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ICOS 2008 Conference Abstract

Jewish Names and the Shoah: Implementation and Recollection

A Demsky
Bar-Ilan University, Israel

This paper will look at how onomastics played a part in the implementation of the Nazi policy of extermination of the Jewish people and how the names of the victims are now ceremoniously recalled.
The holocaust that befell the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis has an onomastic dimension. Part of the diabolic plan to isolate and disenfranchise German and Austrian Jewry, was to require these citizens to add to their official documents either the male name Israel or the female name Sarah or a prescribed substitute. The ultimate degradation in the dehumanizing process was tattooing numbers on the forearm of those selected in the concentration camps.
Ironically, in the choice of the names Israel and Sarah to indicate a Jew, the Nazi bureaucrats apparently were unaware that they are from the same Hebrew root srr “to overcome, rule” and bear a message of survival.
Chaim Roth, a survivor of Dutch Jewry, initiated the custom of ceremoniously recalling the names of those murdered in the Shoah. Now these victims would have the minimum dignity of being remembered by name. This custom on Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel has been subsequently adopted by many countries for similar purposes

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