Poles not Included in the Definition of Holocaust

When I met Henry Zguda and began interviewing him, I learned so much that I never knew outside of the standard Holocaust curriculum taught in schools, if taught at all. I’m not a history scholar, but do think of myself as better read than many others. For example, did you know:

Polish Catholics and political prisoners were the majority of prisoners in Auschwitz for the first two years; 250,000 died there. 

Jehovah’s Witnesses were the first religious group arrested by Hitler, because they refused both military service and to renounce God and swear an oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler. 

Communists were arrested because they were the most successful political party in Germany after Hitler, and thus his primary rival for members.  Hitler conveniently and intentionally arrested communists first to quiet their opposition. 

I figured out recently why the above examples are not on the forefront of ‘Holocaust’ education; they exist outside the definition of ‘Holocaust’ as adopted by Yad Vashem in Israel. The definition on the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum reads as follows:  ‘The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.’ 

Poles, gypsies, communists, homosexuals and others are acknowledged together in history, and on the ushmm.org web site as ‘other victims.’  I fully support the mission of the museum to speak out against hate and genocide and in no way mean to detract from the suffering by Jews. Henry witnessed it and worked against it. But the adopted definition of ‘Holocaust’ as stated only acknowledges fifty percent of Polish victims and omits Soviet POWs, communists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others included in what Michael Berenbaum termed in 1990 the ‘Mosaic of Victims.’ 

The distinction is critical to understanding Henry – he said he never wanted to be included with the definition of Holocaust, or with other ‘Holocaust’ survivors groups for that reason. He never felt included, and indeed based on modern definitions he is not included.