Weaponizing the Holocaust has been going on for some time, but with nowhere near the intensity that we are seeing now.
Even Jews, people who should know better, are now getting in to the act, promising that this shocking practice of cheapening the memory of the Shoah victims will get worse before it gets better.
Politicians, organizations, regular Joes in the street, are plumbing disturbingly new depths, disparaging public figures, issues, legislation, government mandates – anything with which they personally disagree (or perhaps see as opportunities to advance their own agendas), by comparing them to Holocaust imagery.
The latest targets for the Holocaust weaponeers are COVID-related. Politicians are freely exploiting the anti-vax craze (no other way to describe it) by using Nazi crimes to demonize mask mandates and vaccine passports, both of which have been used in Israel – a point that these weaponeers conveniently fail to mention.
The attacks were recently felt in Kentucky, when U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, a Republican from the Fourth Congressional District, tweeted a photo of a hand with a serial number tattooed on its wrist. The accompanying text read, “If you have to carry a card on you to gain access to a restaurant, venue or an event in your own country … that’s no longer a free country.” (See story, page 5)
Federations in Louisville, Lexington and Cincinnati, all of which surround Massie’s district, roundly condemned the tweet, which was quickly deleted, and the ADL called on the congressman to apologize.
That was bad enough, but it has been eclipsed by a more recent incident: In Ohio, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, Josh Mandel, protested President Biden’s mask mandates by comparing them to Gestapo tactics.
“I call on my fellow Americans: Do not comply,” Mandel said in a video. “Do not comply with the tyranny, and when the Gestapo show up at your front door, you know what to do.”
Not only did Mandel give a veiled green light to the use of violence (“you know what to do”), but his remarks sink even lower than Massie’s in two important ways:
First, when ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt called on him to apologize, as his organization did with Massie, Mandel called Greenblatt a “kapo,” a reference to Jews coerced into doing the dirty work for Nazis in the concentration camps. Never mind that the ADL has been at the forefront of defending the memory of Holocaust victims.
Second, Mandel is Jewish. He knows that these comparisons cheapen the memory of the six million Jews who were murdered because of who they were, not because they were trying to stop a deadly public health threat in its tracks.
Since Mandel is Jewish, it is easy to see how extremists would see his remarks as some twisted seal of approval to use Holocaust references in any manner they like: to stifle vaccination drives, to indoctrinate police academy cadets, to thwart efforts to slow climate change…
Fill in the blank. Opposing anything by painting it as a Holocaust equivalent is so simple.
Only it’s wrong. As Jackie Congedo, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Cincinnati said in response to the Massie tweet, “The only thing comparable to the Holocaust is the Holocaust.”
So how to stop it? Unless they feel enough pain, those who make these comparisons, benefitting somehow from their shock value, probably won’t stop. And Jewish condemnation alone isn’t painful enough. Rebuke must come from all quarters.
Like many of you, I had family who died in the Holocaust. Like many of you, comparing anything else to the Holocaust is not OK with me. So, don’t be silent; voice your disdain to Jews and non-Jews alike; ask them to do the same.
We might just silence weaponeers’ guns.
(Lee Chottiner is the editor of the Jewish Louisville Community.)