Comparing Trump to Hitler trivializes the Holocaust

Recently, when a Republican presidential candidate asked supporters at his rally to pledge to vote for them, he asked them to raise their right arms and promise they’d vote in the Florida primary.

Many commentators around the country and across the world, including many here at home, immediately saw that as a version of the Nazi salute.

Let me repeat that. Donald Trump asked people to pledge they’d vote for him. And what many people, including many prominent Jews, saw was a Heil Hitler salute. They saw Trump on his way to becoming the American Fuhrer.

You can hate Trump all you want. But Trump is Hitler? Really? Have we all taken leave of our senses?

The disgusting comparison of Donald Trump to the man who annihilated European Jewry is the ultimate trivialization of the Holocaust and an affront to the memory of the six million. That the charge would come even from Jews who have dedicated their lives to ensuring that anti-Semitism be taken seriously is mystifying.

Does anyone seriously believe that Trump’s purpose in running for president is ultimately to perpetrate some sort of genocide?

But many people seem to believe that. The Washington Post published a column by a Harvard professor comparing Trump to Hitler. The New York Daily News put the words “Trump is Hitler” on its front cover. The Huffington Post and the Daily Telegraph also have compared Trump to Hitler. “Saturday Night Live” compared Trump’s rise to power to “Germany in the 1930s.” High-profile personalities, including Bill Maher, Louis CK, former Mexican president Vicente Fox, and even Glenn Beck all have made the comparison.

Rarely have I seen the Holocaust trivialized to this degree by mainstream media outlets.

Love him or hate him, the fact is that Donald Trump has never murdered anyone in his life, and he has a daughter who converted to Orthodox Judaism, and who is observant.

Being friendly with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, I was aware of the process of Ivanka Trump becoming Jewish. At any point during the multiyear journey, her father could easily have said to her, “Are you kidding me? Seriously? You’re from a prominent family. You’re rich. You’re famous. Get this becoming Jewish idea far out of your head.”

But not only did Trump not do so, he did precisely the opposite. On many occasions, he has spoken very proudly of his daughter embracing the Jewish faith. Donald Trump is alone among all candidates for president in having Orthodox Jewish grandchildren.

Not that any of this means that he should be elected president, or that he is a worthy candidate. But it certainly means that comparisons between him and Hitler are downright disgusting, and a deep offense to a daughter who chose to join the Jewish people. Trump is a highly controversial candidate, and one may object to his policies. But few would deny that he is a friend of Israel. And Jews calling him Hitler is character assassination of an unimaginable order.

Then there is Trump’s son-in-law, Jared, who stems from one of the most prominent and philanthropic New York/New Jersey Jewish families. Jared and the Kushners are among the staunchest supporters and defenders of Israel. They are renowned for the innumerable Jewish causes they support. Jared comes from a family of Holocaust survivors. I can only imagine the pain they feel when the father of their daughter-in-law is compared by fellow Jews to the man who gassed millions of Jews to death.

There are certain words in the English language that are reserved for the worst imaginable forms of evil. Genocide is one such word. When Israel is attacked with 14,000 rockets from Hamas, and must defend its citizens by attacking Hamas rocket launchers, those Israel haters who fraudulently say that Israel is committing a “genocide” are doing a huge injustice to the victims of real genocides. That word must be applied only to true atrocities. It loses all meaning when misapplied to wars that are moral and just.

The name “Hitler” is another such word, which never may be misused. Comparing Trump to Hitler trivializes World War II, genocide, and the one-and-a-half million children gassed by the monster. It is a vulgar attack on the good citizens of the United States who are being accused of abetting a would-be mass murderer.

Try telling someone who lived through the concentration camps and lost their entire family to the Nazis that Trump is Hitler. Try telling a survivor of Mengele’s selection that a Trump campaign rally is like arriving on the train platform of Auschwitz.

I am deeply grateful to Trump for his undeniable friendship with Israel. We have obvious areas of disagreement. I reject Trump’s call for collective punishment for the families of terrorists. If a U.S. citizen joins ISIS, does that mean that his family here in the U.S. must be punished as well? The Bible is clear that “a son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, and a father shall not bear the iniquity of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20).

We ought to remember that Roosevelt, Churchill, and Truman all engaged in collective punishment by bombing entire cities and then nuking two. And even President Obama has ordered drone strikes that no doubt have killed terrorists’ dependents, even if those deaths were not intentional. And perhaps if we did engage in collective punishment then we’d end the terror threat much more rapidly. And collective punishment still is morally unacceptable as it undermines our values and the all-important idea of personal accountability.

I also strongly disagree with Trump on temporarily banning Muslims from the United States. There should never — and can never — be religious litmus tests in America. I have said so publicly numerous times. Perhaps if he had called for temporary bans on citizens traveling from countries heavily infiltrated by ISIS he would not have elicited the same reaction. But to go from there to comparing Trump to Hitler is abhorrent.

As an aside, it should also be noted how absurd it is when people use this presidential election as proof that our America is Islamophobic. Five thousand Americans died in Iraq liberating Muslims being slaughtered by Saddam. Another 5,000 died fighting the monsters of the Taliban to liberate another Muslim nation. And the U.S. taxpayer footed the bill for two trillion dollars. Tell me if there is another nation that is so magnificent, charitable, and dedicated to saving Muslim lives.

Trump’s outspokenness is in large part a reaction to the anger that much of the country feels over the perceived lack of leadership and strength exhibited by the United States, and the poll-driven drivel that has been offered up to us by so many politicians who lack conviction. Trump knows that throwing political correctness to the wind and refusing to mince words will very likely be a path to his party’s nomination. And while I can understand why political opponents do not want Trump as president — just as I understand why political partisans likewise don’t want Clinton, Cruz, Rubio, or Sanders — that still does not give them the right to dishonor the memory of the six million martyrs of the Holocaust, or take a man with whom they may have sharp and legitimate disagreements and make him into a monster.

About the Author
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the founder of This World: The Values Network. He is the author of Judaism for Everyone and 30 other books, including his most recent, Kosher Lust. Follow him on Twitter@RabbiShmuley
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