Next week I’ll be going on March of The Living, to see Poland and the former Nazi camps and ghettos for myself.
I’ve always felt it’s important to go – and throughout my education, the Holocaust and the Nazis was a constant. Indeed, it continues until today.
It’s even more poignant now though, because in recent weeks, it seems history has been warped.
Let’s start with US Press Secretary for President Donald Trump humiliated himself, by effectively denying the Holocaust.
When responding to questions about the actions of Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad, who killed 90 people with Sarin gas, Spicer said: “someone as despicable as Hitler… didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons”.
He obviously did. But, this isn’t some gaffe that can be easily apologised for. It was an irresponsible remark, made by a man who holds massive responsibility for the most powerful man in the world.
It was endlessly repeated, plastered all over the rolling 24-hour news, and no-doubt analysed and focused on, until every last drop of media scope had been drained.
Then there’s Ken, suspended by Labour for bringing the Party into disrepute, after saying Hitler had ‘supported Zionism’ (he didn’t), made whilst defending MP Naz Shah, over an anti-Semitic post (for which she apologised).
Ken refuses to apologise, and insists it’s ‘the truth’, and ‘it’s historically accurate’, so he did nothing wrong.
Yet, Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell sums up the perverseness of his position, and everything wrong with the politicization of Nazi comparisons. He says: “This argument about historical fact is not the issue. The issue is you deployed it to justify what was an anti-Semitic statement by Naz Shah.”
The weaponisation of the Hitler’s legacy by Ken Livingstone, and trivialisation of the Nazi regime by Sean Spicer – both serve to dilute the infamous legacy of the Nazi regime.
These analogies were employed to make political points, and were both backed up by falsehoods (that Hitler was a Zionist, and that Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons.)
The political nature of what they said, combined with these historical distortions, damage history.
A third instance is one of only a few examples of deploying a Nazi analogy, and it not blowing up in the individual’s face.
Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, an ex Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, and Holocaust survivor, compared the situation in Syria to the Shoah last week. Shortly after, so too did Israeli president Reuven Rivlin, drawing upon Jewish experience in the Holocaust to urge support for victims in Syria.
This was not distorting history, diluting the Shoah, or being used for political gain. It comes from both experience, political authority and genuine sympathy for events in Syria.
By comparing today’s events to what the Nazis did, we are turning one of the most vile ideologies into a historical lowest common denominator.
Everyone’s comparing things to the Nazis. We are losing all relativity and perspective.
Nazis, Hitler and Holocaust comparisons should be used less frequently, and with more sensitivity – only by those who have the capacity not to offend in employing them.