Elizabeth Breitmeyer / Gavel Media

The Anti-Semitism Behind Comparing Vaccine Requirements to the Holocaust

While the majority of Americans agree that comparing COVID mandates and a genocide is both illogical and dehumanizing, Daran Duffy and other anti-vaxxers disagree. Duffy, who finished last in the Kansas City mayor race, wore the Star of David on his chest at a legislative meeting to demonstrate his belief that the federal government imposes the same oppression on Americans that the Holocaust imposed on millions of Jewish people, people with disabilities, and members of LGBTQ+ community.

Duffy insists that his actions of wearing the Star of David are not offensive, stating that the purpose behind wearing the star is “a reminder [that] everything Hitler did, every single thing that Hitler did, he did in accordance with the laws of his country.” Duffy goes on to justify the validity of his actions with the statement “while this hasn’t reached that level of deprivation, we’re definitely moving in that direction.” Duffy exploited the Star of David as a political prop to enforce the anti-vaccine agenda, and the justification of his statements reflect a privileged perspective of freedom and a misunderstanding of the detrimental effects of the Holocaust.

The actions of Duffy are part of a longer story of anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers comparing government mandates to the Holocaust. For instance, Georgia lawmaker Marjorie Taylor Greene describes Democrats' requirement for all representatives to wear masks inside the house as resembling the Nazis' degradation of Jewish people, specifically, forcing them to wear the Star of David. Similarly, union members Cornell Beard and Brenda Landwehr referenced the Holocaust when discussing COVID mandates; they compared people's resistance to working with unvaccinated people to the “ideology of the modern-day racist.” Beard compares those who refuse to get vaccinated and lose their jobs because of it as “modern-day Jews,” and Landwehr echoes his comments. In their minds, requiring vaccination cards for employment purposes is equivalent to requiring Jewish people to wear Stars of David. 

Statements comparing mask and vaccine mandates to the Holocaust contribute to anti-Semitism, which 1 in 4 Jewish Americans experienced in the past year. The American Jewish Committee calls anti-Semitism a “severe problem in the nation,” and politicians' acts of drawing on the Holocaust to make political statements contribute to this problem. Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, discourages these actions. Specifically, the center “strongly encourages individuals and public organizations to refrain from using the Holocaust ...to further their agendas.” The center emphasizes the damage using images associated with the Holocaust create with the statement, “manipulating the Holocaust in this way trivializes the horrific atrocities that were perpetrated and denigrates the memory of victims and survivors.” Other organizations, such as the Montreal Holocaust Museum, also deem these actions dehumanizing, stating that yellow stars are “a painful symbol of Jewish discrimination and the Holocaust” and condemn the protesters. 

Aside from the extreme ethical violation of comparing the Holocaust to mask mandates, they are logically incorrect. Hitler and the Nazi regime intended to persecute an entire population while the true intention behind mask and vaccine mandates is to protect all people from health consequences. The clear difference between the motives behind COVID mandates and requiring the wearing of yellow stars renders these politicians' and union members' arguments invalid.

Comparing COVID vaccine mandates to the Holocaust is a major contributor to the spread of anti-Semitism. If politicians are engaging in these comparisons, anti-Semitism regarding comments on COVID will spread to the citizens these politicians lead. In order to stop the spread of anti-Semitic comments, politicians must stop making these dehumanizing comparisons. 

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