Editor’s Notebook: Don’t denigrate Holocaust, or elevate Trump, by framing him a Nazi

I just can’t do it.

It’s a cartoon too far.

Cartoonist Paul Szep depicted President Trump as a Nazi. It was ready for this week’s edition, and in, well, goosestep with the week’s news.

But, no. Can’t do that. At risk of opening myself up as having my cake and eating it too, I will briefly describe it.

In essence, Szep puts Trump in a Nazi uniform and quotes him using the word “infestation,” referring to human beings who are attempting to cross the U.S. border from the south and implying “dealing” with them in another way. (Significantly, one man wears a swastika in the Szep cartoon, but not Trump.)

There have been other cartoons that came close, some outright labeling Attorney General Jeff Sessions with swastikas.

Same thing. Couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Quote the thing, for context’s sake, yes, but publish? I decline.

Granted, words like “invaders” and “infestation” come close to the insults and toxic euphemism employed by the Nazis 70 years ago for Jews and others.

Hitler justified terms such as vermin and extermination, in reference to humans, as an evil method toward expunging some groups of people from his midst. Words matter, and we must watch Trump’s words.

Trump and his administration are employing admittedly cruel tactics to the end of preventing people from coming into our society. It’s a big difference, and while it is clear that Trump and his adjutants are callous, insensitive and mean-spirited, it’s not equivalent to being a Nazi.

But Hitler’s murderous policies are yet unmatched in human history and it denigrates the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust to equate any political action, even others founded on hate, with that of the Nazis.

I walked through a kibbutz banana orchard in Israel in 1984 with a man with an Auschwitz tattoo on his arm. Over the years, I have heard the testimony of other Holocaust survivors; there is no comparison, current or past, to that period of history.

Has the administration repeatedly crossed the line of human decency? Yes. Much of it has been cloaked in politics and casually waved through by Republican leaders who are somehow not sufficiently repelled by it to set aside personal interest and speak up.

But are Trump and Sessions equitable to Hitler and Goebbels? Functionally, it feels that way at times, given their attempts to normalize and legalize the outrageous. But we should stop short of calling them Nazis, if only because that ultimately may be what they want.

Put those in “leadership” on the same plane as people who, through whatever ill means, have achieved absolute power, and it puts our society that much closer to actual tyranny.

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