On November 1, 1978, President Jimmy Carter established the President’s Commission on the Holocaust, and charged it with the responsibility to submit a report on three significant issues: the creation of an appropriate memorial to those who perished in the Holocaust; the feasibility of creating and maintaining a memorial through contributions by the American people; and recommendations for appropriate ways the nation could commemorate Days of Remembrance each year for victims of the Holocaust.
Many reference works, including encyclopedias and dictionaries, show no listings under “Holocaust” until 1978. For example, the 1976 CBS News Almanac makes passing reference to “the Nazi holocaust that took the lives of six million Jews,”25 while the 1976 Information Please Almanac makes no mention of the Holocaust. Three years later, however, the 1979 edition of the Information Please Almanac not only refers to the Holocaust in its timeline of history, but also explicitly defines the term in a lengthy sidebar.
A computerized search shows that no PhD dissertations prior to 1970 used the word “Holocaust” in the title, while between 1970 and 1975 there were 21, with 97 dissertations between 1976 and 1980, and 274 between 1981 and 1985.26
The turning point was the four-part NBC miniseries “Holocaust,” which aired in April of 1978. By the next year, Congress had approved plans for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and from that point on, “holocaust” became “the Holocaust” when describing the fate of the Jews during the Second World War.
A comment from Julie