Hitler, Nazis and other ignorant similes

When you liken Trump's government to the Nazi party, you cheapen the memory of millions of Hitler's victims
Illustrative: SS chief Heinrich Himmler in 1940, before construction of the death camps he oversaw. (Public domain)
Illustrative: SS chief Heinrich Himmler in 1940, before construction of the death camps he oversaw. (Public domain)

Nearly 75 years later, I think it’s fair to say we’ve had enough time to find out exactly who and what Adolph Hitler was. I believe most educated people know exactly what the Nazis were, precisely what National Socialism was all about, and, sans some particulars, pretty much what the SS did for a living.

We all know what happened. Following the decade-long nightmare we’ve collectively come to refer to as the Holocaust or the Shoah, there’s been enough information disseminated, enough horrifying photos and all-but-impossible-to-look-at footage taken by the Nazis themselves, to say nothing of the ample testimony from witnesses who lost nearly everything. But one of the few things these victims didn’t lose was the stark significance of what occurred in Nazi Germany. Until recently.

I’m terribly sorry, but comparing someone to Hitler is not clever, it’s ignorant. Comparing the police force of any city in the United States, or any US agency to the German Gestapo is just plain ludicrous. Drawing an analogy between an American president’s administration and the Nazi party is not just grossly and historically inaccurate, it’s insulting. To do so diminishes real events — the likes of which are profoundly unimaginable — by commercializing the expression.

It’s cheap. And it’s degrading.

Eleven million victims. Six million Jews and five million other undesirables. But let’s put aside the sheer number of Nazi victims for a moment. Instead, let’s zoom in on a few of the Nazi’s methods. Not everyone was lucky enough to get a bullet in the back of the head. Not everyone was fortunate enough to be worked to death in a concentration camp, or to be led to the gallows and hanged. Not everyone was led to the gas chambers to inhale Zyklon-B. Many other innocent human beings — men and women; children and the elderly — were forced to participate in medical “experiments” by Nazi “doctors.” These torturous, painful experiments didn’t always result in death, but rather disfigurement and a lifetime of physical agony.

Others had to live the rest of their lives having watched their parents executed before their eyes. Or their babies thrown to dogs or tossed in the air and caught on a soldier’s bayonet for sport.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but there is nothing quite like the experience of sexual abuse except the experience of sexual abuse. There is nothing like slavery except slavery.

Hitler and the Nazis are not analogies. They are certainly not similes because there is nothing like having your innocent parents and siblings and children murdered. Or tortured.


In light of this, I was fairly shocked when New York Congresswoman Yvette Clarke recently protested in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters and compared the agency to Hitler’s Gestapo. I concluded that the Honorable Representative must have been absent on the day her school taught about the Holocaust because no elected official educated on the subject would make such a comparison on purpose.

About the Author
Dov Hikind is a New York State Assemblyman (Democrat), representing Brooklyn's Assembly district 48. He has held the position since 1983.
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