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Israel combats the pandemic of Holocaust trivialization

Survivors urge to act against appropriation of their suffering that links COVID-related issues with Holocaust terminology

A man wears a yellow star, known as a Jewish Badge, with the words "not vaccinated" during an anti-vax demonstration protesting the COVID-19 vaccines and the vaccination certificate known as the "Green Passport" in Barcelona, Spain, Dec. 11, 2021. (Photo: Davide Bonaldo/Sipa USA)

Ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) released a comprehensive report revealing the scope of a rising trend of Holocaust trivialization related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The study was conducted by Buzzilla, an online and social media monitoring agency, which scanned online content over a two-year period (January 2020-December 2021) from social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. The study also includes scans of news websites, forums and blogs, and user comments on media portals in including English, Spanish, French, Italian, Arabic and Hebrew.

By isolating specific word combinations, the scan identified more than 60 million online references in which the Holocaust and the COVID-19 pandemic were tied together. The majority of those, 57 million, were English references. Hebrew was second place with 2.6 million references, and Spanish third with 2.1 million references.

Over the last two years, Holocaust trivialization has become increasingly mainstream among many politicians, grassroots movements, in the media, and online, representing a distortion of history and a direct affront to the memory of the victims and the dignity of survivors. 

Some of the more high-profile trivializations include politicians from across Europe, the U.S. and Israel making comparisons between pandemic restrictions and Nazi measures against Jews during the Holocaust. “Not Again” daubed on a Holocaust memorial in Germany together with an anti-vaccine sign, and the slogan “Vaccination sets you free” at a demonstration in Poland.

Holocaust survivors from around the world are appalled by these comparisons and are speaking out against the trivialization of the horrors they suffered. 

“Those who compare the two do not understand deep enough, and do not know enough about the Holocaust, because there is nothing to compare,” said 84-year-old Holocaust survivor Vera Grossman Kriegel. As a child in Auschwitz, she was subjected to Dr. Mengele’s cruel medical experiments. 

“These were atrocities for which there are no words to describe. In the Holocaust, they sought only to kill people, including with injections. Mengele gave us injections for experiments that did not value human life. We receive shots today to live, whereas in the Holocaust we received them to die.”

Dita Kraus, 93, another Holocaust survivor, expressed similar sentiments. 

“In the Holocaust, they wanted to exterminate the Jews. The ‘Green Pass’ exterminates Jews? That’s simply ridiculous. The comparison is so absurd, it is impossible to compare the Holocaust to anything,” Kraus said. “The Holocaust was unique, nothing is like the industrial-scale extermination of people in gas chambers. Nothing compares to this, and nothing ever will.”

Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, Holocaust survivor, founder of the International March of the Living and president of Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center, also spoke out about Holocaust trivialization.

“Respect the Holocaust, respect the truth,” Rabbi Lau said. “The Holocaust has no comparison and any attempts to compare the COVID pandemic to the Holocaust is shocking and appalling. Comparing the COVID pandemic to the Holocaust is utter contempt for the Holocaust and for truth itself." 

The CAM report was released a few days before the United Nations General Assembly is set to vote on a historic resolution against Holocaust denial, formulated by Israel’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Gilad Erdan. 

The UN resolution proposes a uniform definition of anti-Semitism and investment in education and awareness. It also urges social media companies to take active steps to combat Holocaust denial and distortion. 

Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.

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