John K. Roth

in The Oxford Handbook of Holocaust Studies

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199211869
Published online January 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology


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This article argues that without the overriding of moral sensibilities, if not the collapse or collaboration of ethical traditions, the Holocaust could not have happened. Although the Shoah did not pronounce the death of ethics, it showed that ethics is vulnerable, subject to misuse and perversion, and that no simple reaffirmation of pre-Holocaust ethics, as if nothing disastrous had happened, will do any longer. The article explores those realities and focuses on some of the most important issues they contain, stressing that the Holocaust did not have to happen. It emerged from human choices and decisions. Those facts mean that nothing human, natural, or divine guarantees respect for the ethical values and commitments that are most needed in contemporary human existence, but nothing is more important than our commitment to defend them, for they remain as fundamental as they are fragile, as precious as they are endangered. Ethics may not be enough, but failures notwithstanding, it still provides our best post-Holocaust compass.

Keywords: Holocaust; human choice; ethical values; Shoah

Article.  6390 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Studies ; Judaism and Jewish Studies

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