While we struggle to stay afloat in the on-going tsunami of Trump, one recent event really got my attention. It’s probably because I’m a Jew that I find Trump’s Holocaust Memorial speech so hard to accept. Here’s his statement (although it clearly wasn’t written by him):
“It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.
Yet, we know that in the darkest hours of humanity, light shines the brightest. As we remember those who died, we are deeply grateful to those who risked their lives to save the innocent.
In the name of the perished, I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my Presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good. Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world.”
Before going into why I find his speech so particularly objectionable, it may be useful to ask what “The Holocaust” means, and how did the term come into common usage? This is from a piece written by Josh Fleet, in the Huffington Post (1/27/2012):
“So why do we call the Nazi genocide of 6 million Jews and millions of others “The Holocaust”?
This usage came about gradually. The lower-case ‘holocaust’ has described the violent deaths of large groups of people probably since the 18th century, according the Oxford English Dictionary. Before World War II, the word was used by Winston Churchill and others to refer to the genocide of Armenians during World War I. In 1933, ‘holocaust’ was first associated with the Nazis after a major book burning. And after Word War II, the ‘Final Solution‘ was often called a holocaust. By the 1960s, according to the Jewish Magazine, it became common to refer to the Nazi genocide of Jews as ‘The Holocaust’. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum notes three events that led to this shift: the English translation of Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948, which mentions the ‘Nazi holocaust’; the translated publications of Yad Vashem, the ‘world center for Holocaust research, education, documentation and commemoration’ in Jerusalem; and English newspaper coverage of the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann.”
What others before me immediately noticed about Trump’s speech was that it omitted specific mention of the Jewish people, the primary victims of The Holocaust. How deliberately hateful is this, considering that the term “The Holocaust”, as commonly used (and discussed above), refers specifically to the genocidal killing of Jews by Nazi Germany.
Was that omission an oversight (as people initially thought) – or was it deliberate? This is what Trump’s spokeswoman had to say on the matter: “Despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered,” administration spokeswoman Hope Hicks told CNN. Wow! “… we are an incredibly inclusive group …” Did you get that!!
So … Trump “remembers and honors” the victims of The Holocaust, but chooses not to make mention of the fact that it was the Jewish people, above all, who were sent to the ovens. This can only be understood as a gratuitous and vicious slap in the face to Jews everywhere.
Why, then, would he do that? Well … it stinks of white nationalist sentiment, and can probably be laid at the foot of Steve Bannon, Trump’s alt-right puppet master. Which leads to this question: Where is Jared Kushner, Trump’s Jewish son-in law, in all of this? If Kushner does indeed have the influence attributed to him, how could he countenance this blatant display of anti-semitism?