On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, I had some thoughts about the way the word “Nazi” is used. “Nazi” is a historical term, a word that has a very specific definition: a member of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.
This word can apply to no one not alive during the events of the Second World War. This word necessarily has no place in the 21st century, other than to preserve and impart all memory of the horrors perpetrated by Nazi Germany. Yet, it’s become a colloquial verb used to describe people with whom one politically, morally, culturally, economically or socially disagrees.
This phenomenon is so shockingly widespread and so disrespectful that I cannot help but feel that it undermines the atrocities committed by the Nazis. For the sake of perspective, President Donald Trump is not a Nazi. Representative Ilhan Omar is not a Nazi.
And no, neo-Nazis are not Nazis either. They’re neo-Nazis: the word “Nazi” should be reserved solely for those responsible for the tragedy that necessitated Holocaust Memorial Day. Furthermore, it is my opinion that seeking the promotion of their ideology, no matter how evil one’s actions or rhetoric, does not a Nazi make. The correct term for such a person is, in fact, neo-Nazi. Over the course of millennia, Antisemitism has been embodied in a tragic, unending myriad of ways, and will not cease to exist. Antisemitism does not equal and is not limited to Nazism- a specific term referring to only one such chapter in the history of the Jewish people.
Please, let’s be respectful of the gravity of the word and that of this day. I’m sure that collectively, humanity can come up with other ways to describe the evil that will always persist. But Nazi belongs to the Holocaust- let’s leave it there for our own dignity, and for the dignity of the millions of victims of the Nazis.