• Dennis Marinovsky

The Holocaust is Not Your Propaganda

Fighting antisemitism and preserving knowledge about Jewish history is difficult, but if people like Gina Carano and the GOP would like to help, they can start by following a simple mantra: the anguish of the Jewish people is not yours to use, and the Holocaust is not your propaganda.


With yet another government falling under military rule, a Governor being investigated on suspicion of suppressing vital data, and nearly 30 million Americans forced to face the frigid elements without water, heat, or light, one would not be blamed for overlooking the latest controversy to emerge from the entertainment industry. Gina Carano—athlete, actress, and avid social media provocateur—will no longer shine in Disney’s roster of stars.


The final straw on Mickey Mouse’s back came when Carano posted an image in which conservatives were compared to Jews under the Nazi regime. Neither the Holocaust nor the GOP were directly mentioned, but Carano’s reputation as a peddler of conservative conspiracy theories and the tactically attached picture of a bleeding Jewish woman running away from violent pursuers made the implication very clear.


Evoking the Third Reich is not a novel tactic; in fact, Hitler’s regime and its crimes have become a popular motif for a Republican Party obsessed with a narrative of victimhood, to the point that unfounded comparisons to it are a staple of conservative rhetoric in nearly every political squabble. This practice must be stopped. Utilizing the Holocaust as a cheap ploy for sympathy trivializes the immense trauma overcome by its victims, turning one of the darkest blots in humanity’s history into a convenient caricature.

Criticizing your opponents is politics. Opposing health measures that prevent unnecessary deaths is detrimental. Eluding responsibility for one's conduct is pathetic. Attempting to do all three by appropriating the immense suffering of a minority is downright despicable.

As early as 2011, the Republican Women of Anne Arundel County proclaimed that “Obama and Hitler have a great deal in common.” The statement was taken down, but its sentiment was echoed a year later when Representative Roscoe Bartlett denounced federal student loans as a stepping stone towards the Holocaust, warning that “when you start down the wrong road, it can be a very slippery slope.” State Senator Sheryl Nuxoll went so far as to liken insurance companies participating in Idaho’s proposed health insurance exchange program as “Jews boarding trains to concentration camps.” Even the upper echelons of the GOP indulge in habitual Holocaust hyperbole; while filibustering funding for the Affordable Care Act, Ted Cruz compared his opposition of the aforementioned legislation to Britain’s bloody opposition to the Wehrmacht. A future candidate for the Presidential nomination had now equated a policy which insured over 10 million Americans to the rampage of a genocidal army.


This trend continued after Obama departed the White House. After the FBI raided Michael Cohen’s house in 2018, Newt Gingrich decried them as no better than the Gestapo, while Representative Mo Brooks approximated Democrats to Nazis, all while quoting from Mein Kampf without a shred of irony, and perpetuating the myth that Nazis were leftists because they used the term ‘socialist’ in their name. These theatrics were snidely defended by Representative Louie Gohmert, who commented that, if some Democrats dislike such statements, they should no longer call themselves socialists. Gohmert did not abandon his position even after being reprimanded by Jewish Representative Steve Cohen.


The arrival of COVID-19 to American signaled yet another episode of exaggeration. Politicians, pastors, and newspapers alike weaponized the Holocaust’s imagery to portray common sense health measures as symptoms of oppression.


This brings us to Gina Carano’s tweet, which indirectly portrays condemnation of recent Republican conduct in the same vein as violence against Jews in the street. Let us not beat around the bush—the milquetoast opprobrium directed towards members of the GOP political class is fully deserved. For months, Republican politicians and conservative pundits propagated lies about the integrity of our election, cheering on or meekly standing by as the Trump administration attempted to thwart the peaceful transition of power. This torrent of duplicity culminated in a bona fide insurrection at Capitol Hill that wounded our democracy and killed five people. The death toll would have been much higher were it not for sheer luck and the actions of Officer Eugene Goodman, so some reprehension is to be expected. Comparing the disapproval of these actions with antisemitism is absurd and insulting.


Jews faced unconscionable death in fields, in cities, in camps, and in their own homes. An entire nation had dedicated it’s resources, infrastructure, and manpower to a single raison d’etre: exterminate the Juden. The Jewish people still bear the scars of that era, and the mountains of photographs, government documents, film footage and personal accounts barely capture the abhorrent cruelty inflicted upon them.


Criticizing your opponents is politics. Opposing health measures that prevent unnecessary deaths is detrimental. Eluding responsibility for one's conduct is pathetic. Attempting to do all three by appropriating the immense suffering of a minority is downright despicable.


Sometimes comparisons with the Holocaust can be apropos; parallels were drawn with America’s incarceration of undocumented youths, to say nothing about the actual cultural genocide proceeding at full speed in Xinjiang. Yet mentioning the Shoah can prove controversial even in these instances, especially when doing so without proper care or nuance. Every time trivial discontent is expressed through irreverent allusions to the Hitler regime and its crimes, such comparisons become weaker. The Holocaust blurs into just ‘another bad thing that once happened,’ its perpetrators are reduced to generic villains, and it will not be long until someone asks, “was the Holocaust really that bad?”


This prediction may seem fatalistic, but it is more imminent than we would like to think. A study released in September 2020 gauged America’s familiarity with the Holocaust, yielding a disconcerting result. Using a sample size of 1,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 39, the study discovered that many could not recall basic details of the genocide, with 10% not able to recall ever hearing or knowing about the genocide, 36% believing that only two million or less Jews perished in it, and almost half unable to name a single one of the 40,000 Nazi concentration camps. Alarmingly, slightly more than a tenth believed that the Holocaust never happened, and one out of ten believed the Jews to be responsible for it.


Admittedly, this only one survey, but when its findings are coupled with an all-time high of antisemitic incidents in 2019, it becomes clear that we have a problem. As one of the two primary political parties in our nation, the Republican Party has a responsibility to ensure that all Jews are safe and feel safe in this country we call home, especially when its members have a tendency of reading Mein Kampf on the House floor, or quoting Hitler in speeches, or vacationing in Hitler’s private residence, or accusing Rothschilds of building space lasers.


Fighting antisemitism and preserving knowledge about Jewish history is difficult, but if people like Gina Carano and the GOP would like to help, they can start by following a simple mantra: the anguish of the Jewish people is not yours to use, and the Holocaust is not your propaganda.



Dennis Marinovsky is an undergraduate junior majoring in Political Science and Public Relations. He is a Managing Editor for the Agora.


Image credit: Shulamir Posner-Mansbach, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

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