Rep. Mary Miller, a new Republican Congresswoman from Illinois, was lambasted by the customary caterwaulers for saying at a (not the) Capitol Hill rally the following: “Each generation has the responsibility to teach and train the next generation. You know if we win a few elections, we’re still going to be losing unless we win the hearts and minds of our children. This is the battle.” So far, so good.
Then she added: “Hitler was right on one thing. He said ‘Whoever has the youth has the future.’ Our children are being propagandized.”
Less than a week after she assumed office, there were ubiquitous calls for her resignation. A rabbinical organization with which I am affiliated, the Coalition for Jewish Values, came to her defense in a way, rejected calls for her resignation but noted her unfortunate reference to Hitler, for which, by the way, she promptly apologized.
It is not a good look to be citing Adolf Hitler in any context but to inform that he was beyond evil, a sick, perverted, malevolent mastermind of the greatest genocide in history. Miller’s context was apt, in that she was underscoring that evil (i.e., Hitler) can easily triumph if the minds of the youth are corrupted, and she openly stated that Hitler was one of the most evil dictators of all time. It was a strong point made inartfully, but the point she made, well taken as it is, could have been substantiated by quoting the Bible or 100 lesser thinkers.
The broader point is that incessant references to Hitler, Nazis, Storm Troopers and the like have become too prevalent and banal in American society. To seek the resignation of all those who misuse these terms would leave almost no one standing in public life. In the Wall Street Journal the other day, Peggy Noonan, after asserting that she has fought off the temptation for years, finally compared President Trump to Hitler. Arnold Schwarzenegger, better body-builder than politician or thinker, compared last week’s riot at the Capitol to “Kristallnacht.” Nancy Pelosi this past summer compared federal law enforcement officials trying to restore order in America’s riot torn cities to “Storm Troopers.” AOC compared ICE detention facilities to “concentration camps.” Parenthetically, none of these four individuals have been asked to apologize or to resign.
Here in Israel, it is also not unknown for the epithet “Nazi” to be hurled at police officers, politicians, bureaucrats and the occasional cab driver.
Good grief. Perhaps some ground rules are in order as to the use of Nazi metaphors.
Hitler was a genocidal mass murderer without any redeeming features at all. For twenty years, he planned the mass incarceration and then extermination of an entire people. He murdered six million Jews, and scarred several million other survivors and refugees. While doing so, he ignited a world war that consumed tens of millions of other lives.
Anyone whose deeds do not rise to that level should never be mentioned in the same breath as Hitler. All that does is diminish Hitler’s evil. To compare President Trump – the best president for Jews and Israel ever, not that Jews show any gratitude for it – is obscene; memo to Peggy Noonan and thousands of others. If you need to compare Hitler to someone, compare him to his rivals Stalin and Mao (each of whom murdered more people than did Hitler).
President Trump, whatever his personal flaws, did not round up millions of innocent people for extermination. Harsh tweets, even harsh rhetoric, are not the same as cattle cars and gas chambers, and the mere suggestion is repugnant to one whose relatives experienced cattle cars and gas chambers.
Furthermore, on Kristallnacht (November 9, 1938, the “Night of the Broken Glass,”) several thousand Jews were murdered, tens of thousands were arrested and sent to concentration camps, hundreds of synagogues and thousands of businesses throughout Germany and Austria were burned, ransacked and looted. The riot at the Capitol was despicable – but Kristallnacht? The hyperbole is appalling and disgusting, especially coming from a native Austrian. (To me, even calling it an “insurrection” is over the top, just politics. Did the invaders try to seize the government? Did they have a plan to form an alternative government? Did they have any plan at all? t is disgraceful enough that the Capitol was invaded by a motley crew of misfits, clowns, pillagers, and violent trespassers. They should all be in prison – like all rioters and looters – but insurrection?) It is that type of exaggeration that induces publicity seeking polemicists to compare it to Kristallnacht, an insult to Jews who lived and suffered through it and the thousands who then fled Germany in its wake.
Are law enforcement officials “Storm Troopers” as Pelosi termed them? Well, were these officers trying to restore order or create mayhem? Were they rounding up innocent people for detention, slave labor and execution, or were they trying to protect innocent people and their homes and businesses? The answer is clear, and the epithet Pelosi used was reprehensible, not that she will called to account for it.
Are ICE detention facilities “concentration camps” as Cortez labeled them? Such a characterization can only emerge from someone who is completely unfamiliar with concentration camps where innocent people (not lawbreakers) were forced into slave labor, malnourished, received no health care, and died in huge numbers when they weren’t being executed. Jews in concentration camps were not held for brief periods of time until their status could be clarified, and then freed.
Godwin’s Law lives: the longer any discussion goes on, the likelihood grows that someone will compare someone or something to Nazis. Users demonstrate emptiness of thought and an absence of values and historical perspective. Unfortunately, Jews too are not strangers to misappropriating Holocaust references and shooting them at their perceived political foes.
We need a moratorium on Nazi references, especially when used by politicians as propaganda for their views. Any act that does not reach the level of genocide or potential genocide is not “Hitler, Nazi, or the Holocaust.” Perhaps the only enduring lesson we can learn from Hitler is how easily pure evil can be diluted until it seems trivial, which can only lead to the proliferation of more evil.
If it is not genocide, leave Hitler and his henchmen out of the discussion. Try to make your points using logic and reason rather than a conversation-stopper born of ignorance.