I almost didn't read yesterday's JTA story headlined "Fox News Chief: NPR Bosses are Nazis” or the subsequent, predictable apology, so fed up am I with the cynical, casual use of the Holocaust as just another political “gotcha.”
This stuff goes on every day, and generally the only voice we hear in opposition is that far-left-wing, George-Soros-enabling Abe Foxman of the ADL (just kidding, but you can see how my email has been running).
Maybe what we need is for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, or at least its lay leadership, to speak out forcefully about why these kinds of crude, always over-the-top accusations for political or entertainment purposes are so offensive to the memory of survivors, dangerous to democratic dialog and corrosive to the core mission of the Museum.
That mission has always been to ensure that memory of the Holocaust remains pure, untainted by politics, unskewed by revisionists, unforgotten.
The whole Museum was designed to show that while genocide is a pervasive human problem that needs to be fought at every turn, the Holocaust was in so many ways unique – mechanized, “scientific,” the product of an advanced society run amok, dementedly thorough in its approach to extermination.
Every time some talk show commentator or political activist likens political opponents to “Nazis,” it debases that memory and devalues words that should provoke genuine horror and not just political passion. Every time a politician resorts to a Holocaust analogy, it is a slap at survivors and the memory of victims.
What I would really like to see is for Tom Bernstein, the new chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, immediate past chairman Fred Zeidman and his predecessor, Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, get together and explain in clear and lucid terms why such language is both offensive and dangerous. And to tell politicians, commentators and activists: enough is enough.
No, I'm not under any illusions their intervention will put an end to this trend. We live in an age of to-the-death political warfare and rage, and Holocaust allusions are seen as handy Words of Mass Destruction by too many.
Still, a clear statement from these luminaries might make others, including our rabbis and religious leaders and maybe some communal leaders who have been afraid of ruffling political feathers, speak out more forcefully.
This isn't a partisan matter; we hear Holocaust allusions from the left and the right, Democrats and Republicans, and they are offensive and destructive to memory – and to our democracy – no matter what the source.
So consider this a challenge to the people who work as guardians of Holocaust memory: isn't it time to speak out loudly and clearly?
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