Died versus murdered

When is it appropriate to use murdered instead of died? I'm looking at a Holocaust family. Did they just die in Sobibor or Auschwitz or is a death there automatically murder? From a huge family of 16 kids, who had lots of kids themselves, it's hard to document death after death. Somehow i want some of the emotion i'm feeling doing this work to come out in simple words. Murdered seems a better word to use.

Submitted byEEon Tue, 04/21/2020 - 20:14

cryptoref, as a rule, researchers are expected to report their findings with words that do two things: (1) convey information accurately; and (2) support the theme of their work. In other types of writing, we may choose words that also (3) convey the emotions we want our readers to feel. 

Journalists and scholarly researchers are expected to present evidence objectively. Emotion or obvious bias will cause thoughtful readers to question whether our conclusions are influenced by those emotions. When we prepare a case-study or other expository essay for a respected genealogical journal, we are expected to evaluate the evidence objectively.

If you're writing a family history: well, it's your history and your family. No journal or press editor will dictate what you must do. As an independent writer, you will have to find your own balance between accuracy and emotion.

The bottom line remains the same in either case: readers will evaluate your work according to its reliability as well as readability.

Submitted bycryptorefon Tue, 04/21/2020 - 22:35

Wholeheartedly agree on the objectivity. In fact, that's why i'm asking the question. When putting a case-study together or other research now, there is a desire to include more than just the simple facts of birth, marriage, and death. There is a request to tease out more about the person. That requires fleshing out the environment they lived in, along with the events that influenced their lives. A Jewish family in the 1940's from the Netherlands is going to have huge influences and events that drastically effect their lives. 

I guess the bottom line question is it objective to label a death in Auschwitz as murder. I'm going to struggle with this one either way. One side says that to label a death in any way other than murder is to attempt to hide the environment they were in. It was cold blooded murder. The other side says you are placing too much emotion into an unbiased report. Your bias towards those events is showing. 

Your answer shows the two sides also, reliability to a strict unbiased narrative uses the word death. Reliability to the environment they were in uses murder. Both are right and both are wrong.

Thanks for taking the time, I just needed to talk about this one. The project has gotten VERY hard. It's so unlike any genealogical task i've ever done. We knew that my wife's line was Jewish from the Netherlands and that a few were lost in the Holocaust. From the base ancestor, who had 15 children there are 98 numbered individuals in the third generation. Almost 100 more in the 4th generation. From those only about 10 are alive in 1946. My normal reaction when finding the records on a new family is joy as i add the information in and then you add that the whole family dies on a single day and the joy becomes a bit of despair. But this needs to be done. There are lots of incorrect connections and undocumented individuals. And there are not too many descendants who can work on this. So the job falls to me. 

Submitted bycryptorefon Tue, 04/21/2020 - 22:54

Kinda amazing how things go. As i typed that previous answer in, i started to tease out the next family. Had their marriage certificate but couldn't find any kids or death dates. Then an idea to check in the US and there I have it, the first family to get out of the country. They left mid 1940, almost too late. Went through Genoa Italy and i've got passport photos, the lot. Sometimes you get a bit of a win. So this family story is about how they got out in time.

Submitted byyhoitinkon Wed, 04/22/2020 - 03:34
Personally, I think "died" is too passive and does not do justice to what was done to the Holocaust victims. In my own writing, I try to use different words for different circumstances. For example, someone could have been "gassed" upon arrival at Auschwitz, "perished" from typhoid in the camp, or "executed" in the dunes. These are words that are supported by the records, but convey more meaning than the passive "died."

That's my thought too. But i want the record to be correct not just my opinion. I need to back up those words with verifiable facts. What sources give you the ability to use those words. OGS doesn't list the cause. Yad Vashem normally points back to OGS and the same with the US holocaust museum. For most i can't find them listed in the transport manifest, which i've only found at Yad Vashem and it seems spotty in the index. If you could point me to the source where i can have the appropriate facts i would really appreciate that.

Again, thank you SO MUCH. You are going above and beyond replying to my requests. It's very much appreciated. 

The Red Cross in Bad Arolsen has some camp records. If they don't have the people you're searching for, you can send a request to the National Archives of the Netherlands, which has the records of the Red Cross of the Netherlands which traced what happened to Dutch citizens. However, their research service is currently paused because of corona virus. The records are not online and require research in the archives. Here is the research guide for those records. If you don't read Dutch, you can use Google Translate to translate it for you. 

Sometimes, you can read between the lines. If somebody was put on a transport on 1 or 2 October 1942 (when many Jews in the Netherlands were rounded up), and died in Auschwitz on 5 October 1942, that is indirect evidence that they died in the gas chamber. The train ride took about 3 days, so the person died shortly after arrival. When we make inferences like that, we indicate that in our writing so the reader can understand what the sources say, and what our interpretations are. 

Some camps have their own databases. For Auschwitz, see Auschwitz prisoners. The original records are not all online and may require writing to the Auschwitz memorial or hiring a local researcher.