We Absolutely Must Stop Crying “Nazi”

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On Tuesday afternoon, I read an article in Vanity Fair by Kurt Eichenwald, entitled “What Does It Really Mean When Politicians and Pundits Cry ‘Nazi?'” It is an incredibly profound piece that points out numerous examples of people on both sides of the political aisle, crying Nazi. But Mr. Eichenwald goes one step further by sharing personal stories with the reader, stories about people who lost so much during the Holocaust.

Kurt Eichenwald tells us about Sochi Piaskovski, who was 13 when he was taken from his home in Poland to the Treblinka concentration camp. No one ever saw him again. Sochi’s brother, Jakub, the only survivor of an entire family ravaged by the Nazis, suffered nightmares brought on by guilt for decades. In another camp, somewhere in Europe, a young man named Antosz Kaminska watched his brother battle an illness that could kill him. Antonsz ripped out his own gold-filled tooth, and used it to “purchase” better rations for his brother. He saved his brother’s life, but the wound left behind in Antosz’s mouth became infected, and he died. His sister, Janina, would “cry for the rest of her life whenever she thought of the suffering of her beloved youngest sibling.”

Then there is this story:

When the time came for the former Stella Hadra to flee Germany with her husband and children, it had to be done in secret. The four of them traveled from Berlin to Switzerland on a supposed vacation—this not long after the Nazis came to power—but sneaked to France and then on to the United States by boat. She never discussed it, but much of the rest of her family disappeared in the Holocaust. Her husband, Ernst—apparently fearful the Nazi campaign would spread worldwide—instructed his children to never mention their Judaism once they arrived in the United States. There, they had to start all over; the Nazis stole the textile factory that Ernst had owned in Germany.

And as you are struggling against tears, trying to make sense of such senseless loss, Eichenwald explains:

Jakub, Sochi Piaskovski’s surviving brother, whose entire family was wiped out, was my father-in-law. Janina, the sister of Antosz, was his wife and my mother-in-law. Stella was my grandmother and Ernst—whose last name was Eichenwald—was my grandfather.

It’s not just the right who does this, it’s everyone. A blogger created a meme last year that, point by point, equated the Tea Party with the Nazis, and it made me nauseous. When anyone takes one of the most horrific events in history, and uses it as a comparison to anything other than genocide, it’s wrong. Comparing Nazis to the Khmer Rouge? That makes sense. Comparing Nazis to the Tea Party, or liberal criticism of wealth inequality to Kristallnacht, or people who object to the birth control mandate? Completely uncalled for.

I don’t understand how anyone can do this, how anyone can compare abortion, or a president (or former president) to the Holocaust and/or the Nazi party. I’ve tackled this before, and received derision, insults, and condescending remarks, all from the left. When I write about conservatives who play the shameful Nazi card, however, liberals love it. Oh, you tell ’em, Erin! How dare they! But when I rightly point out that our side does it as well. suddenly, I allegedly have no clue what I’m writing about, and I should just be quiet.

Kurt Eichenwald loves people who suffered unimaginable horrors at the hands of the Nazis. He is fed up with anyone and everyone who uses the Holocaust and the Nazi party as a club, with which they hit opponents, or just people with whom they disagree, over the head again and again- and so am I. We all should be, because it’s offensive to read, to hear, to witness such incredible ignorance. To Mr. Eichenwald, and every family touched by the Holocaust, I promise you I will always respect your memories and your experiences, and I will never forget what the Nazis did, or what the Holocaust was. Thank you, Kurt Eichenwald, thank you to the Holocaust survivors I was honored to meet in Chicago, and thank you to the people on both sides who refuse to stoop to this level. Let me leave with you Mr. Eichenwald’s closing words, for they are more moving than any of mine.

