Opinion

Welcome to the Holocaust Center

Spicer's ignorance and Le Pen's denial show the need to preserve every detail about that enterprise of evil

White House spokesman Sean Spicer's 'Holocaust centers.'
Amos Biderman

Hitler has become a hot topic recently. Even during the U.S. election campaign, American historians were pointing out similarities between the unique circumstances that enabled both Hitler and Donald Trump to rise to power, including by closing deals with conservative partners on the basis of shared goals. And now, after the fact, redoubled scrutiny is being given to the nationalist politicians in Europe, first and foremost Marine Le Pen, who are trying to replicate their success.

Therefore, the comments by White House spokesman Sean Spicer and those by the leader of Frances National Front, both of which woke sleeping ghosts, did an excellent service to Holocaust remembrance, just a few days before Holocaust Remembrance Day. The ignorance displayed by Spicer, and Le Pens refusal to admit the role her country played in serving the Nazi occupation by rounding up Jews to deport them to the death camps in 1942, constitute weighty arguments in favor of the need to preserve every detail of recorded history about that enterprise of evil.

The reactions ranged from pathos to wisecracks. The New York Daily Mail, for instance, chose to blazon a picture of survivors peering out from behind a barbed-wire fence on its front page, along with the caption, Nazis murdered 2.7 million Jews in death camps, gassing 6,000 a day in Auschwitz alone, but victims were forgotten by White House.

Jews, in contrast, opted for humor. Immediately after Spicers remarks, which limited the Nazis crimes to Holocaust centers, and even more so after he tried to explain himself and correct the impression he made and ended up digging himself deeper into the mire, social media wags went hyperactive, offering gas ovens for sale at end-of-season prices at Holocaust Center. Even the mufti of Jerusalem made a comeback, with many people mentioning Benjamin Netanyahus assertion that the mufti convinced Hitler to exterminate the Jews, which to this day is hard for any rational person to digest.

But laughter aside, this is deadly serious. The use Spicer made of the semantics of the macabre, strewn with both linguistic errors (Holocaust centers) and factual ones (even Hitler didnt use gas), alongside simple ignorance (okay, maybe Hitler used gas, but not against his own countrymen), raises deep suspicions that hes getting his information on the subject from the extreme right-wing websites liked by his boss.

Millions of people were beaten, burned, poisoned with gas, starved and sent on death marches, and I know this thanks to the written and photographic evidence and the testimony of survivors. Nevertheless, the gutter rhetoric of Holocaust deniers, which circulates on social media, peeks out from beneath the remarks made innocently by the American presidents spokesman and reveals just how explosive, popular and dangerous this anti-Semitic material is, and to what degree it permeates the view of reality held by those who have been exposed to it.

Marine Le Pen herself complained, in that same controversial statement, that French children lean only the dark parts of their countrys history, adding that she wants to return to being proud of her country (just as Hitler wanted an awakening and Trump wanted to make America great again).

The connection between Le Pens nationalist way of thinking, which brims with ethnic hatred, and Spicers public slip reaffirms just how vital the daily battle against the racist radical rights deliberate genetic engineering of the facts actually is. So perhaps next week, it would be better to dispense with the trend of alternative memorial ceremonies, and the collective yawn roused by the need to remember, and return to the obedient, orthodox path of repeating the facts and reciting the testimony.