by Brandon Alter ‘17
The comparisons made of Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler need to stop. Not only are they unrealistic, to suggest that Trump can do in present day what Hitler did in the 1930s and 1940s, but more importantly, they reduce the historic significance of the Holocaust.
Last year, I went on March of The Living, a two-week trip to Poland and Israel. While in Poland, we visited some of the concentration camps, which were primarily a “holding place” for prisoners where some gassing would take place, along with the death camp, Treblinka, which if the prisoners were sent to, were killed immediately. On Holocaust Remembrance Day, thousands of people from around the world, both Jews and non-Jews, walked the three kilometers from Auschwitz to Birkenau, just as the prisoners did every day, in what was known as the “March of Death.”
After going on this trip, I have never felt the same about the Holocaust. It became more than a “story from the past,” it became my present-day narrative, and something I think about every day. On this trip, I witnessed a pile of ashes at a concentration camp called Majdanek. These ashes are less than a third of all the ashes from the dead at this camp itself. Whenever someone compares Trump to Hitler, those ashes are the first thing that comes to mind. It is impossible to get that image out of my head.
I am not the only one who is dismayed by about the comparison. “Nobody should ever ever be compared to Hitler,” Holocaust survivor Bob Geminder told me. He said that comparing Trump to Hitler diminishes the horrors that he lived through, adding “Hitler was evil, Trump is just a con man.”
Yet, these horrific comparisons are being made. Keith Olberman, who hosts a web-show entitled “The Resistance with Keith Olberman,” said that ICE raids, where immigration enforcement agents arrest undocumented immigrants, will create “camps with concentration.” In the video released in mid-February on Twitter he added that those who resist would be “rounded up and killed—humanely.” Casually implying that undocumented immigrants are like Jews and the many others exiled by the Nazis, shows he doesn’t understand how the Gestapo manipulated the community.
While the Holocaust is unlikely to happen again, at least in the U.S., we need to focus on the steps that lead up to the Holocaust: the systematic out casting of Jews and other minority groups that were already seen as targets. We already see that with the Trump administration with travel bans and calls for a wall along the Mexican border. While these actions make it easy to compare Trump to Hitler, take a step back and think before you make the comparison.