US Holocaust Museum rejects Nazi concentration camp analogies
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US Holocaust Museum rejects Nazi concentration camp analogies

Washington institution reiterates position after report misrepresents stance of historian who had voiced support for Ocasio-Cortez sentiment on border crisis

The 'Americans and the Holocaust' exhibition is on display at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. The exhibit explores the decisions made by the US government, the news media, Hollywood and individuals in response to Nazism (US Holocaust Memorial Museum)
The 'Americans and the Holocaust' exhibition is on display at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. The exhibit explores the decisions made by the US government, the news media, Hollywood and individuals in response to Nazism (US Holocaust Memorial Museum)

WASHINGTON — The US Holocaust Memorial Museum reiterated a strong rejection of analogies to the Holocaust in the wake of the debate surrounding the term “concentration camps” sparked by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

The museum “unequivocally rejects efforts to create analogies between the Holocaust and other events, whether historical or contemporary,” the museum said in a statement. “That position has repeatedly and unambiguously been made clear in the Museum’s official statement on the matter.”

The statement linked to one from December following a similar controversy regarding migrant detention camps run by the Trump administration.

Ocasio-Cortez last week likened migrant detention camps on the border to concentration camps, and invoked the phrase “Never again.” After critics slammed her for what they said was an invocation of the Holocaust, she said she is not likening the detention camps to the camps run by the Nazis, but rather to a definition of the term that has been used for other detention camps, including those that imprisoned Japanese Americans during World War II.

Democratic Represetnative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, left, and Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, center, walk down the House steps to take a group photograph of the House Democratic women members of the 116th Congress on the East Front Capitol Plaza on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 4, 2019, as the 116th Congress began. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The clarification did not convince all of her critics and a firestorm from critics has continued.

The museum statement appeared to be sparked by an article in World Israel News that accuses a Holocaust museum historian of embracing the view that the current migrant detention camps are analogous to Nazi-run concentration camps.

“The Museum further reiterates that a statement ascribed to a Museum staff historian regarding recent attempts to analogize the situation on the United States southern border to concentration camps in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s does not reflect the position of the Museum,” the statement said.

In fact, the historian, Becky Erbelding, had remarked on Twitter concerning a statement by Ocasio-Cortez that defined concentration camps as places of mass incarceration, but explicitly said they were not analogous to what was happening in World War II.

The World Israel News article had mischaracterized the Ocasio-Cortez statement as invoking the Holocaust. Erbelding in a statement called for a retraction and apology from World Israel News and said, “Holocaust analogies are lazy, distracting, insensitive, and incorrect.”

“I support the Museum’s stance on avoiding Holocaust analogies,” she added in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The Holocaust Museum told JTA it stands by its statement, and the author of the World Israel News story did not respond to a request for an interview. The news site has since published a clarification.

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