Vaccines are not like the Holocaust. Abortions are not like the Holocaust. The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is not like the Holocaust. Only the Holocaust is like the Holocaust.
I am not saying that Jews have suffered the most, or that other injustices and tragedies are not unjust or tragic. But I repeat: only the Holocaust is like the Holocaust.
Never in history — before or since — has there ever been an industrialized genocide of this scale, in which Jewish and Romani folks were quite literally industrially slaughtered like animals. There have been longer genocides and genocides with exponentially more deaths, but the Holocaust is the one and only industrialized genocide of this magnitude.
Comparing anything to the Holocaust is not only inaccurate, but it’s also exploitative of Jewish People and Romani People and deeply insensitive. Our trauma is fresh, and every comparison is like pouring salt (or gasoline, sometimes) on the wound. Seven decades on, our population, as far as numbers go, still hasn’t recovered. Survivors, as well as second and third generation Holocaust survivors like myself, suffer from mental illness at greater rates than the general population. Our psyche has quite literally been altered because of the Holocaust. A third of survivors live in poverty. The climate is such right now that antisemitic hate crimes are recorded every single day. You compare everything to the Holocaust, but you don’t tend to the destruction that the actual Holocaust left behind. Why?
Where are you from? Where are your ancestors from? You are not at fault for the wrongs of your ancestors, of course, but you do have a responsibility moving forward to protect the Jewish community.
Are you Argentinian? Australian? Belgian? Bolivian? Brazilian? Canadian? Chilean? Colombian? Costa Rican? Cuban? Danish? Ecuadorean? French? Guatemalan? Haitian? Honduran? Hungarian? Irish? Mexican? Dutch? New Zealander? Nicaraguan? Norwegian? Panamanian? Paraguayan? Peruvian? Swedish? Swiss? British? American? Uruguayan? Venezuelan? At the 1938 Évian Conference, each and every one of these countries refused to take any Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany.
In 1942, at the Wannsee Conference, Hitler once again asked the rest of the world to take German Jews. And yet again, the world didn’t.
It was only after the Wannsee Conference — and the world’s refusal to help desperate Jews — that Hitler proceeded with the Final Solution to the Jewish Question, the plan for the complete extermination of the Jewish People.
Are you from the Middle East? Up to a thousand Jews were murdered in Iraq in a pogrom inspired by the Nazis themselves. The Palestinian leadership in Mandatory Palestine were not merely allies to the Nazis; they were quite literally SS members. No, this is not your fault. No, it doesn’t justify any injustices against you. But it makes the Holocaust comparison infuriatingly inappropriate. After all, following the partition vote in 1947, the Palestinian leadership vowed, verbatim, to finish off the job that the Nazis had started.
Are you North African? Jews in North Africa were shipped off to labor camps while their neighbors watched and in most cases, said nothing. Or worse, they cheered.
Perhaps your ancestors collaborated with the Nazis. They did in Italy. In Austria. In Hungary. In Albania. In France. In Monaco. In Slovakia. In Croatia. In Greece. In Serbia. In Belarus. In Norway. The list goes on and on.
In 1941, in Kyiv, 34,000 Jews were slaughtered in the Babi Yar ravine over a matter of two days. That’s 48 hours. Only 29 — 29! — survived. But the Nazis didn’t work alone. The Ukrainian Auxiliary Police, too, gleefully shot at helpless Jews.
In 1941, in Jedwabne, Poland, Poles burned over 300 of their Jewish neighbors alive. In Radziłów, Poland, some 600-2000 Jews were murdered at the hands of their Polish neighbors. Another 300 were massacred in Szczuczyn, Poland. The same year, in Kaunas, Lithuania, Lithuanians too murdered some 4000 of their Jewish neighbors over the span of four days. In Lviv, Ukraine, Ukrainian nationalists, with the help of the Nazis, massacred some 2000 Jews and raped countless Jewish women. And on and on and on.
Even the non-Jewish, anti-Nazi resistance frequently murdered Jews. They hated the Nazis, but the truth was that they hated Jews more. They always hated Jews more.
All this to say: the Holocaust was a team effort.
Did your grandparents protect their Jewish neighbors? Were they complicit? Did they collaborate? And what will you do differently this time?
