Brazilian foreign minister compares social distancing to concentration camps

In rant on his blog, Ernesto Araujo also calls measures to contain the coronavirus a communist plot; in subsequent letter to ToI, minister says he was misunderstood

Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo with Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, in Washington, on March 11, 2020. (Brazilian Foreign Ministry/ Flickr)
Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo with Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, in Washington, on March 11, 2020. (Brazilian Foreign Ministry/ Flickr)

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s foreign minister compared social isolation to Nazi concentration camps in a critique of a book recently released by an Italian publisher.

“According to the author, Arbeit macht frei is the correct motto of the new era of global solidarity that is coming as a result of the pandemic,” wrote Ernesto Araujo in an April 22 post on his Portuguese-language blog, Meta Political Brazil. “The communists will not repeat the Nazis’ mistake and this time they will use it correctly.

“How? Perhaps convincing people that it is for their own good that they will be trapped in this concentration camp, devoid of dignity and freedom. It occurs to me to propose a definition: the Nazi is a communist who did not bother to deceive his victims,” Araujo wrote.

In a letter to the Times of Israel on May 3, Araujo said he “never compared the current social distancing policies to concentration camps,” and that his blog post had been misread.

He was discussing the book “Virus” by popular far-left Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek.

Brazil’s Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo speaks at the Chamber of Commerce in Washington, March 18, 2019. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Several Jewish groups reacted to the foreign minister’s statement, which was part of a post titled, “The commie-virus has arrived.”

“Chancellor Araujo’s bizarre comparison is a clear example of the trivialization of what concentration camps were, which took so many lives and left so much suffering. It is in bad taste, dangerous, and demonstrates a complete ignorance of the subject,” said Ariel Krok, a Brazilian member of the steering committee of the World Jewish Congress Jewish Diplomatic Corps.

The minister also criticized the legitimacy that nations are lending to the World Health Organization, which is leading efforts to combat the coronavirus internationally.

“Under the pretext of the pandemic, the new communism tries to build a world without nations, without freedom, without spirit, directed by a central agency of ‘solidarity’ in charge of watching and punishing. A permanent global state of exception, transforming the world into a major concentration camp,” Araujo added.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro removes his mask to speak to journalists after a press conference on the new coronavirus, at the Planalto Presidential Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, March 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Andre Borges)

Jews for Democracy, a left-wing group that opposes Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his staff, strongly cautioned against the comparison between Nazism and communism.

“The Nazi regime was far-right in its essence. To compare this with the errors of communism is absurd,” read a note from the group on social media. “Likening Nazism and communism is one of the most dangerous historical revisionisms today. They are not and will never be the same.”

“Those who insist on making this kind of analogy use a disgusting barbarian argument, disrespecting the memory of more than six million Jews and their families,” Persio Bider, president of the Organized Jewish Youth, told The Times of Israel.

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