Yes, the concentration camp comparison is legitimate, and we probably don’t even know the half of the horrors going on in those places, but of course it’s more complicated than that. There were concentration camps in 100 other 20th century regimes, and the overwhelming majority did not end in anything like Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen.
Part of what leaves a bad taste in many Jews’ mouths is the fact that until the Trump administration, any invocation of Hitler was dismissed by the Left as irritating hyperbole. It’s only three years ago that any talk like this at all was dismissed as Godwin’s law by the very people who are now invoking the Hitler comparison. And there were plenty of places where a Hitler comparison would have applied a thousand times more appropriately than anything Trump has done yet, including in Syria under Assad, Serbia under Milosevic, and yes, Iraq under Saddam. And yet, when any kind of humanitarian intervention was mentioned in any of these cases, the kind that perhaps could have saved millions of Jewish lives had the US interfered in the ’30s before Germany reached its full military buildup rather than in the ’40s when it became a total war; in all three of those cases, Social Democrats a generation older than AOC would dismiss any invocation of Hitler out of hand as a manipulation of crocodile tears to advance an imperial agenda. You may disagree with any proposition of humanitarian intervention if that is what you believe, but if you didn’t think the Hitler comparison applied in those cases, you lose the right to invoke it when it becomes more politically convenient for you.
So yes, they’re concentration camps, without a doubt. But a lot has to happen before it’s worthy of any Hitler comparison. And if this invocation came from someone we might trust to understand that the Shoah is a crime absolutely unique in recorded human history, the majority of Jews would assume that it was being invoked in good faith.
The Holocaust is not just another didactic tragedy in the eternal struggle against oppression, it is an episode in which one group of people was hunted with the aim of complete and total annihilation around the entire world, and the hunters came astonishingly close to success. Genocide has happened many times in history, but the Shoah is absolutely unique, for many reasons past the one I just mentioned. And on this Jewish issue, above all other Jewish issues, there can never be an inch of space conceded. So please realize this, if you don’t understand the difference between what happened to Jews and what happened in literally every other genocide and democide in recorded history, the majority of us will not trust that you have good intentions toward us.
There are at least a thousand despicable regimes for whom comparison to them would suffice. Believe me, if or when America gets to Hitler-level, millions and millions of Jews will tell you all at once …