Holocaust analogies and mask mandates

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, August 5, 2020

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Earlier this year, my college students and I joined our chaplain and a graduate student in traveling to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. The insensitive treatment many attendees gave the terrors that the museum was trying to educate people about are being repeated in a new way: weaponizing the Holocaust against mask mandates, social distancing or other health regulations designed to combat the deadly spread of COVID-19.  Amazingly, some of their targets are Jewish.

About a week ago, a couple went into a Minnesota Walmart with swastika masks over their faces. The Minnesota GOP apologized this month for a Washaba Country Republican Party meme comparing mask mandates to Jews having to wear yellow stars.

Earlier in July, a Kansas paper “published a cartoon depicting (Kansas Governor Laura) Kelly in a mask emblazoned with a Star of David, before a scene appearing to show Jewish people being deported to Nazi concentration camps,” wrote Business Insider. “The caption adds: ‘Lockdown Laura says: Put on your mask … and step onto the cattle car.”  Thankfully, the Kansas paper took it down, but only after it became a national story.

It’s just one of many cases where critics of lockdowns and restrictions designed to save lives are likening such health policies of mask wearing and limiting indoor gatherings to the slaughter of more than six million Jews using the most brutal of methods.

In mid-April, Colorado’s first Jewish Governor had to answer questions on whether his response to the coronavirus was akin to draconian policies of Nazi Germany. As reported in Talking Points Memo: “Gov. Polis responds to accusations that his stay-at-home order is akin to Nazism: ‘As a Jewish-American who lost family in the Holocaust, I’m offended by any comparison to Nazism. We act to save lives; the exact opposite of the slaughter of 6 million,’” even tearing up that someone would even make such an odious comparison to target him.

In May, Carlie Porterfield with Forbes reported “The Auschwitz Memorial Museum criticized Illinois residents who used Nazi slogans Friday to protest the state’s coronavirus lockdown orders — not the first time it’s happened at such a rally — calling it ‘a symptom of moral [and] intellectual degeneration.’”

Porterfield added “a woman was photographed carrying a sign bearing the words ‘Arbeit Macht Frei, JB,’ apparently referring to Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, who comes from a prominent Jewish family.” A Southern politician made a similar analogy in July: masks = Holocaust.

We can attribute this ignorant behavior to a lack of knowledge about the Holocaust itself.  NBC News reported how a school principal emailed a parent saying “not everyone believes the Holocaust happened, and he couldn’t say if it ‘is a factual, historical event,’” as his rationale for his policy on not requiring it to be taught in an area where many Holocaust survivors live.  South Carolina originally left it off the schools’ teaching curriculum’s “original draft because department officials wanted to ‘broaden education standards,’” as Newsweek reported. The State noted that the Holocaust was not mentioned in the 124-page history guidelines report.

Such ignorance is fueling these incorrect Holocaust analogies which are not only painfully callous to the real victims and their descendants, but are encouraging people to engage in reckless health behavior which could harm themselves, family, and others they meet.