U.S. lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. compared public health policies to Nazi-era repression at an anti-vaccine mandate protest in Washington on Sunday, claiming that Americans have less chance of escaping persecution than the victims of Nazism did.
“Even in Hitler’s Germany you could cross the Alps into Switzerland. You could hide in an attic like Anne Frank did,” he said, addressing several thousand attendees on the National Mall during a rally called Defeat the Mandates.
His comment was widely criticized, with the Auschwitz Memorial tweeting in response: “Exploiting the tragedy of people who suffered, were humiliated, tortured and murdered by the totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany – including children like Anne Frank – in a debate about vaccines and limitations during a global pandemic is a sad symptom of moral and intellectual decay.”
Kennedy, the nephew of President John F. Kennedy and son of former U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, added: "I visited in 1962 East Germany with my father and met people who climbed the wall and escaped, so it was possible. Many died doing it, but it was possible."
He also accused retired Microsoft founder Bill Gates of tracking Americans using a fleet of tens of thousands of satellites, in order to enforce what he called increasingly draconian rules on a helpless populace.
“Today, the mechanisms are being put in place that will make it so none of us can run and none of us can hide," he said. "Within five years, we are going to see 450,000 low orbit satellites – Bill Gates has his 65,000 satellites alone – [which] will be able to look at every square inch of the planet 24 hours a day.”
Kennedy further claimed that 5G cellular networks, vaccine passports and digital currencies will be used “to harvest our data and control our behavior,” as well as “punish us from a distance and cut off our food supply.”
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This is not the first time Kennedy has gotten into trouble for his use of genocide rhetoric. In 2015, after facing a backlash, he apologized for claiming that the number of children who suffered adverse health effects from vaccination constituted a “holocaust.”
Also speaking at Sunday's rally was Rabbi Zev Epstein, an anti-vaccine activist who has claimed there is no evidence that unvaccinated children can spread disease. He had also previously written that “to trust in the natural order of things, in America, in world governments, in human goodness – even in Jewish goodness – is itself a sin, and invites destruction.”
Comparisons of vaccine campaigns and mask mandates to the Holocaust have grown increasingly common on the right, with many activists sporting yellow stars patterned on those worn by Jews during the Holocaust to anti-vaccine protests and other public meetings.
Last summer, freshman GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene repeatedly claimed that any differentiation in the treatment of vaccinated and unvaccinated people in the public sphere was akin to forcing Jews to don yellow star badges under the Third Reich. “It appears Nazi practices have already begun on our youth,” she said.
Several days later, Greene’s GOP colleague, Rep. Lauren Boebert, compared U.S. federal COVID-19 vaccination efforts to Nazism, tweeting that Joe Biden “has deployed his Needle Nazis” to her Colorado district.
In August, John Bennett, chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, posted a video online in which he also compared vaccine requirements in businesses and public spaces to the Nazis' use of yellow stars to identify Jews, sparking widespread condemnation, including from high-profile Republicans. And in December, Fox host Lara Logan compared a top U.S. health official to infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele.