WASHINGTON — The White House on Saturday said President Donald Trump’s statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day didn’t mention Jews because they weren’t the only group targeted and murdered by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime.
“Despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered,” a spokeswoman for the administration, Hope Hicks, told CNN. Hicks was referring to a Friday statement by the US president that lamented the lives lost in the Holocaust, without noting the six million who were Jewish.
“It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust,” the president said in the statement. “It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.”
Hicks responded to an email inquiry by including a link to a Huffington Post UK story that delineated the other demographics who perished in the systematic Nazi genocide, according to CNN.
The victims, she said, included “priests, gypsies, people with mental or physical disabilities, communists, trade unionists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, anarchists, Poles and other Slavic peoples, and resistance fighters.”
Were Jews not mentioned because the president didn’t want to offend the other people victimized by the Nazis? CNN inquired. “It was our honor to issue a statement in remembrance of this important day,” Hicks said in response.
The omission left some in the American Jewish community perplexed.
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt promptly took to Twitter to exclaim it was “puzzling and troubling” that the 117-word statement did not specifically cite the persecution of the Jewish people that was central to the Nazi genocide.
Trump’s statement, Greenblatt said, “misses that it was six million Jews who perished, not just ‘innocent people.'”
While some criticized the omission, World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder on Saturday repudiated Greenblatt for making an issue out of Trump’s formulation.
“It does no honor to the millions of Jews murdered in the Holocaust to play politics with their memory,” said Lauder.
“Any fair reading” of the statement, he said, “will see it appropriately commemorates the suffering and the heroism that mark that dark chapter in modern history,” he said.
“There are enough real anti-Semitism and true threats facing the Jewish people today. Our community gains nothing if we reach a point where manufactured outrages reduce public sensitivity to the real dangers we confront,” he added.
Friday was not the first time an international leader has failed to mention Jews while honoring the memory of those murdered by Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
This year, Trudeau avoided making that a tradition. “Today, on the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, we remember the more than six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust and the countless other victims of Nazi brutality,” he said.
Also on Friday, and coinciding with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Trump signed an executive order barring Syrian refugees and nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries from US soil. Trump halted the arrival of refugees for at least 120 days and imposed tough new controls on travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen for the next three months.