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.