The United States Holocaust museum issued a statement Monday, calling on Americans to confront hate speech.
“The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is deeply alarmed at the hateful rhetoric at a conference of white nationalists held on November 19 at the Ronald Reagan Building just blocks from the Museum.
According to press reports, Richard Spencer, the leader of the National Policy Institute—a white nationalist think tank—that sponsored the conference, made several direct and indirect references to Jews and other minorities, often alluding to Nazism. He spoke in German to quote Nazi propaganda and refer to the mainstream media. He implied that the media was protecting Jewish interests and said, “One wonders if these people are people at all?” He said that America belongs to white people. His statement that white people face a choice of “conquer or die” closely echoes Adolf Hitler’s view of Jews and that history is a racial struggle for survival.
The targeting of Jews was central to Nazi racist ideology. The Germans attempted to kill every Jewish man, woman, and child they could find. Nazi racism extended to other groups. By the end of World War II, the Germans and their collaborators had murdered 6 million Jews and millions of other innocent civilians, many of whom were targeted for racial reasons.
The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words. The Museum calls on all American citizens, our religious and civic leaders, and the leadership of all branches of the government to confront racist thinking and divisive hateful speech.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, a living memorial to the Holocaust, inspires citizens and leaders to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by donors nationwide. Learn more at ushmm.org.
[Photo: courtesy of U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Visitors to the Museum pass under this gate, a cast taken from the original entrance to the Auschwitz death camp, inscribed with the ironic phrase Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Makes One Free).]