The only explanation I can muster is this: these are small people who wish they were more. They like to see themselves as fearless resistance fighters, or brave humanitarians like Raoul Wallenberg or Oskar Schindler who placed their own lives at risk to save Jews. They feel the need to portray themselves as tough, swashbuckling champions of right, standing astride the waves of history as they fight back encroaching evil. But they are none of these things. They are soft-skinned, well fed, and snug, pontificating from air-conditioned studios as piles of uneaten snacks grow stale on nearby tables.

None of you are heroes. You are people with policy differences who suffer from aching ignorance of history. None of you who confidently express your contempt or disagreement for the government fear you are risking yours or your family’s lives by standing up to power. You are poseurs, appropriating incomprehensible suffering of others in a pathetic attempt to make your inconsequential squabbling seem important.

Decades ago, Mike Godwin—an American lawyer and author—coined what is known as Godwin’s law: as an online debate grows longer, the probability that someone will compare someone to Hitler or the Nazis nears 100 percent. The ridicule that gives power to this brilliant adage would probably shame those who hear it from using the Nazi analogies. But unfortunately, it seems that those who most need to learn from Godwin’s law are the ones who don’t know it.

And so, now I will create Kurt’s law—not as graceful or eloquent as Godwin’s, but true nonetheless: those who exploit the deaths of millions to buck up their own arguments are cowards deserving of every bit of scorn the civilized world can muster.

Erin Nanasi

Erin Nanasi is the creator of The Bachmann Diaries: Satirical Excerpts from Michele Bachmann's Fictional Diary. She hates writing about herself in the third person. Erin enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with family. And wombats. Come visit Erin on on Facebook. She also can be found on Twitter at @WriterENanasi.

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  • wawoo

    Absolutely correct. Unless an organization or political party advocates mass murder as part of their core beliefs they are not analogous to the Nazi’s.

    • Dave

      First the Tea party will cut off all assistance to starve off the poor, elderly and handicapped. Then they will send blacks, Hispanics and Jews to concentration camps. Then people will get the hint but by then it will be too late.

  • Pipercat

    Well, don’t hold your breath….

  • Hmm… Yes, I do agree that the current bunch of righties have NOT (yet) rounded up “undesirable” people into concentration camps and started mass extermination one way or another, and we certainly should not compare the Tea Party with the Nazis….. But I firmly believe that many people on the right have the same mindsets that allowed Nazis to use prejudice and stereotypes and blaming to allow such things to happen in Germany in the 30’s and 40’s. I do NOT believe that these same kind of mindsets exist on the left. The racism, the prejudice, the stereotypes of many on the right, particularly the extreme right, would leave those people very vulnerable to Nazi ideology. I see it on my newsfeed from former schoolmates, and it is pretty despicable.

    • rossbro

      Their plan to get rid of undesirables is to stop food stamps and starve them. Stop all (welfare) help programs and have more die .

  • Sandy Greer

    And the Truth is: We don’t NEED to make such comparisons. In fact, they weaken our arguments.

    Truth is, The Right can be defeated on their own policies: The ‘begrudging’, the exclusion; their own utterances.

    Because the Truth is, your average Joe just doesn’t want to get his ‘hate’ on for any/everybody different from himself.

    So, let’s leave the ‘crazy’ to The Right. Let’s elevate the discussion, because we’re good enough to do it, and they’re not.

    And that’s the Truth.

  • surfjac

    I agree but then again I don’t hear many “liberals” use ‘nazi’ that much. If they do, they get condemned too.

    • Dave

      I do. Because that’s what the tea party is. Wannabe 21st century answer to the Nazi party.

  • Vida Kristina Penikas

    I totally agree and feel the same way when anyone throws around the term “commie”. Since the USSR was an ally, most people never learned of the atrocities Stalin was carrying out, some very much on par with The Holucaust.

    • Dave

      Thank you Alexander Soltsyzin. (I know I spelled his last name wrong.) The guy who exposed the Gulag system.

