Academics slam U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for condemning use of Shoah analogies

On Tuesday morning, the scholars – which include academics from France, Canada, the US and the UK – penned an open letter calling on the museum to retract the statement.

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July 4, 2019 00:33
3 minute read.
Academics slam U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for condemning use of Shoah analogies

Tower of Faces at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)

Hundreds of historians and scholars from across the globe have criticized the US Holocaust Memorial Museum for its response following US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks, in which she compared migrant detention camps on the United States’ southern border to Nazi-era “concentration camps” during an Instagram Live with her followers last month.

Following her comments, the museum said that it “unequivocally rejects efforts to create analogies between the Holocaust and other events, whether historical or contemporary.”

On Tuesday morning, the scholars – which include academics from France, Canada, the US and the UK – penned an open letter calling on the museum to retract the statement.

“We are deeply concerned about the Museum’s recent ‘Statement Regarding the Museum’s Position on Holocaust Analogies,’” the academics said, adding that by making such comments the “Holocaust Museum is taking a radical position that is far removed from mainstream scholarship on the Holocaust and genocide.

“And it makes learning from the past almost impossible,” the letter states.

The letter, which was addressed to the leadership of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum explained that 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.”

The scholars charged that they were also supporters of the museum, many of whom said they “teach the Holocaust at our universities, and have drawn on the museum’s online resources.”

The museum’s statement, the letter said, “has the potential to inflict severe damage” on its “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 scholars went on to say that “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.”

“Looking beyond the academic context,” the signatories said, “we are well aware of the many distortions and inaccuracies, intentional or not, that frame contemporary discussions of the Holocaust.”

They added that they are not only scholars, but “global citizens who participate in public discourse, as does the museum as an institution, and its staff.

“We therefore consider it essential that the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum reverse its position on careful historical analysis and comparison,” they stressed.

The letter concluded with hope that the museum will continue “to help scholars establish the Holocaust’s significance as an event from which the world must continue to learn.”

In the Instagram video last month, Ocasio-Cortez said that the “United States is running concentration camps on our southern border.”

“That is exactly what they are: they are concentration camps and if that doesn’t bother you, then [I don’t know],” she said as she gestured, adding that she was speaking to those who “are concerned enough with humanity to say that ‘Never Again’ means something and... that concentration camps are now an institutionalized practice in the Home of the Free [the United States].”

“Never Again” is a common phrase used when pledging to never allow the atrocities experienced in the Holocaust to occur again.

“We need to do something about it,” she told her viewers. “This is not just about the immigrant communities being held in concentration camps, it’s a crisis of if America will remain America in its actual principles and values.”

Following major backlash from several Jewish groups and politicians, as well as a call from House GOP leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy for the congresswoman to apologize for her remarks, Ocasio-Cortez took to Twitter several days later to defend her actions.

“I will never apologize for calling these camps what they are,” she said. “If that makes you uncomfortable, fight the camps - not the nomenclature.”


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