Are you Catholic? The Catholic Church was well-aware of the persecution of Jews and refused to do anything to stop it. Yes, it would’ve mattered. The Catholic Church held a tremendous amount of influence. In fact, when the Catholic Church protested against Germany’s “euthanasia program” (eugenics), the Nazis stopped it. Really, they did. And yet the Catholic Church, well aware of what was going on, chose not to lift a finger for the Jews.
Are you Christian? Most Christian churches called themselves “neutral,” but there is no such thing as neutrality in the Holocaust. Others loudly supported Nazism. Almost none opposed Hitler.
Do you work for a company that made a fortune off the backs of dead Jews? Adidas. Swarovski. Chanel. IBM. Ford Motors. Mercedes Benz. BMW. The list goes on and on. Do you support the Red Cross? The Red Cross was complicit at best.
Do you care for Holocaust survivors, whose most unfathomable trauma you so carelessly parade with every comparison you make? In the United States, a third of Holocaust survivors live in poverty. In New York, over half do. Did you know that? Have you ever engaged with Holocaust survivors in any way? Have you ever thought to help?
“The Jews got reparations,” you say. The overwhelming majority of survivors have not received a single cent. In 2005, a report found that Jewish Holocaust “damages” add up to $240-330 *billion* dollars. The unpaid wages of slave labor add up to some $11-52 *billion.* After the war, no more than 20% of looted Jewish assets were returned to their rightful owners. Thousands of Jews who tried to recover their properties in Eastern Europe were murdered by squatters in cold blood.
Prior to the Holocaust, some 9.5 million Jews lived in Europe. Around 6 million of them were murdered. Thousands more were murdered in Southwest Asia and North Africa. There is no form of compensation that could ever possibly make up for this.
“Never again,” you say, but between the end of World War II and 1946, over 2000 Jewish Holocaust survivors were murdered in Poland. Not by the Nazis. By their former neighbors, who didn’t want them to come home. Similar violence took place across Eastern Europe. “Never again,” but just as soon as the Holocaust was over, again happened. And it has happened again and again and again ever since.
“Never again,” but Jewish refugees in Displaced Persons camps were treated so poorly that a representative for the American government stated: “As matters now stand, we appear to be treating the Jews as the Nazis treated them except that we do not exterminate them.”
“Never again,” but 850,000 Jews were expelled from the Arab world just a few years after the Holocaust. “Never again,” but 15,000 Jews were stripped of their Polish citizenship in 1968. “Never again,” but Jews were held captive in the Soviet Union. “Never again,” but Ethiopian Jews were slaughtered in the 1970s. “Never again,” but 11 Israeli Jews were massacred at the Munich Olympics in 1972. “Never again,” but a bombing on the largest Jewish community center in Argentina killed 85 in 1994. Never again,” but you want to “globalize the intifada,” a suicide bombing campaign that killed 1000 Israelis, 80 percent of them civilians (what are you “globalizing?” Suicide bombings against Jews?). “Never again,” but 11 Jews were slaughtered in Pittsburgh in 2018. And 5 Jews were stabbed in New Jersey in 2019. And a synagogue was held captive in Colleyville in 2022, where the perpetrator was inspired by a virulently antisemitic speech delivered by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Do you need more examples? I could give them to you.
“Never again,” but an antisemitic hate crime is reported in New York every 29 hours. “Never again,” but Jews are the targets of over 60 percent of religious hate crimes in the United States, even though we form 2.4 percent of the population.
Here’s the kicker: you compare this, that, and the other to the Holocaust, but in the next breath, an antisemitic trope or conspiracy will come out of your mouth. “No, no, no,” you insist. “This is not about Jews. It’s about Zionists.” Do you not get it yet? Left, right, euphemism or not, it doesn’t matter. When an antisemitic conspiracy comes out of your mouth, it spreads. It festers. You are adding your little contribution to a hatred that is over two millennia old. It doesn’t matter how noble your intentions. Violent people will pick up on your words and use them to harm us. Violent people who abhor your politics but love your antisemitism. And so you’re hurting us.
The Holocaust did not start with Hitler. Or with the Nazis. It started with antisemitism, some 2000 years ago. With disinformation. The very same antisemitism and disinformation you are spewing at this very moment.
The Nazis targeted two groups in their genocidal campaign: Jews and Roma. Where do you find the audacity to compare every inconvenience, every tragedy, every calamity, every injustice to the Holocaust while doing absolutely nothing to protect the people the Holocaust actually targeted? Or worse, where do you find the audacity to compare us to the Nazis?
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