Jewish groups slam Argentine president for comparing COVID deaths to Holocaust

Alberto Fernández comes under fire for repeated comments on death toll, stating ‘the pandemic has killed between one and two Holocausts’

Argentina President Alberto Fernandez,  June 9, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Argentina President Alberto Fernandez, June 9, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

JTA — Jewish groups have criticized Argentine President Alberto Fernández for comparing the number of deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic to the Holocaust for the second time in three months.

While speaking at a diversity and inclusion seminar for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) last week, Fernández said: “We still don’t know how many people have died in the pandemic. The United Nations says between 6 million and 10 million people have died. We don’t have the exact, precise number. But anyway, we know that the pandemic has killed between one and two Holocausts. It’s a ton of people.”

The comment was immediately condemned by DAIA, the umbrella organization for Argentina’s Jewish community, the Anti-Defamation League and B’nai Brith International.

“Again since the first magistracy of the Argentine Republic, and at the closing of the CELAC summit, the pandemic and its devastating effects have been compared to the unique and incomparable tragedy that the Holocaust meant,” DAIA tweeted.

B’nai Brith International wrote in a tweet that the comparison between the pandemic and the Holocaust are “simply unacceptable, and show disrespect to the victims of the #Holocaust. Nothing compares to this unique tragedy in the history of mankind.”

Fernández had hosted Dani Dayan, chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial authority and museum, at the Casa Rosada, or the Argentine president’s office, in July, where the two spoke about the rise of hate speech and antisemitism.

Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan (Alex Kolomoisky/Yad Vashem)

Dayan said Fernández “expressed great frustration” at the fact that justice has not been served for the 1994 AMIA bombing, which targeted the Jewish community of Buenos Aires and killed more than 80 people.

In May, Fernández told Jewish journalist Ernesto Tenembaum on Radio Con Vos, “Humanity is not aware of what it has experienced. We are living through a pandemic, more than 6 million people died, almost the same number of people whom we will never forget [who died in] the Holocaust.”

Invoking the Holocaust when discussing COVID-19 has bee done by countless numbers of public figures, but typically in reference to mask or vaccine mandates.

Scott Jensen, the Republican nominee for Minnesota governor, invoked Kristallnacht and Hitler at an anti-mask mandate rally on Tuesday, doubling down on his comments on Wednesday. Other political figures, especially in the United States, have made similar comparisons, such as Ohio Rep. Warren Davidson, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene, anti-vaccine activist Robert Kennedy Jr., and New York City Councilwoman Vickie Paladino.

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