January 31, 2017
I read these comments on the floor of the House today. I cannot bear Holocaust denial and it breaks my heart that our White House retains some of the loudest deniers in the land.
The news of the immediate closure of America to vetted refugees and immigrants with visas and green cards from seven countries last Friday is serious news, but I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the statement made earlier in the day commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In it, the president pledged to ensure that the powers of evil never again defeat the power of good. Which, in and of itself, is worthy. But in his remarks, the President never once mentioned that the Holocaust was a planned genocide of the Jews in Europe, and never once did he mention the others that were caught in that net — gays, gypsies, dissidents, pacifists, and other so-called social deviants. The administration issued a statement saying they chose to be inclusive, as nearly 5 million other people died during the Holocaust and it was important to signify their deaths as well.
This isn’t revisionism, Madam Speaker. This is technique. We, as legislators, are well aware of the power of words. We argue for hours over the force of law inherent in words like “may” and “shall.” We wield these words as swords, and it is right, because we know arguing over words is safer than using swords against our neighbors.
In the case of the Holocaust, it is wrong to downplay the motivation behind the plan. Saying that neglecting the use of the word “Jew” or the word “antisemitism” is a way to be more inclusive is, in fact, a way to diminish what the Nazi terror was: Jews were targeted, boycotted, stereotyped into animals, hunted, abused, tortured and killed. The leader of the Nazi party, in the beginning of his cleansing campaign, told Germans not to hurt a hair on a Jew’s head. But once they were in a camp, their hair was removed. This plan, scoped out in the few years before the rise to power of the National Socialists, used simple words to fan the flames of hatred, fear and nationalism. And those who opposed those words and those tactics were arrested also, or were forced into exile.
And so, Madam Speaker, I remember the Jews who were murdered in work camps across Europe. I remember the antisemitism that drove it. I remember the xenophobia that existed in this country, when it rejected boats with Jews on them and forced them to return to certain deaths. I remember the gays, and the pacifists, and the gypsies and the others who were murdered in the name of ethnic cleansing. Just as I remember the other genocides that occurred in the 20th century, including in the Soviet Union during and after the war, when Stalin killed 20 million of his own citizens. And just as I remember the rejection of Jews from Britain and Europe and North America immediately after the war.
By diminishing what happened in Germany during the war, Madam Speaker, we allow the planting of the seeds of forgetfulness, and of denial, and of normalization. The Holocaust was a specific campaign against the Jewish people of Europe. When we allow the horror and specificity of that to be “smoothed over”, we begin to know how other atrocities can be normalized.
I cannot let this lapse by the president go unnoticed and unacknowledged, because it is tied directly to the executive order barring legal immigrants entry into our country by fiat. We must notice, we must call it by its name, and we must never accept it.