Holocaust Literacy

It still bothers me, even a couple of days later. On April 11, Donald Trump’s Press Secretary Sean Spicer made a fool of himself, once again, by suggesting that Adolf Hitler refrained from using poison gas in World War II.

To put it in context, Spicer was trying to draw a distinction between Hitler and Syrian tyrant Bashar al Assad who unleashed sarin gas on his own people last week in the latest episode of that country’s civil war.

“We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II. You know, you had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said. (New York Times)

Yes, he was trying to draw some kind of ham-handed comparison, but as every pundit on television has commented, you don’t make comparisons to Hitler. Period.

Then Spicer tried to clarify. He ended up calling Nazi concentration and death camps “Holocaust centers!” Holocaust centers!

We are all still shaking our heads. One week into Trump’s administration, his press detail failed to mention Jews in their statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Is this administration tone deaf? Ignorant? Both?

Perhaps, and that’s inexcusable. But that doesn’t mean that you have to be ignorant.

Please, learn about the Holocaust in particular and World War II in general. Your modern world — the world you live in — stems from both.

Many great historians have made their reputations writing about those topics, and many excellent websites explain them.

Start here, at the website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Then look at the Anne Frank museum website. Many American cities also have Holocaust museums and memorials which you can easily visit, such as this one in Dallas.

And read. Read folks, and study. Learn.

Start with Night by Elie Wiesel. It will change you. Then move on to Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl (which you only skimmed in school.) If you need a graphic novel, check out Maus (yes, cats play the Nazis in this). If you need a film to be your entre to the topic, start with Schindler’s List.

Regardless, learn about the Holocaust. It’s imperative for so much revolves around it and spins out of it. History is demanding it.