Before World War II the word "holocaust" referred most often to a huge inferno. Who first used the term to describe the Nazi murder of 6 million Jews? When and where?
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In the sense of ‘the mass murder of the Jews by the Nazis in the war of 1939–1945’, the OED says
The earliest of those contemporary references is from this newspaper report in 1942:
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John Ayto, Dictionary of Word Origins (1990), notes instances in English long before World War II in which holocaust referred not merely to "a huge inferno" but to a slaughter:
For a sense of how surprisingly slowly the shoah sense of holocaust came to dominate all other meanings of the term in the post-World War II era, consider this complete entry in Evans and Evans, A Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage (1957):
And here is a second (and even later) complete example, from Morris and Morris, Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins (1962):
It is unimaginable that a serious reference work written today would discuss the term holocaust without specifically mentioning the Nazi-orchestrated shoah at some point.
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