White House press sec­re­tary man­gles Holo­caust his­tory

The Commercial Appeal - - Letters& Commentary - HE­LENE SINNREICH

Seventy two years ago, on April 12, 1945, Dwight D. Eisen­hower, who was at that time the Supreme Com­man­der of the Al­lied Forces in Europe, vis­ited Buchen­wald con­cen­tra­tion camp. Eisen­hower stated, “I made the visit de­lib­er­ately, in or­der to be in a po­si­tion to give first-hand ev­i­dence of these things if ever, in the fu­ture, there de­vel­ops a ten­dency to charge these al­le­ga­tions merely to “pro­pa­ganda.”

Eisen­hower was so im­pacted by his visit to Buchen­wald that he re­quested that con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tions and se­lect media be sent to doc­u­ment the atroc­i­ties that took place.

Seventy two years af­ter the Amer­i­cans first lib­er­ated Buchen­wald Con­cen­tra­tion camp, the White House has for­got­ten the atroc­i­ties car­ried out by Hitler’s regime. They have even for­got­ten the words con­cen­tra­tion camp. They have made a mock­ery of the im­per­a­tive to “Never For­get!” by not even re­mem­ber the term con­cen­tra­tion camps on the an­niver­sary of the lib­er­a­tion of Buchen­wald.

White House Press Sec­re­tary Sean Spicer er­ro­neously claimed that Hitler did not use chem­i­cal weapons. Hitler and the Nazi regime killed many peo­ple with poi­son gas in con­cen­tra­tion camps, in “eu­thana­sia cen­ters,”, and in mo­bile gassing ve­hi­cles which trav­eled to towns.

Given an op­por­tu­nity to clar­ify, Spicer claimed that Hitler did not kill his own peo­ple. How­ever, the first peo­ple gassed by Hitler and the Nazi regime were Ger­man cit­i­zens who were killed be­cause they were phys­i­cally or in­tel­lec­tu­ally dis­abled.

The Nazis also killed many other Ger­mans with poi­son gas be­cause they were Jews, or be­cause they were Roma (Gyp­sies) or any other cat­e­gory of per­son that the Nazis deemed un­wor­thy of life. To claim they were not Ger­mans is to deny their hu­man­ity, once again com­pound­ing the crimes of the Nazis against them.

The Nazi regime im­ple­mented a racial pol­icy which sought to de­fine some Ger­mans as “real Ger­mans” while strip­ping oth­ers in­clud­ing those of dif­fer­ent re­li­gious back­ground or “ge­netic” at­tributes to not be real Ger­mans. In some cases, this even in­cluded tak­ing away their cit­i­zen­ship. Most detri­men­tally it in­cluded tak­ing their lives. In stat­ing that Hitler did not kill his own peo­ple, he seemed to in­di­cate that he agreed with the Nazi stance that the vic­tims of the regime – some who them­selves fought for Ger­many in the first world war - were some­how not Ger­mans.

The vic­tims of the Nazi gas chambers were Hitler’s peo­ple and should have been pro­tected by him, not killed by him. Atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted against civil­ian pop­u­la­tions are heinous acts. Death by gassing is a ter­ri­ble way to die. Sarin gas which was used against the Syr­i­ans was de­vel­oped by the Nazis ini­tially as a pes­ti­cide and then when its po­tency to­wards hu­mans was ac­ci­den­tally re­al­ized, as a chem­i­cal weapon.

Zyk­lon, which was used widely in the gas chambers of the Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camps, also be­gan as a pes­ti­cide which was used against peo­ple. It is im­por­tant that we as a so­ci­ety re­mem­ber what hu­man be­ings are ca­pa­ble of do­ing to each other. One need not be worse than Hitler to have en­gaged in ter­ri­ble crimes against hu­man­ity.

The apology is­sued by the White House was for mak­ing com­par­isons be­tween Hitler and As­sad. How­ever, the real tragedy and shame is that such a prom­i­nent mem­ber of the ad­min­is­tra­tion demon­strated such a to­tal ig­no­rance about the Holo­caust on the very an­niver­sary of the lib­er­a­tion of Buchen­wald by US forces.

He­lene Sinnreich is di­rec­tor of the Fern and Man­fred Ste­in­feld Pro­gram of Ju­daic Stud­ies at Univer­sity of Ten­nessee at Knoxville.


White House press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer pauses while talk­ing to the media dur­ing the daily press brief­ing at the White House in Wash­ing­ton, Tues­day.

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