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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Don’t Trivialize The Holocaust

Some Vanderbilt students are planning an immigration protest with Never Again Action. However, it is deeply disrespectful to compare U.S. immigration policy to the Nazi genocide.
Vanderbilt University. (Photo courtesy Claire Barnett)
Vanderbilt University. (Photo courtesy Claire Barnett)

I’ve recently heard, through a combination of individual students, Instagram stories and GroupMe messages, that several Vanderbilt students are working alongside a group called Never Again Action to organize an anti-U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) protest in a few weeks.

On a normal day, I’d applaud my fellow students for using their free time to rally around an issue about which they feel passionate, even if I don’t particularly agree with them. I happen to support immigration enforcement for security, economic and ethical reasons, but I digress – open political dialogue remains a crucial component of our democracy even if I think open borders should not.

However, these are not normal days, and I feel the need to speak out against this event. The premise of this protest is crude and offensive, and I cannot sit idly by while this event permeates throughout my newsfeed and my community.

Allow me to explain.

My primary issue with this protest – and with Never Again Action as a whole – is its callous and irresponsible deployment of Holocaust remembrance rhetoric to advance political goals. In particular, the protest’s official Facebook event equates the #abolishICE movement with a fight against “fascism” and another Holocaust. More notably, Never Again Action’s national website states, “What the U.S. government is doing at the border and in immigrant communities all around the country is nothing short of a mass atrocity… As Jews, we were taught to never let anything like the Holocaust happen again… Never again is now.”

Herein lies the issue: it is deeply problematic to compare the immigration policies of presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama (yes, the Obama administration also utilized ICE and detention camps to enforce immigration law) to the genocidal policies of someone as evil as Adolf Hitler. Bernie Faber, a progressive Canadian human rights advocate, put it best in a 2012 blog post about comparing current events to the Nazi genocide: “There can be no comparison… The attempt to annihilate an entire people is beyond such facile analogies and any attempt to do so sadly trivializes the act of genocide.”

Of course, there are valid discussions to be had about immigration policy. There have indeed been troubling reports of poor conditions in some detention centers, and I understand arguments both in favor of and against deporting illegal immigrants from the United States. However, to resort to Holocaust analogies in order to debate a nuanced issue diminishes both the quality of our current discourse and the memory of the millions who were dehumanized, abused and murdered.

Not only are these analogies disrespectful – they are also woefully inaccurate. Even some of the most progressive voices in the country agree that Holocaust comparisons are extreme. More importantly, many of the most prominent institutions for Holocaust commemoration, research and anti-Semitism awareness – including the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and The Simon Wiesenthal Center for human rights in Los Angeles – have gone on the record to speak out against such rhetoric.

It is also important to note that this rhetoric can have dangerous consequences. Although media coverage was sparse, just last month a member of the extremist left-wing group “Antifa”  attempted to murder ICE agents in Tacoma, Washington because he was convinced it was his duty to stop another Holocaust. He thought he was an anti-Nazi freedom fighter – precisely the image that Never Again Action paints with its fearmongering. 

Initially, I was tempted to start this piece with something along the lines of, “As a Jewish person with family members who both perished in and survived the Holocaust, I feel…” However, I decided against that, for one simple reason: this is not an issue of feeling. Rather, it is an issue of fact.

Simply put, there is no U.S. government plan to exterminate millions of human beings. Full stop. Our detention centers, as imperfect as they may be, are not concentration camps, where Jews, other minorities and dissidents were kept as slaves and starved to death. Full stop. And although our president’s rhetoric surrounding the immigration issue may sound uncomfortable at times, it is nowhere near the level of the Nazi propaganda that depicted Jews as subhumans who needed to be exterminated. Full stop.

Even though I said I wouldn’t discuss my personal feelings, I will leave you with this thought, just in case it resonates more than anything else I’ve said: It is deeply, deeply hurtful when you imply that I, as a supporter of border security and the rule of law, am no better than the enablers of the tyrannical regime that murdered my own family members. 

Jared Bauman is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected].

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Comments (5)

The Vanderbilt Hustler welcomes and encourages readers to engage with content and express opinions through the comment sections on our website and social media platforms. The Hustler reserves the right to remove comments that contain vulgarity, hate speech, personal attacks or that appear to be spam, commercial promotion or impersonation. The comment sections are moderated by our Editor-in-Chief, Rachael Perrotta, and our Social Media Director, Chloe Postlewaite. You can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected].
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William T. King III
2 years ago

A great piece of journalism!

Kevin Chase Franklin
4 years ago

When people are forcibly removed from their homes and put into camps where they die that should absolutely provoke outrage. #neveragain indeed

Hannah Bruns
4 years ago

It seems to me that you have not had enough time to thoroughly research this topic (I truly hope that is the only reason you made so many misinformed and problematic statements throughout this article), so I am going to help you out. Firstly, you lump together the ways in which President Obama used ICE and how President Trump used ICE. Even though they both deported illegal immigrants and operated detention centers, never under the Obama presidency did children go missing, claimed to be sexually abused, or even die while in ICE custody. While it is the natural reflex of most Americans to blame the closest person of color for anything possible in this country, the reality is that Donald Trump, and no other president, is responsible for the multiple deaths of immigrants in detention centers. Secondly, to say that “there have indeed been troubling reports of poor conditions in some detention centers” when it is proven fact that at least 24 people have died in ICE custody is repulsive. How dare you equate “poor conditions” to the deaths of actual human beings. Lastly, you claim that President Trump does not confidently boast dehumanizing rhetoric surrounding immigration. If calling South American immigrants rapists and criminals and equating their quest for a safer life to an invasion isn’t dehumanizing, I don’t know what is; white people have been dehumanizing brown people since the beginning of this country, this is no different. Trump has even gone as far as refusing to condemn a woman who shouted “Shoot them!” (referring to immigrants) at one of his rallies. I don’t expect you to understand this, but to millions of immigrants in this country, legal or illegal, his words are frightening and genuinely make them fear for their lives. You could have proven your overarching premise about comparing today’s immigration crisis with the Holocaust (which I agree with) without making so many inaccurate claims. Shame on you for writing such an out of touch, problematic, un-researched and ignorant article, and shame on the Hustler for publishing it.

Carla Van Walsum PhD
4 years ago

Jared, thank you for writing this great article. Technically spoken, comparisons NEVER serve the truth, because there is no situation really the same. Comparisons are made solely for not SEEKING the truth, but winning a point. Unfortunately so many on the left choose the Holocaust as a tool to misuse and to gain support for their opinion. DISGUSTING. The same happens when Trump got compared with Hitler. Also disgusting. It all comes down to “I am a better person than you” and therefor I may say – and do – what ever I think is right. That’s totally the opposite of righteous, respect and honesty. I am very disappointed in Jews who use those tactics. It is great that you stand up against this. You might like to look onto Candice Owens.

Kayley R
4 years ago

As a Jew and future rabbi, I wish Jews were more outraged about immigration policy than semantics. This is rhetoric WE are using within our community to spur action. Yes, it is hurtful when non-Jewish people use the rhetoric because they don’t know our history. WE know our history and that is why using this rhetoric is an appropriate and effective tool for getting our extended community to DO something.