September 29, 2022

On the anniversary of World War II this election season, elected officials and political candidates should stop using Holocaust analogies

Eighty-three years ago last week, Nazi bombs rained down on Polish cities marking the start of World War II. My late mother was 14 when she experienced that horrible morning in the Polish city of Lvov, which is now Lviv in western Ukraine. She recounts her experience:

I remember very well when I heard the first bombs…it must have been between 9am and 11am, and as soon as they started bombing, they never really stopped. So we moved into a very large basement, all of the tenants in our building which my dad made into a bomb shelter.

Little did she know that fateful morning that the hell unleashed in her hometown would portend the murder of six million Jews, including her parents, two brothers, and nearly all of her extended family. The Holocaust stands out as one of the most heinous acts of genocide in human history, and as the generation of survivors passes, the proper commemoration of this traumatic event is more urgent than ever.

This is why the trivialization of the Holocaust in American politics is so offensive and inappropriate, especially to survivors and their descendants. It is now common for elected officials and candidates for public office to invoke the Holocaust and Nazi Germany while making political arguments. Often, the authors of such comments are held accountable in the media and other public spaces. In some cases, they apologize with varying levels of sincerity. Still others, like Minnesota Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen, double his commentsreinforcing the myths and hijacking the true memory of the Holocaust.

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Jensen echoed familiar Republican talking points comparing COVID mask mandates to developments in Nazi Germany. When asked to clarify his comments, he became insistent, stating, “So when I make a comparison that I’ve seen government policies gradually encroach on American freedoms one piece at a time and I’m comparing that to what happened in the 1930s, I think that’s a legitimate comparison.”

As a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, I have heard many inappropriate Holocaust analogies from my colleagues and political candidates. Yet Jensen’s comments are particularly odious because they propagate the rhetoric of a broader social movement that continually links mask mandates to Nazi policies.

The analogy is so pervasive and goes far beyond the reverie of individual officials. It’s now a staple of American politics, and the claim that mask policies mirror Nazi actions serves to incite a growing, dangerous and violence-prone movement in which an amalgam of anti-vaccine organizations have joined forces with some of the groups involved in the January 6e Capitol insurrection.

The link between mask policies and violent extremism began shortly after the pandemic when armed groups surrounded state capitols and the residences of governors in Michigan, Colorado, Ohio, Minnesota and Washington. other states. These gatherings often featured Nazi imagery juxtaposed against heads of state. A sign in Michigan read “Heil Whitmer” in reference to that state’s governor, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, while in Minnesota a sign featured an image of Governor Tim Walz with a Hitler mustache in pencil.

Associations between extremist groups and those seeking elected office have grown stronger in the two years since the first protests against the mask mandate. Candidate Jensen’s views have become part of the fabric of the 2022 midterm elections. Earlier this year, the Anti-Defamation League’s Center for Extremism noted that more than 100 political candidates espouse views that “promote extremism, associate with extremists and/or promote potentially dangerous conspiracy theories. Support for these candidates demonstrates a continuing shift in the so-called Overton window – the parameters of what is considered “normal” and “acceptable” in political and social discourse. »

As recently as June of this year, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) was held accountable for making comments like Jensen’s, invoking the Holocaust and obscuring politics. She was berated by colleagues on both sides of the aisle and by some in her Georgia district. She then issued a reluctant apology.

State Representative Frank Hornstein

No such apology is offered by Scott Jensen. Not a single Minnesota Republican lawmaker or party leader spoke out against Jensen’s comments. I fear that at least in Minnesota, Overton’s window on destructive Nazi analogies is also changing.

Leaders at all levels of government must renounce extremism. When Nazism is invoked — especially in this difficult political moment — tensions escalate.

There is a Holocaust and Humanity Center in Cincinnati where my parents lived after immigrating to the United States. One of the walls displays a quote from my mother: “I owe it to all who have not survived to tell the story.

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We owe it to him, and to the remaining survivors, their descendants, and all those who were murdered by the Nazis, to honor their memory by telling the story accurately. The memory of the Holocaust must not become a cudgel that leaders can use to incite dangerous political polarization and extremism.

Representative Frank Hornstein (DFL) represents Minnesota House District 61A