Last month, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum put out a press release criticizing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for using the term “concentration camps” to refer to the detention of migrants in horrific conditions at the U.S. border. The museum wrote in the statement that it “unequivocally rejects efforts to create analogies between the Holocaust and other events, whether historical or contemporary.”
Now, over 140 experts on the Holocaust and genocide have written an open letter to the museum, published in the New York Review of Books, urging the museum to reconsider their dumb as hell take on the controversy.
“We are deeply concerned about the Museum’s recent ‘Statement Regarding the Museum’s Position on Holocaust Analogies.’ We write this public letter to urge its retraction,” the academics wrote.
“By ‘unequivocally rejecting efforts to create analogies between the Holocaust and other events, whether historical or contemporary,’ the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is taking a radical position that is far removed from mainstream scholarship on the Holocaust and genocide,” they continue. “And it makes learning from the past almost impossible.”
The letter continues:
The Museum’s decision to completely reject drawing any possible analogies to the Holocaust, or to the events leading up to it, is fundamentally ahistorical. It has the potential to inflict severe damage on the Museum’s ability to continue its role as a credible, leading global institution dedicated to Holocaust memory, Holocaust education, and research in the field of Holocaust and genocide studies. The very core of Holocaust education is to alert the public to dangerous developments that facilitate human rights violations and pain and suffering; pointing to similarities across time and space is essential for this task.
Sounds about right!
Since Ocasio-Cortez’s comments refocused attention on the camps, report after report has found atrocious, inhumane conditions for the people held there. Many children were removed from one McAllen, TX facility after the conditions inside were brought to light, and the head of Customs and Border Protection was forced to resign. Today, Ocasio-Cortez herself was able to visit one of these facilities and found migrants were forced to drink out of toilets.
It’s good to see researchers and scholars coming together to push back on the ridiculous position of the Holocaust Museum, but it’s baffling that this should be such a contentious issue in the first place. As we wrote last month, by refusing to acknowledge the incremental steps that led to the Holocaust, we exponentially increase the danger of repeating it.