  • Michelle Teer

    Wow! I don’t know what else to say about this. It’s not a comparison that I have ever used, though I feel very passionately about my own beliefs, and I can honestly say that I will never use it in the future. I’ve always known that my personal issues and frustrations are merely the view of one person, seemingly more inconsequential after reading this. Only thing I would add is that even though we have not and are not enduring what so many brave souls of the past have, we must still never give up the fight for a better world that can exist without hatred of those who aren’t just like us.

  • LL11

    What a great article. Thanks.

    Even though not really the same, I have said a couple times that Ann Coulter was born in the wrong time and place and belonged in Nazi Germany but I will stop using that comparison out of respect. Thanks again.

  • Susan Price

    I completely agree. Referring to political opponents as “nazis” or “communists” or what ever easy label that carries emotional weight is lazy and cruel, not to mention inaccurate. Both sides need to come up with some new metaphors.

  • Erika Frensley

    Last year I visited the Nuremburg Peace Museum, a very illuminating museum that details the discontent of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Nazi party, and the effect on the German peoples as they tried to support, rebel, or co-exist with the Nazi Party. They played speeches from the Nazi party officials – I had to stop listening to recover. So full of hate and anger and fury towards their own people, full of justification and specious arguments. In many speeches I mentally used the labels that the Tea Party uses on liberals and the poor, and nearly came to tears. The speeches read the same with the substitution of terms as speeches I’ve heard from the rabid GOP and the Tea Party. I can see now how the Nazi Party rose to power to destroy a culture and a generation.

    That said, until the Tea Party and rabid extremists stop screaming and start taking actual steps to start ordering and shepherding the rest of the citizens as the Nazi Party did, then no, we can’t call them Nazis. Hateful ignorant screamers, yes. Nazis, no. And any success that the Tea Party would have in that venue would depend on the utter compliance and disorganization of the moderates, reasonable Republicans, and the left wing, plus an utter breakdown of the judicial system. We’re nowhere near there. Personal note: My mother is French. She has told us that she and her family hid Jews in Paris and Rouen in an attempt to get them to safety.

  • Dave

    I call bullshit. Comparing the tea party to the Nazis is absolutely correct. Let one of those tea party governors become president in 2016 and watch what happens. We will have Nazi America then. We democrats can’t let that happen. If it does I’m leaving America forever. A different genocide will end up taking place. Watch…

    • frivolous01

      No, it really isn’t correct. The Tea Party is just a fringe group on the far right, even if one of them was voted in they would still have to get congress to allow them to ’round people up’. This is the same congress that can’t even agree on a fricken’ budget. There are too few of them, there are too many democrats and normal republicans for them to be successful.

  • Matthew Reece

    The only ideology that should be compared to Nazism in terms of its real-world results is communism.

  • John D. Fiat

    What are the last four letters in the word Ashkenazi (Jew)? Why it’s NAZI isn’t it? Folks, that’s not an accident. You all need to read a book entitled “The Transfer Agreement: The Dramatic Story of the Pact Between The Third Reich and Jewish Palestine” by Jewish scholar Edwin Black! Mr. Black’s parents, both of whom are Holocaust survivors, actually disowned him over this book. However, once they found out that it was the truth, they accepted him back in the family.

    The Holocaust? Which one? The famous one used for excuses on a daily basis, or the ones that are much worse but didn’t receive any coverage in your (Jewish-controlled) school history book? The REAL holocaust was the one in which the Russian-Jewish czars killed 100 million people in Russia. Yes, that’s 100 million, but were supposed to keep crying about an unproven 6 million? The World Encyclopedia proves that the mainstream holocaust was greatly inflated. How? Because it shows that those numbers are impossible because there were only 2.5 million Jews in all of Europe at that time. Where did this magical extra 3.5 million come from? And even if there were 6 million Jews killed, how on earth does that even compare to the 100 million killed in Russia? And those poor people are not even remembered, while the Jews receive free awards, fancy dinners, and a trillion dollar museum. Don’t you find that sad and inappropriate?

    So Ms. Nanasi, we’ll stop crying NAZI when you figure out what one is!