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- The word "Holocaust’ to describe the murder of 6 million Jews and millions more during World War II wasn’t in popular use when Winston Churchill wrote his memoirs about the war, and he clearly acknowledged the genocide in other writings.
Sir Winston Churchill penned more than 1 million words over six volumes in his tome, "The Second World War." The former British prime minister’s book was later abridged to a mere half million words in "Memoirs of the Second World War."
About 6 million Jews and millions of others were murdered in the Holocaust of World War II, but some people have wondered online about its apparent exclusion from Churchill’s book.
"Why doesn’t Winston Churchill mention Holocaust in his memoirs?" reads the title of an Aug. 22 Quora post. A screenshot of that post was shared on Instagram, where some people wrongly pointed to it as evidence that the Holocaust is a hoax.
"It really is a great question. Why didn’t Churchill ever mention the Holocaust in his world war 2 memoirs? You’d think he would have tremendous pride in freeing all those poor huddled masses being jerked off to death by evil Nazis (they literally claim that)," the post says. "The Holocaust, an event so true, it’s illegal to ask any questions about it in Germany. Brought to you by The Jews TM all rights reserved"
"Because it didn’t happen," one person commented.
"It didn’t happen," someone else said. "It was def a hoax."
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
Searching the abridged Churchill memoirs in Google Books, we found no mention of the Holocaust but a few references to Jewish people. On Page 154, for example, Churchill calls "the eminent Jew" "the target of German antagonism."
We consulted David Freeman, publications director at the International Churchill Society, about the post.
"I do not believe the term Holocaust had yet come into general use at the time that Churchill wrote his memoirs," Freeman said. "He most certainly did address the topic, however."
Freeman pointed us to a July 1944 letter Churchill wrote about "German plans for the massacre of the Hungarian Jews."
"There is no doubt in my mind that we are in the presence of one of the greatest and most horrible crimes ever committed," Churchill said in the letter. "It has been done by scientific machinery by nominally civilized men in the name of a great state and one of the leading races of Europe. I need not assure you that the situation has received and will receive the most earnest consideration from my colleagues and myself but, as the Foreign Secretary said, the principal hope of terminating it must remain the speedy victory of the Allied Nations."
The New Republic notes that there were "smatterings of usage" of the word "holocaust" to refer to mass killings prior to World War II. "Yet for decades after the war, the genocide lacked any formal title in English except, perhaps, ‘The Final Solution,’ the term the Nazis used. In Hebrew, the calamity quickly became known as ‘Shoah,’ which means ‘catastrophe.’ But it wasn’t until the 1960s that scholars and writers began using the term ‘Holocaust,’ and it took the 1978 TV film ‘Holocaust,’ starring Meryl Streep, to push it into widespread use."
Claims that Churchill’s memoirs are evidence that the Holocaust didn’t happen are unfounded, and absurd. We rate them Pants on Fire!
Instagram post, Feb. 8, 2023
The New York Times, A Long War Shortened, Feb. 22, 1959
Quora, Why doesn't Winston Churchill mention Holocaust in his war memoirs?, Aug. 22, 2023
Britannica, What Is the Origin of the Term Holocaust?, visited Feb. 22, 2023
The New Republic, When "Holocaust" Became "The Holocaust," May 17, 2015
Email interview with David Freeman, director of publications, International Churchill Society, Feb. 22, 2023
The National Archives, Churchill’s reaction, July 13, 1944
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