The Holocaust and Blood Sacrifice

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This article looks at affinities between the Holocaust and blood sacrifice of archaic times. It begins with a discussion of the practices and beliefs which have accompanied sacrificial rites in the past. This is followed by a discussion of ancient animal sacrifice, out of which came the practice of kosher slaughter. Christians rejected kosher slaughter, together with all sacrificial rites, and kosher slaughter has evoked intense controversy on both humane and religious grounds. Slaughter, like all features of animal husbandry, was radically changed by the introduction of railroads and industrial abattoirs. The Nazi death camps resemble abattoirs in several respects, except the activity of killing is deprived of practical utility. As such, it appears to be a sacrificial rite adapted to the industrial age. An implicit recognition of this is suggested by the designation “Holocaust,” which is originally a term used for blood sacrifice. The Nazi brutality was not, however, simply a result of primitivism or an atavistic ideology. It was, rather, a consequence of detaching elements of archaic religion from the restraints provided by a relatively coherent context of culture and belief.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2000

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