The Holocaust was the systematic targeting, segregation, deportation and extermination of roughly 6 million European Jews along with other persecuted groups including Sinti/Roma, homosexuals and people deemed to have a disability between 1933 and 1945.
It pains me to have to reiterate this basic definition of one of history's greatest tragedies. But apparently it is necessary to do so again and again.
I read an article titled “Vaccine passport resolution generates heat” in the June 9 edition of The Journal Gazette. The reporter described the introduction to City Council of a nonbinding proposal forbidding so-called vaccine passports.
The article explained that multiple people weighed in on this proposal and “compared the discrimination and infringements of rights that would come with a possible vaccine passport mandate to the Holocaust and Nazi Germany.”
As a professional historian who has researched and taught the subjects of Nazi Germany, the Holocaust and global genocides for the past 28 years, I am begging people to stop making this comparison.
I will not use this limited space to engage in the so-called debate about COVID-19 or the passports themselves. Rather, this is a heartfelt plea as a historian, community member and human being to stop using one of the greatest human tragedies in world history to score cheap political points.
Sadly, this is not an isolated situation.
Recently, we have seen a Nashville, Tennessee, hat store selling paste-on yellow stars with the words “not vaccinated” on them. We have seen an actual member of Congress, Marjorie Taylor Greene, directly make the vaccine passport/Holocaust comparison. And around the world and here at home, we have witnessed a spike in antisemitism and violence against innocent Jewish victims.
All of this is happening right now, in spite of the absolutely crystal-clear historical facts about Nazi Germany's genocidal history.
Whatever personal views you have somehow formed about vaccines, the fact is that they are designed to keep you alive, not kill you. This fact alone should be enough to make you realize that the Holocaust is not an appropriate historical comparison.
“The government” is not stripping you of your citizenship, throwing you into ghettos, then deporting you to extermination centers.
The Nazis did all of this and more to their victims, and the yellow star was the key identifier for millions of Jews targeted for eventual murder. Comparing any aspect of the vaccine passport debate to this historical catastrophe is deeply offensive.
The Holocaust witnessed 90-year-old grandmothers subjected to days-long, excruciatingly painful cattle car train trips to Nazi killing centers, only to be sorted upon arrival, gassed and burned without a trace.
The Holocaust saw 3-year-old children torn out of their mothers' arms and shot in front of their very eyes.
The Holocaust featured loved ones in treatment centers, deemed to have a disability, condemned to death by the doctors who were supposed to be helping them, gassed or killed by lethal injection.
These stories run into the millions. What they do not do is give anyone justification to oppose a life-saving vaccine. So whatever your personal views or politics might be, please stop making this comparison.
I can't say for sure whether this is done out of genuine ignorance, “edginess” or simply antisemitic hate. Only each of you can judge this motivation in your own heart.
But whatever your motivation, I am begging you to stop it. Local politicians and leaders: Do not allow these types of comments to just slip by. Do not ignore them for the sake of expediency or fear of offending your constituents. Do not allow these people casually to tarnish the memory of millions of innocent people who were tortured and murdered in pursuit of an insane genocidal nightmare.
Vaccinations and the Holocaust are not in any way related. Please stop claiming that they are.
Fort Wayne resident Barry Jackisch is a Holocaust scholar and visiting associate professor of modern European history at the University of Toledo.