A senior Republican member of the US Government went to Auschwitz recently as reported in the Daily Beast. Rep. Clay Higgins decided it was perfectly acceptable to record a video blog while standing in the gas chambers where over a million Jews were murdered. Possibly worse, his recorded message revealed a complete lack of understanding of what happened in Nazi Germany, what the Holocaust was about, and what it should have taught us to fear.
Nazi Germany: Fascist xenophobic racist ultra-nationalist state, *not* terrorists
Rep. Higgins was totally wrong to say that the Holocaust in any way implies that nations must become more protective against ‘foreign’ religions and their evils. The lessons from Nazi Germany and the Holocaust are, in fact, exactly the opposite: we must be extremely vigilant regarding ultra-nationalist, xenophobic militarists who preach fear of religious and cultural minorities.
The Nazis claimed that the German people were the greatest nation on Earth, the greatest of all humanity, destined to rule: all others were ‘degraded’ at best, dangerous at worst. They were not terrorists: they were the ruling party in Germany, and their policy was that only ‘true and pure’ Germans belonged. All others were ‘terrorists’ and ‘foreign invaders’.
The Nazi party gathered up ‘impure’ people of all types: Gays, Romani (Gypsies), Poles, people with disabilities, Jehovahs Witnesses, journalists, random people who disagreed with them, and yes, millions of Jews. In their view these people were not true Germans (Arians), and did not deserve to be in the country or, arguably, alive at all. Adolf Hitler and his party convinced the people of Germany that these ‘impure’ races were at the root of all problems: to be feared, hated, identified, tracked, gathered up, expelled, collected in camps … and most ‘efficiently’, murdered in their millions.
The fear and hatred the alt-right promotes is exactly the kind of rhetoric the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (the Nazis) were spouting in the 1920’s. Muslim Americans, and in truth any American who isn’t pure white, are rightly fearful of where this may be heading. Presumably, unlike Rep. Higgins, they studied history and paid closer attention. Learning the lessons history has to offer isn’t really that hard- but it starts with critical thought and honest self-appraisal, something which seems to be in short supply these days.