I am without question the most chilled out guy I have ever met. I am easy going, and it takes a lot to make me mad. However, there is one thing that repeatedly angers me: When some uneducated ignoramus– sometimes well intentioned, sometimes not– foolishly talks about, or compares something to the Holocaust. Most recently, Whoopie Goldberg made headlines when declaring the Holocaust was not about race, but simple white on white crime. This, despite the fact that Hitler referred to us as, “race-tuberculosis of the peoples,” who needed to be eradicated. Despite our light complexion, the Jews were not included in the pure Aryan race, but were rather referred to as parasites that needed to be exterminated.
People from both extremes of the spectrum often seem to feel no shame in invoking the Holocaust. On my burgeoning TikTok account, (follow @therealtiktokrabbi for life changing content), I recently posted a video that I actually wrote about on these pages. On the post, which features us singing about our faith in G-d, and our faith in the coming of our Moshiach, someone posted these words of wisdom: “Funny how everyone says never again but history repeats itself and u build a wall around Palestinians. Hypocrites.” Another fellow reminded me, “Just remember the Palestinian.” Then there was this gem: “same people that live in 🇮🇱 now have become what they hate🤷May they stop using Holocaust as shield for action and stop shame memory of dead.”
This is just downright grotesque and offensive.
But it’s not just coming from the folks on the far left. Various articles recently surfaced about anti-vaxxers in Kansas, and New York sporting yellow stars, and swastikas at rallies against mask and vaccine mandates, comparing the government imposing these mandates to the Nazis. This is, of course, insane.
I recently got back from a ten day, exceedingly transformative trip to Poland. We walked the Himmel Strauss in Treblinka– the same miserable path that 850,000 Jews walked on their way to the gas chambers.
We stood in a gas chamber in Auschwitz, in which over 1 million Jews were murdered, and where you could still see the scratch marks on the walls.
We saw Majdanek, and the ashes of the 59,000 Jews piled up as a testament to what happened.
We stood in Chelmno, where over 150,000 Jews were stuffed like sardines into gas vans, poisoned by carbon monoxide, and then dumped in mass graves. The ground, however, did not receive their bodies properly, and we dug up bone fragment from beneath the snowy surface, and gave these lofty souls a proper Jewish burial.
We stood in the forest in Wolbrom, overlooking the mass graves in which Jews were buried alive, and then shot by the Nazi murderous monsters.
So, perhaps with that background, one can see why I get just a little bit fussy when people compare something– anything– to the Holocaust.
The Holocaust has no comparison. That reality does not undermine the fact that groups of people across the world sometimes suffer. They do.
We fervently pray to G-d that nothing remotely similar to the Holocaust should ever happen again, to anyone.
And until it does–G-d forbid– lets just hold off on the Holocaust comparisons.
Well put Rabbi Wolfe!
I know well about these trips; I have never been (I think I would fall apart).
Recently, I was describing to a friend how I was when I learned about the holocaust. I was not ok. I had nightmares and couldn’t sleep; I cried in class (yea in front of my entire class as the sole Jew at this Colorado public school I’m broomfield). I couldn’t understand why I was the only one upset.
My mom was the only one who helped. She said it was ok to cry. It’s ok to cry. Crying is normal; it means your human. She even told me it was better my classmates see me crying. About the fact that I couldn’t sleep. I was so sad that all of these people were made to suffer and die. She told me to live. Live for all of those who weren’t allowed to.
It took my two years to gather the wherewithal to read the diary of Anne frank. Night was so hard to read.
I almost made it through yad vashem without breaking down until I got to the symbolic graveyard. I started bawling uncontrollably. As I slowly walked up the ramp to the exit, one of my brothers (fellow Jew on birthright who I had just met a couple days before), hugged me and we walked out together towards the light and to the thriving modern Jerusalem.
I think some holocaust comparisons are just made by people who no nothing about it OR for some reason some people think that holocaust is the same as prejudice or equivalent to some of the actions the nazis did during the holocaust not the totality together. The nazis, singled Jews (and other groups such as homosexuals and the Romani) out as undesirables, made laws specifically targeted to make their lives more difficult, then forced them to give up their homes, stole from them, destroyed their businesses and made them move to ghettos where food was made extremely scarce because goods couldn’t flow in and out of the ghetto (they starved the people inside), they sent them to do harsh labor and anyone who couldn’t do so was killed, even if you survived and could do labor, you were at risk of being indiscriminately killed, exposed to extreme cold and unhygienic living conditions. The people the nazis targeted were intentionally and systematically dehumanized until many many of them were killled unceremoniously and in an assembly line fashion.
Have there been other genocides in history? Yes
Have their been other discriminatory laws? Yes
Have there been ghettos, famine and blockades that cause starvation and death? Yes
Have people been in humanely treated, abused, worked to death and subjected to unethical medical experiments? Yes
At what point is there enough of these actions to equate to the holocaust? I am not sure but I wager it needs to be more than just one of these.
Furthermore, we can say what actions should never even be in the same category. Public safety measures are designed to protect people not dehumanize, hurt them and push them towards death.