Moral Monsters

  • Renée Jeffery


Despite the undeniable horrors of recent years that have reawakened “evil” discourse and scholarship, understandings of the term, at least in contemporary Western thought, are still most commonly associated with the Holocaust. Not only do the atrocities of the Nazi concentration camps remain one of the most extreme examples of the human capacity for evil in history (if not the most extreme example) but, on an intellectual level, the meaningless suffering endured by millions of Jews, gypsies, and other minorities precipitated some of the most powerful and important reflections on evil in both theological and secular thought.3 Although, in the first instance, the horrors of the Holocaust were met with a profound reluctance to confront its reality, born in part of the shock that something this grotesque could happen in the heart of civilized Europe and in part out of a misguided sense of Holocaust piety, with time intellectual responses began to emerge.


International Relation Moral Agency Mass Grave Rome Statute Jewish People 
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    The intellectual discussion of the Holocaust in this context is mired in controversy, controversy that emanates from a number of different corners of the scholarly, religious, and secular worlds. For example, scholars and theologians alike have disagreed over the very term Holocaust itself. For many Jews, the term Shoah, signifying catastrophic destruction, is a more appropriate term than Holocaust, which is “derived from the Greek holókauston, meaning ‘burnt whole’” and brings with it connotations of sacrifice. In this vein, Walter Lacquer argues that the term Holocaust is “singularly inappropriate” as “it was not the intention of the Nazis to make a sacrifice of this kind, and the position of the Jews was not that of a ritual victim.” These arguments aside however, in most scholarship and general discourse, the attempted eradication of the Jewish race at the hands of the Nazis is known as the Holocaust. Richard Rubenstein and John K. Roth, Approaches to Auschwitz: The Holocaust and its Legacy, 2nd ed. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2003), 4–5. Walter Lacquer, quoted in Rubenstein and Roth, Approaches to Auschwitz, 5; although, as Rubenstein and Roth argue, the term Shoah is preferred in Israel, Israeli writers such as Adi Ophir and others still use the term Holocaust. Ophir, The Order of Evils.Google Scholar
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© Renée Jeffery 2008

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  • Renée Jeffery

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