A weekend protest in the office of a state assembly member is not new.
But this one was different, from the man wearing a yellow star to the woman holding up signs with phrases like the “Nuremberg Code” and “Crimes against humanity” and, most disturbingly, images of a swastika.
What could be so monstrous, so reprehensible, to be the target of hateful comparisons to the atrocities of the Holocaust when six million Jews and millions of others were brutally executed?
The Bronx demonstration was just the latest ugly example. Anti-vaccine and anti-mandate protesters have carried yellow stars at government meetings in Kansas, Missouri and elsewhere. A state representative in Maine compared the state governor to Josef Mengele, the Auschwitz physician who carried out heinous, often fatal experiments on some Jewish prisoners and sent others directly to the gas chamber.
And early in the pandemic, protesters in Germany used the yellow star to protest COVID-related shutdowns – and the potential of a vaccine. Their sign proclaimed “Vaccine makes free?” or “Vaccination will set you free?”, a shocking version of the phrase that hung over Auschwitz’s gates – “Arbeit macht frei” or “Work will set you free.”
When a difference of opinion on a subject like vaccination turns into a dangerous false equivalence with no real basis, devoid of morality and bent in anti-Semitic tropics, it becomes impossible to discuss the underlying problem with reasonableness. Where do you go from there?
The Bronx protest was targeted at Assemb. Jeffrey Dinowitz, for sponsoring a bill that would require children to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to go to school. The bill will only come into force after the vaccine for children, now approved under “emergency use”, has received full approval, a step likely still months away. Leading the protest was Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino, who has since claimed he did not know about the exhibits around him.
Dinowitz is a Jew. And yes, it does matter in this story, especially since Dinowitz has faced more anti-Semitic vitriol since.
If there is any doubt, let us be clear: there is no comparison between COVID-19 vaccine mandates and Nazi Germany’s systematic efforts to exterminate the Jewish people and others. Any such connection is a heinous anti-Semitic act that minimizes the horrors of the Holocaust. And while I would rather not give it more mention because that’s what protesters are looking for, it does require our reaction and our indignation.
There is no valid connection from COVID-19 vaccine mandates to the Nuremberg Laws, which decreed that Jews were no longer German citizens; to the destruction of synagogues and other property during Crystal Night, which happened 83 years ago this month; to the concentration and death camps; or to Mengele’s terrible work. Nor is there an appropriate use of the yellow stars Jews were forced to wear, an emblem intended not only to separate them but to target them for deportation and death.
A safe, effective vaccine that has been tested and tested that protects us from a pandemic that has killed more than 760,000 people nationwide and that is not given to us against our will is not a Mengele experiment. To encourage adults and children to get the vaccine is not to march them to a gas chamber. Issuing a necessary mandate is not a Nuremberg Code. And no one systematically separates people with the intent to kill them.
80 years ago, Nazi Germany destroyed millions of lives.
Today, the vaccine saves millions of lives.
There is no comparison.
Columnist Randi F. Marshall’s opinions are her own.
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