Should we remember the Holocaust without mentioning the Jews?

Do Jews have a special claim on the historic catastrophe of the Holocaust?

Do words with accepted meanings still hold those meanings, even in the age of Donald Trump?

The Cambridge, Oxford, Collins, Merriam-Webster, Wikipedia and virtually every standard dictionary describes the Holocaust in nearly identical language, as “the systematic murder of many people, especially Jews, by the Nazis during World War II.”

So why did President Trump fail to mention the Jews in his Holocaust Remembrance Day Statement last week?

In 1979, the U.S. Congress adopted Joint Resolution 1014 to establish “Days of Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust.”  The first lines is as follows: “Whereas six million Jews and millions of other people were murdered in concentration camps as part of a program of extermination carried out by the Nazi party during World War II.”  It was written by Republican Senator John Danforth of Missouri.

So why did President Trump fail to mention the Jews in his Holocaust Remembrance Day Statement last week?

His spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, said that the Administration gave it a lot of thought and certainly didn’t mean to offend anyone.

But who would have been offended at the mention of the specially-designed and systematic rounding up and murder of Europe’s Jews, along with a recognition of the other half of Hitler’s victims?

Did Trump fail to grasp the meaning of Holocaust Remembrance Day in the first place?

Our last two Presidents, Obama and Bush, specifically referred to the Nazi’s demonic obsession with the destruction of all Jews, in their Holocaust Remembrance Day remarks.  And the U. S. Congress’ words are clear.

So why did President Trump fail to mention the Jews in his Holocaust Remembrance Day Statement last week?

After all, we know how much our new President hates the political correctness that riles his sensibilities and many of his supporters.  That is his explanation, for example, for insisting on the inclusion of the specific words “radical Islamic” before the word “terrorists.”

The inclusion of the specific identity of the majority of terrorists is important to Trump and his supporters.

Many of us wonder if the near-unanimous support Trump received from White Supremacists and self-avowed anti-Semites in his campaign had anything to do with Trump’s decision not to mention the Jews in his Holocaust remarks.

We are repulsed and enraged if this is the case.

Was this Trump’s way to give a wink and a nod to those hate-filled Trump backers, on the occasion of what would have been a sympathetic word about the historic suffering of the Jewish people?  All he did was ignore the plain meaning of the words “the Holocaust.”  Who would stand up for the truth, or the Jews, against Trump?

Finally, ask no more contentious group of nations than those at the U.N. what International Holocaust Remembrance Day is all about.  In their November 2005 Resolution 60/7, they state the following:

“Reaffirming that the Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of one third of the Jewish people, along with countless members of other minorities, will forever be a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice.”

We have no good answer as to why President Trump failed to mention the Jews in his Holocaust Remembrance Day Statement last week.

But Trump’s failure to mention the Jews is important.

It demonstrates a profound lack of appreciation of history and, once again, the true meaning of words.

The Nazi’s genocide against the Jews was one of the most destructive, cruel, immoral and satanic episodes of evil in human history.

It must never be allowed to happen again.

We want our president to know that and to speak of it that way.

Steven R. Rothman is the former eight-term Congressman from New Jersey’s Ninth District, 1997-2014.

About the Author
Steve Rothman is a former U.S. Representative for New Jersey's 9th Congressional District, serving for 16 years until January 3, 2013. He also served as the duly-elected Bergen County Surrogate Court Judge, and the two-term Mayor of the City of Englewood, New Jersey.
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