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The controversy over the White House Holocaust statement
Updated by Libby Nelson@libbyanelson Jan 30, 2017,
President Donald Trump released a brief statement to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a small, symbolic step taken by past presidents to mark one of the world’s greatest tragedies. It didn’t take long for many people to notice that a key word was missing: Jews.
“It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust,” Trump’s statement began. “It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.”
As critics quickly noted, there was no mention that 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust, or an acknowledgment of the virulent, state-sponsored anti-Semitism that led to their deaths — details that are crucial and commonplace in most discussions of the Holocaust.
Then, on Saturday, the White House said that Jews had been omitted from the statement on purpose because other victims also suffered and died in the Holocaust, an explanation that seemed to minimize the effects of a genocide that killed two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe. Sen. Tim Kaine called it “Holocaust denial.”
II Conservative commentator John Podhoretz in his Saturday column slammed the White House’s defense of its actions
Jake Tapper of CNN reported Saturday night that Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks defended and even celebrated the White House statement. The decision not to mention the Jews was deliberate, Hicks said, a way of demonstrating the inclusive approach of the Trump administration!
“Despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered…it was our honor to issue a statement in remembrance of this important day.”
John Podhoretz retorted: No, Hope Hicks, and no to whomever you are serving as a mouthpiece. The Nazis killed an astonishing number of people in monstrous ways and targeted certain groups—Gypsies, the mentally challenged, and open homosexuals, among others.
But the Final Solution was aimed solely at the Jews. The Holocaust was about the Jews. There is no “proud” way to offer a remembrance of the Holocaust that does not reflect that simple, awful, world-historical fact. To universalize it to “all those who suffered” is to scrub the Holocaust of its meaning.
Given Hicks’s abominable statement, one cannot simply write this off. For there is a body of opinion in this country, and in certain precincts of the Trump coalition, who have long made it clear they are tired of what they consider a self-centered Jewish claim to being the great victims of the Nazis.
Case in point: In 1988, as a speechwriter in the Reagan Administration, I drafted the president’s remarks at the laying of the cornerstone of the Holocaust Museum in Washington.
As was the practice, the speech was sent around to 14 White House offices, including an office called Public Liaison staffed by conservatives whose job it was to do outreach to ethnic and religious groups.
The official at Public Liaison who supported anti-Communist groups in Eastern Europe was tasked with the job of reviewing it. She sent the speech back marked up almost sentence by sentence. At the top, she wrote something like, “This must be redone. What about the suffering of the Poles and the Slovaks? The president should not be taking sides here.”
I was astonished, and horrified, and took the document to my superior, who told me to ignore it. “She has a bee in her bonnet about this,” he said of the Public Liaison official.
On another occasion, in an article commissioned by a conservative magazine, I wrote a sentence in which I called the Jews “the most beleaguered people in history.” An editor there objected, and insisted we add the word “uniquely” between “most” and “beleaguered” because there was an element, he said, of “special pleading.”
I bring these anecdotes up to say that the Hope Hicks statement does not arrive without precedent. It is, rather, the culmination of something—the culmination of decades of ill feeling that seems to center on the idea that the Jews have somehow made unfair “use” of the Holocaust and it should not “belong” to them.
Someone in that nascent White House thought it was time to reflect that view through the omission of the specifically Jewish quality of the Holocaust. Now the question is: Who was it?
In those remarks at the cornerstone laying, President Reagan said this: “I think all of us here are aware of those, even among our own countrymen, who have dedicated themselves to the disgusting task of minimizing or even denying the truth of the Holocaust.
This act of intellectual genocide must not go unchallenged, and those who advance these views must be held up to the scorn and wrath of all good and thinking people in this nation and across the world.” This was in reference to the new and horrifying field of Holocaust denial.
It is heartbreaking to think these are words that can now be applied to the White House in which a Republican successor to Reagan is now resident, only 28 years after he departed it for the last time. Heartbreaking and enraging.
(Please recall that John Podhoretz is a well known Trump hater and has been trying to disparage and eliminate him though the whole nominating process and his resounding victory over Hillary Clinton. What with all of Podhoretz’s own slanted previous reporting, I don’t think we should rush to judgement against Trump.
Trump-hating is much too popular with CNN and the rest of the establishment media. There is a vendetta here that will undoubtedly persist throughout President Trump’s administration. Thus, this expected Podhoretz screed must be taken with a grain of salt.
I don’t believe Donald Trump has an iota of Jew Hatred in his body. He has lived among and done business with tons of Jews his whole life. And, need we forget his brilliant daughter Ivanka married an Orthodox Jew and is keeping the faith better than about 90% of Jews in this country — many of whom have the same view of Donald Trump as does John Podhoretz.
Of course Jews have never been good at picking their heroes Consider Franklin Delano Roosevelt and you may also remember that they spent most of their time in the desert giving Moses a bad time.)
Jerome S. Kaufman
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