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Point of View: The hurtful use of Holocaust analogies

Roberta Clark
Roberta Clark

Last week at a Broken Arrow City Council meeting, a resident decided to use Holocaust imagery, including images of Anne Frank and photographs of the corpses of Nazi concentration camp victims, as a way of expressing her view that COVID-19 mask mandates restrict individual rights. She drew an analogy between mask mandates and Jews being forced to wear yellow Stars of David during the Holocaust.

Regardless of the intent from the speaker, such analogies always have a hurtful impact to Holocaust survivors, families of those murdered in the Holocaust, loved ones of those who risked their lives to save Jews and loved ones of liberators. The goal of the Holocaust was to kill all Jews; 6 million were murdered simply because of who they were. While killing Jews was the purpose of the Holocaust, millions of others were murdered because they were sympathetic to the Jewish people or for their own immutable characteristics. To compare the actions taken by Nazi Germany to a public health discussion is ill-informed and inappropriate.

Whatever one’s opinion on mask wearing may be, the intent of these discussions throughout the state and around the world is to help keep people from contracting or transmitting a deadly disease. It is sad and ironic that anyone would draw an analogy from the largest recorded genocide in the 20th century with public health attempts to save lives.

The Broken Arrow woman had her free speech moment and I understand that the city must create that space for their citizens. Free speech, however, does not mean freedom from critiques of said speech. I hope the good people of Broken Arrow will use their free speech rights to express, respectfully, why Holocaust analogies are not appropriate ways to express dissent with current discussions around mask mandates or any other issues.

The United Nations General Assembly designated Jan. 27, marking the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This annual commemoration serves to remind each of us of how the impact of hatred can poison minds, fueling hateful and dangerous behaviors which all too often leading to vandalism, harassment, physical attacks and murder.

Let us each strive to learn from the atrocities of the Holocaust by treating each person with dignity and respect — when we agree and especially when we disagree.

Clark is executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City.