U.S. Holocaust Museum Calls on Government to Protect Refugees Regardless of Religion

Museum issues second statement in two days contradicting, whether purposely or not, actions and directives coming from White House.

A woman lights a memorial candle during an International Holocaust Remembrance Day Commemoration at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., January 27, 2017.
SAUL LOEB/AFP

WASHINGTON D.C. - The Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. published a statement on Tuesday evening regarding U.S. policy towards refugees, which, while it didn't directly mention President Trump's latest executive order on the issue, called on the American government to protect refugees without any discrimination based on nationality or religion. In light of Trump's decision to ban refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, and the claims that this ban is in fact aimed at keeping Muslims out of America, the statement by the museum can be seen as criticizing the current administration's policy

"The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is acutely aware of the consequences to the millions of Jews who were unable to flee Nazism," the statement reads. "The Museum continues to have grave concerns about the global refugee crisis and our response to it. During the 1930s and 1940s, the United States, along with the rest of the world, generally refused to admit Jewish refugees from Nazism due to anti-Semitic and xenophobic attitudes, harsh economic conditions, and national security fears."

Connecting this dark chapter in history to recent events, the statement explains that "In our view, there are many legitimate refugees fleeing the Assad regime’s sustained campaign of crimes against humanity and the genocidal acts perpetrated by ISIS against the Yazidis, Christians, and other religious minorities." 

The statement added that "American policy should fully address national security concerns while protecting legitimate refugees whatever their national or religious identity." 

The current administration's executive order, signed by Trump on Friday, strictly keeps refugees from Syria, Iraq, Yemen and other war-torn countries out of the U.S., so far without providing any exemptions. Some administration officials have said that the U.S. will focus on assisting Christian refugees from Syria and Iraq to immigrate, leading the order's critics to say that it is in fact an unconstitutional religious ban against Muslims. 

This is the second statement issued by the museum within a span of two days that contradicted, whether purposely or not, actions and statements coming from the White House. On Monday, the museum published a statement commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which said that while "millions of other innocent civilians" were murdered during the Holocaust, "the elimination of Jews was central" to the acts of Nazi Germany. The statement also said that "Nazi ideology cast the world as a racial struggle, and the singular focus on the total destruction of every Jewish person was at its racist core."

The White House has been embroiled in a controversy over these well-established truths since last Friday, when the president released a statement on the Holocaust that omitted any mention of the Jewish people or anti-Semitism. Facing attacks from Jewish groups, including right-wing organizations that supported Trump during the election, the White House has refused to apologize for the statement, instead doubling down on it and insisting that it didn't specifically refer to Jews because many others were also killed during the Holocaust.

In this regard, the museum's statement warned that "an accurate understanding of this history is critical if we are to learn its lessons and honor its victims."