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After touring the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., combative Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene apologized for comparing mandates to wear face masks during the pandemic to the Nazis labelling and rounding up Jews before their extermination in concentration camps in Europe.
“This afternoon, I visited the Holocaust Museum,” Greene said on Monday. “The Holocaust is — there’s nothing comparable to it. It’s — it happened, and, you know, over six million Jewish people were murdered. More than that, there were not just Jewish people — Black people, Christians, all kinds of groups. Children. People that the Nazis didn’t believe were good enough or perfect enough.”
She added: “But there is no comparison to the Holocaust. And there are words that I have said, remarks that I have made, that I know are offensive, and for that, I want to apologize.”
Greene, a first-term Republican, did not apologize for comparing today’s Democratic Party to Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers Party.
While we appreciate her partial admission that her comments were wrong, it shouldn’t have taken a trip to the museum to remind Greene, who said she visited the Auschwitz concentration camp when she was 19, that invoking the Holocaust is a vastly inappropriate means to criticize policies and people she disagrees with.
Diminishing the roots of Hitler’s rise to power and the ugly truth of the extent of the Nazi’s brutal campaign to create a master race creates fertile ground for such sentiments to once again take hold, in the United States and elsewhere.
Sadly, however, Greene is not alone in her shallow understanding of the Holocaust.
For decades after the end of World War II, the Holocaust conjured up horrifying images and memories. Names like Auschwitz and Dachau were stinging reminders of a genocide that sought to eliminate the Jewish population in Europe. “Never again,” was both a reminder of the horrors of the Holocaust and an admonition to never again allow such hatred to take root.
But now, nearly 75 year after the end of the war, memories of the Holocaust are fading. A recent study found that nearly two-thirds of Americans between the ages of 18 and 40 did not know the scope of the Holocaust and only half could name a single concentration camp or ghetto. More than a third thought fewer than 2 million Jews were killed (the actual number is 6 million, about two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe at the time) and more than half did not know of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration camp where more than 1 million men, women and children were murdered.
Despite their general lack of knowledge, 59 percent of survey respondents said they believed something like the Holocaust, which began with propaganda and systemized discrimination against homosexuals, people with mental and physical disabilities, gypsies and others, including Jews, who were deemed a threat to the “German race,” could happen again.
Antisemitism is not merely a historical relic from some distant, more hateful time. The repugnant rise of antisemetic attacks lately in the U.S. shows how this hate continues to fester today, and must continually be recognized and rejected.
If there is good news in the recent survey, it is that Maine was among the top four states in terms of knowledge about the Holocaust. The Holocaust and Human Rights Center, in Augusta, was founded 36 years ago by Gerda Haas, a survivor, with a mission of bringing Holocaust education to Maine schools. Annual teacher training, school visits to the center and its exhibits and survivor visits to school have made a difference. Certainly not everyone in Maine is tolerant of differences, but the state has been a leader in terms of Holocaust knowledge and widespread support for civil rights protections.
This may come as news to a misguided group of white supremacists who are thinking of coming to the state because it is mostly white and has lax gun laws. Our message to them is simple: Maine isn’t the white nationalist haven you mistakenly think it is. Your neo-Nazism is not welcome here. It should not be welcome anywhere.