Is it ethical to commemorate just one Holocaust?

Ask Ethan: Our eco-columnist offers advice on how to make Holocaust Memorial Day less speciesist and blinkered.

Ethan Greenhart

Topics Science & Tech

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Dear Ethan,

As I was helping my children make their costumes for a school play to mark Holocaust Memorial Day (ragged grey death-camp outfits made from recycled sackcloth), I had a thought: is it ethical to commemorate just one Holocaust? What about the other Holocausts that we never hear about? Can we incorporate these other Holocausts into Saturday’s official commemoration of the Nazi Holocaust in a dignified and fitting manner? Please advise!

Moira Beaumont
Kensington, London

Dear Moira,

We often hear Muslim community activists describing Holocaust Memorial Day as ‘too exclusive’, because it focuses on the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews. What about Chechnya, they ask? And Bosnia? And the new anti-terror legislation being introduced in Europe, which could lead to what one writer refers to as ‘The Next Holocaust’?

After all, the horrible history of humanity (that is one quirky history book I would buy my children!) tells us it is a short step from a politician in Blackburn raising questions about the burka in a local newspaper to the ghettoisation, persecution and vaporisation of every single Muslim in Europe. These Muslim groups want to be socially included in the Holocaust, and I commend them for that.

But they don’t go far enough. Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) is not only exclusive; it is blinkered and speciesist. It ignores the many horrific genocides we have committed against plant life and animal life. For example, the HMD organisers never tell us about some of the other groups of living things that were also massacred by the Nazis, including insects and birds. Did you know that Zyklon B, the gas used to kill Jews in Auschwitz and Majdanek, was an insecticide?!! You have to wonder about the mentality of the Nazis when they could so liberally use an insecticide without giving a second thought to what the long-term effects might be on the surrounding countryside.

Insecticides do not only kill insects; they also destroy their eggs and larvae. They’re explicitly designed to wipe insects off the Earth, and they can damage bird populations too. They should be renamed geno-cides. BILLIONS of insects will have perished in Poland as a result of the Nazis’ irresponsible use of Zyklon B. But do we ever hear about these poor, pathetic creatures in commemorations of the Nazi Holocaust? We do not. We insist on referring to the Nazi Holocaust when it should be Nazi HOLOCAUSTS: these evil men massacred insects, birds and trees, in greater numbers than they massacred Jews, lesbians, gays, transsexuals, Roma and differently-abled people.

So yes, Moira, take the opportunity of HMD to remind people about all the other Holocausts taking place every day of every week of every year. Here are some suggestions….


Sixty years after the Nazi Holocausts, these beautiful, flapping creatures, so inquisitive and intelligent, are still subjected to Auschwitz-style conditions. As my brave friends in People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have argued, when you have chicken for your dinner there is a ‘HOLOCAUST ON YOUR PLATE’.

PETA points out: ‘Just as the Nazis tried to “dehumanise” Jews by forcing them to live in filthy, crowded conditions…animals on today’s factory farms are stripped of all that is enjoyable and natural to them and treated as nothing more than meat-, egg- and milk-producing “machines”.’ That’s right, we are dehumanising chickens. Far more than six million of them are killed every day. On its own, KFC (King of Fascist Cruelty) serves up chicken body parts to eight million bloodthirsty people a day. I mean, at least the Nazis didn’t EAT the Jews, gays or Roma (did they?).

Why not bring a chicken to your child’s school play and other HMD commemorations as a reminder of how, like the Nazis, we still treat some creatures as inferior just because they’re different? Don’t worry if the chicken runs and jumps and causes a commotion! It is just expressing its innate desire to be free of humanity’s tyranny.


These exquisite animals are kept in camps every bit as horrendous as Treblinka. They are locked in tiny cages, cruelly separated from their offspring, and forced to sleep in their own faeces. (We try to comfort ourselves with the urban myth that pigs are ‘happy in shit’. NO THEY’RE NOT!) Again, it took PETA to remind us of pigs’ plight. I still have on my wall that PETA poster showing Jewish children in a Nazi concentration camp next to a picture of pigs in a pen. Some people say it was anti-Semitic; I say it was a brave and timely reminder that ‘pigs are people too’. Why should a piglet’s life be worth less than a Jewish child’s? See how speciesist we have become?!

It is probably impractical to bring a pig to HMD commemorations, so I would suggest bringing a packet of streaky bacon. I know – it will be SO HARD to handle the flesh of a dead anonymous pig massacred by mankind, and some Jewish commemorators may feel offended. But the bacon will be a stark reminder to anyone with an open mind that we are still carrying out Holocausts today.


These are the most maligned creatures of all. Sure, they’re not as cute and cuddly and furry as some creatures, and they don’t have their own kids’ TV shows – but they’re living things and who are we to judge them, much less kill millions of them every week using the toxic insecticide DDT? Mosquitoes have been on Mother Earth far longer than we have, stretching right back to the Jurassic era 170 million years ago. DDT kills bugs, but it could also pose an UNKNOWN risk to the environment – and that’s just too risky. Following the World Health Organisation’s recent crazed decision to allow the continued use of DDT, on spurious speciesist human health grounds, it’s more important than ever to oppose it. Banning DDT might give rise to more and more cases of malaria, but I’m sorry, that is a natural disease, and it can also be seen as a cruel but natural corrective to overpopulation and overcrowding.

How will I be commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day? By protesting outside the London offices of Montrose Chemical Company, the world’s biggest manufacturers of DDT, with a placard designed by Sheba and the children that says ‘Yesterday the Jews, today the bugs – whatever happened to NEVER AGAIN?’ I implore you to join me as part of this New Resistance to the New Nazis. Email me for details.

Ethan Greenhart is here to answer all your questions about ethical living in the twenty-first century. Email him at {encode=”” title=””}. Read his earlier columns here.

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Topics Science & Tech


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