Harold Ohayon
A Wandering New Yorker

Defending Memory in an Ignorant Era

A troubling trend in today’s world is the constant usage of Nazi era imagery in order to demean, degrade and demonize political rivals and opponents. This tactic is widely used in the United States, especially since President Trump was elected into office in 2016. I vividly recall such comparisons during the lead up to that contentious election, with many people loudly warning about the rise of a new Reich, a new Fuhrer and a new incarnation of the concentration camp system. While these comments were disgusting back then, the fact that many still throw around these terms and libels so easily and so often makes it even more unsettling. Just a few days ago, I heard a commentator on a news program berate President Trump with one breath and in another evoke the memory of those lost in the Holocaust. Putting aside the absurd hysterics behind these gross comparisons, it is important to realize the wider damage this is causing to the legacy of the Holocaust. By frequently accusing people today of being Hitler or Nazi-like, the horrifying reality of that man and that era starts to fade away. And by constantly trying to compare what we are experiencing today with what transpired back then greatly distorts the reality of what occurred 70 years ago.

In a day and age when 2/3 of millennials don’t know what Auschwitz is, it is of vital importance that we maintain and persevere the legacy of the Holocaust. While education is a key component in this endeavour, it is likewise important that society not misuse terms and labels to the point where they lose all value and meaning. Not every politician you disagree with is Hitler, and not every new administration is a new genocidal Reich marching to the gates. We must encourage clearer heads to prevail and challenge those people who make such sickening comparisons. There are many issues facing the United States in 2019, but America today at its worst is nowhere near Germany in 1942. Those who are well versed in the history of that time period know that these comparisons are misplaced and delusional. But the concern is with those that do not take the time to study history and instead simply run with placards and slogans with the intent on humiliating those they disagree with. In a world where everyone is Hitler, the legacy of the Holocaust means nothing. Adolf Hitler, while one of many historical monsters, stands alone when we examine his industrial attempts at exterminating the Jewish people. Only Adolf Hitler was Adolf Hitler. People need to start thinking sensibly before they make such comments, and they truly need to steady their tongues before they speak.

As the generation of those that survived the Holocaust or fought to liberate the camps slowly fades away, it is up to us to ensure that the legacy of those dark days survives intact. We cannot allow people to diminish the horrors by making gross comparisons every other day against a plethora of people they disagree with. We cannot sit quietly by while people stoke fear and hysteria when such emotions are not warranted. If these accusers actually spoke to those that witnessed or survived the Holocaust, I am fairly certain they would be humbled and silenced by what they heard. My grandfather is one of the thousands of U.S. soldiers that fought through Europe to bring an end to the Nazi nightmare. He and his comrades in arms helped liberate a concentration camp, and he told me his story whilst I was a student in high school. I will never forget what he told me, and I will never cease being proud of how he helped liberate Europe. But the pictures he portrayed for me is nothing compared to what I see when I look at America today. There are no concentration camps in America. There is no Gestapo roaming the streets. There is no ‘Final Solution’ for any group living in the United States. Anyone who thinks they see such things in America today either needs therapy or medication.

We owe it to those that perished, and to those that survived and to those who fought, to stand up and remind people of what actually occurred during World War Two. We cannot allow people to lessen this legacy by making these foolhardy comparisons and outlandish comments that are so often heard in today’s world. Enough is enough.

About the Author
Expat New Yorker living in the Land of the Rising Sun: Trekking to random parts of the globe, debating countless things under the sun, and attempting to learn to cook Korean food.