Analysis |

Adding Insult to Injury, Trump Flirts With Classic Holocaust Denial

He excludes Muslim immigrants and expunges Jews from memory but the new president sees himself as 'incredibly inclusive.'

Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
U.S. President Donald Trump in the White House's Oval Office, January 28, 2017.
U.S. President Donald Trump in the White House's Oval Office, January 28, 2017.Credit: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg
Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev

In her book "Denying the Holocaust, the Growing Assault on Truth and Memory" - the one that sparked her famous trial with Holocaust denier David Irving, now featured in the Hollywood film Denial - historian Deborah Lipstadt cites a “Yes, but” attitude of some historians towards the Holocaust. “It is a response that falls into the gray area between outright denial and relativism,” she writes. “It is the equivalent of David Duke without robes.”

The Trump administration’s lame excuse for not mentioning Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday falls into the category of “Yes, but” excuses, but only if one wants to be generous. By less forgiving accounts, the White House is engaged in full-throttle denial of the Holocaust, which includes denying the centrality of Jews. Yes, six million Jews died, but so did many others, according to spokesperson Hope Hicks. “We took into account all of those who suffered,” she told CNN. “We are an incredibly inclusive group.”

>> Get all updates on Trump, Israel and the Jewish World: Download our App, sign up to Breaking News Alerts, and Subscribe >>

Never mind that for the administration to claim it is “incredibly inclusive” on a day that it takes drastic new measures against Muslim refugees and immigrants shows a stupendous lack in self-perception. “Incredibly inclusive,” by the administration’s standards, apparently means blotting out the unique Jewish nature of the Holocaust and of the Final Solution. Even the United Nations, which established the January 27 International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Resolution 60/7 on November 1, 2005 – at the instigation of the Israeli government, among others – was less stingy than the Trump administration. “Reaffirming that the Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of one third of the Jewish people, along with countless members of other minorities, will forever be a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice” the resolution states. By Trump’s standards, the UN is apparently too focused on Jews. It’s not “incredibly inclusive” enough.

But forget the UN. How about just looking up the term “Holocaust” in Wikipedia? ”The Holocaust also known as the Shoah was a genocide in which Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany and its collaborators killed about six million Jews. Some definitions of the Holocaust include the additional five million non-Jewish victims of Nazi mass murders, bringing the total to about 11 million.” Some definitions include the others, but none exclude the Jews - except for the one now being disseminated by the Trump administration.

Visitors to the former Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp in Poland drape themselves in the Israeli flag, May 5, 2016.Credit: Wojtek Radwanski, AFP

The benign explanation for the administration’s “puzzling and troubling” failure to mention Jews in its original Remembrance Day statement, as ADL National Chairman Jonathan Greenblatt noted, together with Hicks’ insistence that it’s the right thing to do is a. The result of plain ignorance b. Testament to the fact that Trump’s people don’t do their homework c. Further evidence, not that any is needed, that, caught making a mistake, Trump will always double down rather than back down and d. Proof that in doing so, he makes things much worse. It’s only a matter of time before Trump blithely accuses the lyin’ media of overhyping the centrality of the Jews in the Holocaust because they’re out to get him.

The more sinister explanation, on the other hand, is that the original Holocaust Day omission and Hicks’ subsequent clarifications were no mistakes at all. Incredible as it may sound – though no less incredible than other steps and statements made during the past week - the Trump White House is engaging in “Yes, but” relativism which, in many eyes, is to flirt with outright Holocaust denial. It certainly comes perilously close to the form of Holocaust denial outlined by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum by which “the Nazis had no official policy or intention to exterminate the Jews."

But there’s also a far more disturbing and sinister explanation. The Holocaust Day incident connects far too many troubling dots, from Trump’s reluctance to disown Holocaust-denier David Duke during the campaign; his mutual admiration society with Patrick Buchanan, who has questioned key historical elements connected to the extermination of Jews; the connection between White House adviser Stephen Bannon and the alt-right movement, which encompasses a stream of white racists who espouse Holocaust denial; Trump’s insistence on using the loaded slogan of America First, which served supporters of Adolf Hitler and opponents of US intervention in the war against him; and Trump’s repeated reluctance to take Jewish protests and sensitivities into account.

Trump’s dismissal of Jewish concerns was already on display last July, when his campaign featured a poster that showed Clinton, piles of dollars and a six-pointed star that Jews said was the Star of David and Trump insisted could also be a sheriff’s star. No less troubling than the original intent behind the poster was Trump’s refusal to consider the perception among Jews that it was anti-Semitic. Many Jews were similarly outraged by the White House’s omission of Jews from its Holocaust Remembrance Day statement, but that made no impression on Trump either: He sent out Hicks to intimate that Jews are parochial exclusionists while the new president is “incredibly inclusive”.

One truly wonders just how long right-wing Jewish supporters of Trump – including his chief cheerleader Benjamin Netanyahu - will look the other way as their preferred president not only tramples American values, as he did in his ban on Syrian refugees and Muslim immigration, but insults Jewish sensitivities and desecrates the memory of the Holocaust. One can’t start to imagine the howls of outrage that the right would have generated had Barack Obama “forgotten” the Jews on Holocaust Day and then covered up his mistake by claiming, in effect, that Jews have no special claim on their own catastrophe. Every day that goes by, Jewish supporters of Trump risk being cast as cowards and hypocrites who sold out their people’s honor in order to preserve their own. Just like Trump himself.

Screen grab of Donald Trump's tweet of an image of Hillary Clinton with the words "Most Corrupt Candidate Ever" on a Star of David-like form. July 2, 2016.Credit: Twitter

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN


בנימין נתניהו השקת ספר

Netanyahu’s Israel Is About to Slam the Door on the Diaspora

עדי שטרן

Head of Israel’s Top Art Academy Leads a Quiet Revolution

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

Skyscrapers in Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv.

Israel May Have Caught the Worst American Disease, New Research Shows

ג'אמיל דקוור

Why the Head of ACLU’s Human Rights Program Has Regrets About Emigrating From Israel


Netanyahu’s Election Win Dealt a Grievous Blow to Judaism