One key difference between US Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) and the editor-in-chief of the Polish Catholic newspaper Gosc Niedzielny ("Sunday Visitor") appears to be that while the former has apologized for saying that the absence of adequate health care has resulted in a "Holocaust in America," the latter stands by his unseemly comparison of abortion to the annihilation of European Jewry during World War II.
Grayson made his Holocaust analogy on September 30 following his equally controversial remarks the day before that "The Republican health care plan is this: 'Don't get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.'"
Grayson, who is Jewish, has since written to the Florida regional director of the Anti-Defamation League that he did not "mean to minimize the Holocaust," and that "I regret the choice of words, and I will not repeat it."
In contrast, after a Polish judge late last month fined Gosc Niedzielny $11,000 for comparing a woman's desire to have an abortion to medical experiments perpetrated by Nazi war criminals at Auschwitz, and ordered its editor, Father Marek Gancarczyk, and the Katowice Archdiocese as the weekly's publisher, to issue an apology, Gancarczyk defiantly declared "we will continue to voice views which we hold, as our conscience obliges us to."
Gancarczyk is far from alone. Rush Limbaugh's predictable response to the Grayson flap was, "If there is a holocaust in this country, it is abortion."
This past March, Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho of Recife, Brazil, decried abortion as a "silent Holocaust" in his defense of his recent excommunication of doctors who had performed an abortion on a nine-year-old girl who had been raped by her stepfather.
Another hyperzealous pro-life activist, Father Thomas J. Euteneuer, said that billionaire Warren Buffett "will be known as the Dr. Mengele of philanthropy unless he repents" for supporting Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups, referring to the notorious SS doctor who sent thousands of Jews, including my mother's sister, to the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
In 2007, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, then a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, told a conservative Christian audience that "more than a million people... would have been in our workforce had we not had the holocaust of liberalized abortion under a flawed Supreme Court ruling in 1973."
NOR IS such exploitation and trivialization of Holocaust imagery limited to the abortion controversy. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel has long decried the worldwide "general de-sanctification of the Holocaust."
President Ronald Reagan's 1985 description of Nazi soldiers buried in the German military cemeteries at Bitburg as "victims, just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps" was an early milestone in a succession of glib, inappropriate, and historically inaccurate analogies.
Some years ago, PETA circulated an exhibit of posters entitled "Holocaust on Your Plate" that juxtaposed images of animals about to be slaughtered with photographs of Nazi concentration camp inmates. In May 2007, radio talk-show host Glenn Beck mocked efforts to fight global warning by saying, "Al Gore's not going to be rounding up Jews and exterminating them. It is the same tactic, however."
Speaking at a Holocaust commemoration in New York City's Madison Square Garden in April 1985, Dr. Norman Lamm, the president of Yeshiva University, referred to assimilation, the weakening of Jewish identity, and intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews as a "spiritual Holocaust" and a "bloodless Holocaust." "From the point of view of a massive threat to Jewish continuity," he said, "the Holocaust is open-ended." He then proceeded to ask, "Who says that the Holocaust is over?"
And of course, Arab propagandists have a grim history of equating Israeli soldiers to Nazis and Palestinians to Holocaust victims. Never mind that the Israeli soldiers in question are defending civilians from Palestinian rocket attacks. Never mind that Muslim suicide bombers murder innocent men, women and children in the name of a fanatical theology of unfettered hatred.
As Representative Grayson has acknowledged but the likes of Limbaugh, Beck, and Fathers Gancarczyk and Euteneuer have not, using Holocaust terminology and imagery for shock effect or to score political points is offensive, often bordering on the obscene. Comparing a woman's always painful decision to terminate a pregnancy for health reasons to the mass murder of Jews in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka and Majdanek demeans the suffering and brutal deaths of millions, as does even the suggestion that intermarriage bears any relationship whatsoever to Hitler's Final Solution.
The Holocaust was the greatest carnage ever perpetrated. It looms as the epitome of all that is worst in the human condition, and led to the codification of genocide as a crime against humanity. As such, it must be studied so as to prevent future atrocities, not reduced to insensitive, throwaway punch lines.
The writer is general counsel of the World Jewish Congress, adjunct professor of law at Cornell Law School and vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants.