“Never Again” in the Age of Trump

Trump is not Hitler.

Hitler, from before he became chancellor of Germany, was quite clear about his genocidal intentions. Jews (and Roma, and black people, and gay people) were sub-humans and needed to be disposed of to make room for the rest of humanity, i.e. real humanity. That is an evil ideology.

Is Trump’s ideology evil?

His attitude is “May God bless and keep the Muslims and Latinos for away from us”.* I would argue that this attitude is unethical, but on the pure evil scale, it doesn’t compare to Hitler’s.

However, both types of unethical-ness involve wanting to ensure that a certain type of minority group does not live among you. They differ in degree — in quantity, but not in quality.

Trump has issued a ban on Muslim immigration from certain countries.

That is a far cry from shoving people into gas chambers.

However, Hitler’s first move was to kick out the Polish Jews who had come to Germany.

So seeing executive orders that kick out Muslims from certain countries, even if they have greencards and have resided in America for years, as a possible precursor to something larger, is not crazy talk.

It’s the Holocaust that teaches us that it’s not crazy talk.

There may be legitimate security issues that can be raised in regard to immigration, however, Donald Trump’s blanket ban and hateful rhetoric are not the measured solutions of a president who wants to open America’s doors as a beacon of freedom, but only in a safe and secure manner.

Trump’s rhetoric encourages fear that the foreign Others pose a security threat; this type of fear animated Hitler’s anti-Semitic rhetoric, in which Jews posed an existential threat to Germany’s existence. There are some genocides, such as the genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda and against the Armenians in Turkey, that were born on the backs of uprisings in which some members of the oppressed groups did, in fact, pose a security threat.**

We don’t generally take the fact that some individuals of a targeted group may pose a security risk as a valid reason for perpetrating genocide; do we consider it a valid reason for refusing to engage in any attempt to rescue certain groups from ethnic cleansing?

To those that answer “Yes,” we reply, “Never again.”

Because here’s the secret to “Never again”:

Never again does not mean waiting until people are being shipped off to gas chambers before deciding that the events are as bad as the Holocaust, and then going to a rally.

Never again means going to a rally to ensure that things never reach the point where people are shipped off to gas chambers.

Never again means, by definition, getting involved in problems when they are not as bad as the Holocaust, in order to ensure that they never become as bad as the Holocaust.

So when people say to me, “How dare you say never again – Trump’s not Hitler, and this is not the Holocaust!”

Of course this isn’t the Holocaust!

Banning immigrants is a far cry from shoving people into gas chambers.

But that’s the point!

The point is not to wait for things to reach Holocaust levels, but rather, to stop them now, before they’re anywhere near those levels.

That’s the meaning of “Never again.”

And that’s why it’s ok to use the phrase at anti-Trump rallies.

*Please pardon my terrible paraphrasing of Fiddler on the Roof.

.** For more on the relationship between civil war, rebellion, and genocide, please see the works of Harris Mylonas or Ben Kiernan.

About the Author
Shayna Abramson, a part-Brazilian native Manhattanite, studied History and Jewish Studies at Johns Hopkins University before moving to Jerusalem. She has also spent some time studying Torah at the Drisha Institute in Manhattan, and has a passion for soccer and poetry. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Political Science from Hebrew University, and is a rabbinic fellow at Beit Midrash Har'el.