A few days ago I wrote about a New York Times story about Hitler and the 1936 Olympics. The Times story noted that Hitler promised the International Olympic Committee that he’d remove anti-Semitic signs from around Berlin during the Olympic Games, and in response the IOC called Americans seeking a boycott of the Berlin Games “liars.”
We all know how that one turned out.
I posted the 1935 NYT story because the International Olympic Committee has been negotiating with the Russian government in an attempt to get the Russians to exempt the Olympics from Russia’s draconian new anti-gay/anti-trans “propaganda” law. (The Russians have made clear, repeatedly, that Olympic athletes, guests and media will be arrested if they violate the incredibly-vague anti-civil-rights law.)
Of course, I wasn’t the only one to bring up Nazi Germany. A number of gay Jewish writers, activist and celebrities have raised the same concerns, including actors Stephen Fry (who had family members killed in Hungary during the Holocaust) and Harvey Fierstein, Guardian writer Nancy Goldstein, and Queer Nation’s Alan Klein.
I was waiting for the Holocaust-phobes, as I call them, to weigh in, and they have. By my definition, a Holocaust-phobe is someone who is deathly afraid of ever invoking the Holocaust, lest we risk diminishing the memory of the millions who died at the hands of Hitler, and lest we, at the same time, risk exaggerating the extent of whatever injustice we’re advocating for at the moment.
But not ever comparison can, or should, be deemed inappropriate, lest we diminish the historical lesson of the Holocaust itself, in my opinion.
I expand on this in my response on Facebook:
JACK ON FACEBOOK:
I’m really troubled by your Holocaust analogies. What the Russians are doing is wrong, and should be resolutely challenged. But, bad as it is, I do not think this is the first step in an effort to round up all the Gay people in the world, put them in slave labor camps, and then try to exterminate each and every one of them.
Really, Jack? I do. How do you think the Holocaust started – it didn’t start with the murder of 6 million Jews (and gays, and people with disabilities, and others). It started with the Nuremberg laws, it started with Kristallnacht (a few years later). It started with laws making Jews lesser citizens. It started with burning their books, and firing them from their jobs. And slowly whittling away their rights while the world shrugged, and was appeased, because Hitler took down some mean signs for two weeks in 1936.
We’ve already heard the lead news anchor on Putin’s TV network invoke the genetic inferiority of gays. We’ve seen the Russian authorities empower, and then ignore, neo-Nazis thugs who have been kidnapping gay teens for a good long while now – and the Russians did nothing until all of us reported on it two weeks ago. We’re seeing high-profile gays fired from their jobs for the simple act of coming out. We’re seeing top sports officials in the country compare gays to Nazis. The subhuman demonization has already reached a fever pitch.
So, no, this isn’t the Holocaust. That comes last, not first.
I have a personal pet peeve with Holocaust-phobes: People who are deadly afraid of comparing anything to the Holocaust. Because if nothing compares to the Holocaust, if nothing can EVER compare to the Holocaust, if no one will EVER try to do something like the Holocaust again, if it’s not credible that any government anywhere could even BEGIN on the path of a potential Holocaust, then the Holocaust was a historical anomaly that we should remember, because it was a huge, and horrible, event in history, but the event itself would contain no lessons for history because it would be, under that (incorrect) theory, an anomaly.
And I don’t think the Holocaust was an anomaly.
I don’t think the Holocaust happened simply because Germans, as a people, are a bit f’d up.
I think the Holocaust happened because man, inherently, innately, has the potential for evil. And sadly, when that evil is unchecked, it, like nature, abhors a vacuum – in this case, a vacuum of moral indignation - and proceeds to fill it.
Per se no one will ever know in advance if any government, or any series of events, might lead to another Holocaust, since you have to actually HAVE the Holocaust in order to be able to look back and utter a historical “oops.” And rather than risk another oops, I’d rather stay vigilant.
I dug up a quick history of the less-than-extermination things the Nazis did to Jews in the early 1930s. One could have argued that those things too did not yet constitute a Holocaust. And one would have been – and much of the world was, in fact – terribly wrong about that conclusion.