Never Forget That Auschwitz Was Also A Work Camp
Another day, another thread of insane tweets from freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In what can only be seen as a failed attempt to dunk on the Trump administration, she tweeted: “This administration has established concentration camps on the southern border of the United States for immigrants, where they are being brutalized with dehumanizing conditions and dying.”
Ocasio-Cortez was of course invoking a comparison to Nazi Germany. While some verified accounts on Twitter tried to suggest that maybe she was referring to tactics the British used in the Boer War (yes, someone really tweeted that), the notion that she even knows about the existence of the Boer War is patently absurd.
Instead, Ocasio-Cortez, as has been her approach lately, took a page out of Trump’s book and tweeted something outrageous to garner attention or a reaction, or both. Of course the migration crisis at the southern border is not a result of the United States rounding up individuals and jailing them in concentration camps. I honestly thought this didn’t need to be said, but the obvious does in fact need to be said these days.
Rep. Liz Cheney reminded AOC on Twitter that 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust. True to form, AOC doubled down: “And for the shrieking Republicans who don’t know the difference: concentration camps are not the same as death camps.”
It’s remarkable that AOC thought explaining that concentration camps were not the same as death camps somehow made her comparison to what’s happening at the border more accurate. Concentration camps are not, under any circumstances, analogous to detention centers where thousand of foreigners are being held until their cases are adjudicated.
Surely journalists and the media were outraged at the comparison? Right? As I ultimately learned, many were in fact not outraged at all.
The Daily Caller’s Jessica Fletcher replied to AOC’s tweet distinguishing concentration camps and death camps:
So Auschwitz didn’t kill people? Huh. That’s weird. pic.twitter.com/MaBLeX6h0G
— Jessica Fletcher (@heckyessica) June 18, 2019
Fletcher’s point of course was that Auschwitz, the notorious concentration camp built in Poland and operated by Nazi Germany, did of course murder countless innocent men, women, and children. That’s a fairly non-controversial point. Or at least one would think so. CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski (“KFile”) responded to Fletcher’s tweet:
Aushwitz was a mixture of work and extermination camps.
— andrew kaczynski (@KFILE) June 18, 2019
That’s right: Kaczynski tweeted out an “AKSHULLY” about Auschwitz. Auschwitz. He apparently needed to make clear that Auschwitz was not solely a death camp, it was also a “work” camp. They didn’t kill everyone; some had the good fortune of forced labor (that killed them too sometimes—but that apparently wasn’t the main goal at the “work” camp). Are you kidding me? Stephen Miller pretty much nailed it here:
AKSHULLY Auschwitz wasn’t all bad. pic.twitter.com/fZ9sX5vhhr
— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) June 18, 2019
Moreover, Fletcher’s tweet was factually correct and hardly warranted a correction from CNN. So not only was Kaczynski’s tweet absurd on its face, it was non-responsive and completely unnecessary. No one was debating the horrors that took place at Auschwitz. Yet, here’s CNN’s Kaczynski parsing the various means and methods of the torture of Jews at Auschwitz. Truly remarkable.
Kaczynski was really white-knighting for AOC, who at this point is most aptly described as their fair maiden in constant distress. For years people have complained that the mainstream media silently championed the left. But in the age of Trump, they are no longer silent. They can’t help themselves when they see Republicans or conservatives “pounce.” Perhaps because they know AOC is not really up for the challenge, they jump to her aid.
The Auschwitz Museum stumbled upon AOC’s thread and in response to another user who replied to Kaczynski that Auschwitz was specifically designed for extermination, the Auschwitz Museum replied that Auschwitz was “concentration camp and from March 1942 an extermination center.” Oddly, many thought this supported Kaczynsk’s tweet.
Amazingly, the Auschwitz Museum also tweeted directly at MSNBC’s Chris Hayes (who had another hot take on the dissection between concentration camps and death camps) and some random historian I’ve never heard of to please consider following their account, “where everyday we commemorate and educate abut the tragic history of Auschwitz.”
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) June 18, 2019
While some speculated it was an automated tweet, it’s this author’s opinion that it was the most “polite” takedown ever:
Polite – we do hope so. Automatic – never.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) June 19, 2019
It’s truly astonishing that the media’s reaction to AOC’s comparison was not horror. Imagine for one minute that Sarah Palin made such a comparison. Brian Stelter would be in a tizzy and devote countless hours to it on-air. Rachel Maddow would probably self-combust during a segment. The media’s purposeful twisting of Palin’s Alaska comment would seem like child’s play in comparison how they would have reacted if Palin compared President Obama putting kids in cages to the Holocaust.
I truly hope that members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, would not so cavalierly invoke words that painfully remind many of the mass eradication of a group of people because of their religion. It’s a false comparison to what’s actually happening at the border and a cheap political stunt that should be condemned.
A friend, who is an Orthodox Jew and ordained rabbi, saw AOC’s tweet and emailed me this: “You want to warn about the slippery slope, I’m all for that. But you can do that without minimizing the systematic extermination of Jews. If you can’t, you have no business opening your mouth in public.”
My friend nailed it. Invoking the Holocaust to score political points should be taboo and treated as such, not defended and nuanced into oblivion. For shame, Kaczynski, for shame.
@beyondreasdoubt is a criminal defense attorney in New York City. You can find her musings on Twitter.