People against vaccines and masks have recently compared the government mandates to the Holocaust. As a Jewish student whose family died in that horrific tragedy, I, like many others, am angered and shocked by these offensive comparisons.
Anti-semitism, in simple terms, is the prejudice or hatred of Jews and has always been around. As a result of the last presidency, where hate toward people who are different was deemed OK, it has become even more prominent.
People have been seen at anti-vax rallies wearing a yellow Star of David with phrases like “Not Vaxxed” or “Anti- Vax.” This is an allusion to the yellow Star of David with the word “Jude” on it that Nazis forced Jews wear in all the countries they occupied during the war. On social media, you can see people making and selling these stars.
This is a ridiculous comparison. Jews were forced to wear those stars to identify that they were below being even a second-class citizen; it was a symbol of oppression meant to humiliate them. It let others know it was OK to treat them poorly and separate them from the rest of society. Seeing these stars must be incredibly painful for the remaining Holocaust survivors who are still alive today.
People who are unvaccinated are making a conscious choice, one that can be changed, which is something the Jewish people couldn’t do. Some will make the argument that the unvaccinated are being discriminated against by not being allowed to attend a Broadway show or go to a club, but their decision is putting the health of people around them at risk. These people aren’t being discriminated against for who they are.
Another instance of this absurd comparison being made was by a professor at the University of Pittsburgh. In early February, while teaching a class, the professor said that wearing a mask was like being gassed in Auschwitz, the largest Nazi concentration camp. This is completely unacceptable: people were beaten, starved and murdered in the camps – 1.1 million Jews were killed in Auschwitz alone. Wearing a mask is not death.
A major issue is that politicians and public figures make these awful comparisons as well. On Jan. 4 Robert F Kennedy Jr. was speaking at an anti-vax rally and said, “Even in Hitler Germany (sic) , you could, you could cross the Alps into Switzerland. You could hide in an attic, like Anne Frank did.”
First of all this statement is inaccurate, Anne Frank and her family hid in a small attic for over two years, unable to move during the day for fear of being discovered, in the Netherlands not Germany. She and her family were eventually found and sent to a concentration camp where they died, the only survivor being her father.
Along with being inaccurate, this statement is incredibly offensive and anti-Semitic. Comparing Anne Frank’s life and death to the choice to get vaccinated and contribute to stopping the spread of a global pandemic is minimizing the trauma, humiliation, fear and death of millions.
As a Jewish person, I take comments like this personally. As the great-grandaughter of a Holocaust survivor, I am infuriated and disgusted by them. My great-grandmother lost her entire family in the Holocaust, and my grandmother grew up with no family other than her parents and sister.
It is difficult to put into words how passionate I am about this issue, but the Auschwitz Memorial articulates it better than I can. They responded to Kennedy Jr. via Twitter saying, “Exploiting of the tragedy of people who suffered, were humiliated, tortured and murdered by the totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany – including children like Anne Frank – in a debate about vaccines and limitations during global pandemic is a sad symptom of moral and intellectual decay.”