a variety of people considered to be undesirable but focused on the extermination of European Jews. This entry summarizes the facts of the Holocaust and briefly examines issues related to the events, including the ensuing debates and lasting moral and political influence. Nazi ideology rejected the values of egalitarianism and the Enlightenment, replacing them with a hierarchy based on “racial value.” The Nazis saw the world populated by various races with greater or lesser value. At the top was the “Nordic” or “Aryan” race (blond hair and blue eyes), embodied in the German people, which ...