Political activists, including Rep. Madison Cawthorn and a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, are comparing the idea of “vaccine passports” to Nazi Germany, with many invoking the yellow Stars of David that Nazis forced Jews to wear during the Holocaust.
Vaccine passports refer to documentation that would allow those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 to access public spaces such as gyms, malls, museums or theaters that would require such proof in the future. The Biden administration is working on creating a vaccine passport system as vaccination numbers ramp up, according to The Washington Post.
Israel, which has inoculated the majority of its population of 9 million, has been implementing a vaccine passport system for about a month. Supporters of the idea say it will allow vaccinated people to enjoy a relative return to normalcy while encouraging others to get the vaccine.
But some opponents have implied that the idea of opening recreational spaces to those who aren’t at risk of COVID is similar to the Nazis’ persecution Europe’s Jews, which culminated in genocide.
“Proposals like these smack of 1940s Nazi Germany. We must make every effort to keep America from becoming a ‘show your papers society,’” said Cawthorn, a freshman Republican congressman from North Carolina, according to Fox News. “The Constitution and our founding principles decry this type of totalitarianism.”
Earlier this year, Cawthorn sparked concern among some Jewish leaders in his district when he tweeted an adaptation of a popular poem about the Holocaust, apparently to advertise his online campaign store.
Others tweeted that vaccine passports are comparable to the yellow stars that the Nazis forced Jews to wear in public that were inscribed with the word “Jew.”
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“Are the vaccine passports going to be yellow, shaped like a star, and sewn on our clothes?” the Libertarian Party of Kentucky tweeted on Monday.
Defending the comparison, the party tweeted later that day that vaccine passports are “a complete and total violation of human liberty. This is the stuff of totalitarian dictatorships.”
In a Tuesday tweet that has since been deleted, the Libertarians also condemned “banksters and politicians” and displayed a quote, ostensibly by a member of the Rothschild family, about how being able to “issue and control a nation’s money” is more important than being able to write laws.
The false notion that the Jewish Rothschild family controls international finance is an age-old anti-Semitic stereotype.
Richard Grenell, former President Donald Trump’s ambassador to Germany and a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, tweeted a meme showing a Nazi Gestapo officer in the Quentin Tarantino film “Inglorious Basterds” saying, “You’re hiding unvaccinated people under your floorboards, aren’t you?” The original line from the movie uses similar wording in referring to Jews.
“Speak up now. #slipperyslope,” Grenell wrote.
In Britain, conservative pundit James Delingpole tweeted, “Wouldn’t it be better just to cut to the chase and give unvaccinated people yellow stars to sew prominently onto their clothes?”
The trend is the latest instance of people, generally but not only on the political right, equating public health mandates they don’t like to the Holocaust — a practice that anti-Semitism watchdogs and Holocaust scholars have repeatedly condemned. In the past, anti-lockdown activists have compared COVID-related public health restrictions to the Holocaust. In 2019, before the pandemic, some anti-vaccine activists compared themselves to Jews suffering under the Nazis, also by appropriating yellow stars.
“To compare COVID-19 rules to the slaughter of millions in the Holocaust is disgusting, wrong and has no place in our society,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted last year.
On Tuesday, the ADL and others noted that in 2019, Grenell tweeted, “Never compare the Holocaust to anything. Ever.” At the time, Grenell was referring to a Holocaust comparison coming mostly from the political left that gained prominence when Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called immigrant detention camps on the Southern border “concentration camps” and invoked the phrase “Never again,” terms most commonly associated with the Holocaust.
Following the Ocasio-Cortez statement, several Jewish organizations either urged caution in using Holocaust analogies or came out against the comparison. Others, mostly on the left, endorsed the New York lawmaker’s words. Some of the cautioning groups, including the ADL, have also come out against other comparisons of Trump or his policies to Nazis or the Holocaust.
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial and Museum said in a statement that week that it “rejects efforts to create analogies between the Holocaust and other events, whether historical or contemporary.”
Grenell’s 2019 tweet was referencing that statement.