The word holocaust means "complete destruction by fire". The ancient Greeks killed animals for their gods. This was called sacrifice. They believed some of the gods wanted every part of their sacrifices burnt, not just one part. This was a holocaust.
Now, the word holocaust means "the intentional killing of a large number of people."
World War II [change]
When the word "Holocaust" is spelled with a capital 'h', it usually means The Holocaust during World War II, when the Nazis killed millions of Jews, in the concentration camps. Some authors include the European Gypsies (Roma) among the victim of the Holocaust. Others maintain that the word "Holocaust" specifically refers to the extermination of the Jewish people. In the case of Jews, the Nazi genocide was based on racial theories, while the Roma people were classified as antisocial because of their lifestyle rather than their race. The Slavic people were not destined to extermination by the Nazis. Their "rightful place" according to the Nazis was as "lower" people who were to be allowed to live under the German leadership, and to work for the Germans. While thousands of Slavs did perish in Auschwitz, the Poles and Russians were usually kept separately from the Jews and were treated somewhat less cruelly.
Other holocausts [change]
There have been many holocausts through history. Some people see the killing of people from ethnic groups in Bosnia, which was called ethnic cleansing, and the killing of large numbers of Aborigines in Australia by settlers as holocausts. When Europeans came to America, they killed thousands of Native Americans. Some people call that a holocaust, too. Millions of Africans were killed while they were held as prisoners or slaves. African-American people and others call this "The Black Holocaust".
The Genocide in Guatemala was similar to the World War II holocaust. Genocide means systematically killing certain groups people because of their nation, race, political beliefs or culture. In Guatemala, the army and paramilitary forces attacked many Guatemalan villages and murdered the people and destroyed their buildings.