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Stop comparing vaccine and masking mandates to the Holocaust

In a deplorable move to score cheap political points by presenting himself as a proponent of freedom, politicians are making a deplorable comparison between a D.C. law asking patrons of restaurants and gyms for vaccine proof to health passes in use under Nazi Germany. Such comparisons are deeply antisemitic; they trivialize the real suffering of millions of Jews under the fascist Nazi regime.

Rejecting public health practices is dangerous; weaponizing the Holocaust to attack these policies is both historically inaccurate and beyond unconscionable. The genocide of over 11 million people is incomparable to the measures necessary to combat a global pandemic.

First, any attempt to compare COVID precautions to the Holocaust is a false equivalency. Mask mandates and proof of vaccination are not the Nuremberg Race Laws, which began the legal dehumanization of the Jewish population. In fact, Hitler and the Nazis withheld vaccination from Jews and others to rid the world of “undesirable” and “inferior” people. The policies of our democratic government are nowhere near the murderous edicts of Nazi Germany.

Second, they perpetuate lies about the Holocaust. The proliferation of Holocaust denial, especially on social media, is real. Twenty-three percent of respondents in a recent study said they believed the Holocaust was a myth, or had been exaggerated, or they were not sure. Nearly half (49%) reported seeing Holocaust denial or distortion posts online, and 30% had seen Nazi symbols on their social media platforms or in their communities. Denouncing COVID-19 mitigation measures by invoking Hitler’s abominations fuels Holocaust denial and antisemitism, and further drives the serious need for Holocaust and genocide education.

Third, they misappropriate and exploit symbols of the Holocaust. Co-opting the yellow star as a political prop dilutes and drastically distorts its history. In the aftermath of Kristallnacht, Jews in Nazi Germany were required to wear the star for instant identification and discrimination. Anyone who refused was subject to being shot on the spot.

When COVID deniers and politicians who refute data-driven public health policy wrongly invoke the Holocaust, they pervert history, trivialize the memories of victims and survivors, and desensitize people to the monstrous atrocities that occurred.

But even when the community speaks up against such pernicious analogies, almost universally the response is silence and inaction instead of apology, retraction and condemnation of such blatant antisemitism.

Denigrating the Holocaust demonstrates a profound lack of understanding of history and professes explicit antisemitism, whether by community leaders or our peers. We have a collective responsibility to stop it. If you hear or see it, whether in public or private, call it out. Your voice can make a difference; it is the most powerful tool to preserve historical accuracy, combat antisemitism, honor the memories of all who suffered in genocide and influence the present by drawing on the lessons of the past.

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