Academics Pen Letter to US Holocaust Museum, Seeking Retraction of Condemnation of Ocasio-Cortez Analogy
JNS.org – More than 140 academics wrote an open letter to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, calling for the retraction of its condemnation of US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) saying in an Instagram video that the United States is “running concentration camps on our southern border,” in reference to the Trump administration’s policies regarding illegal immigrants.
“We are deeply concerned about the Museum’s recent ‘Statement Regarding the Museum’s Position on Holocaust Analogies,’ ” stated the letter sent on Monday to museum director Sara Bloomfield, which was published in The New York Review of Books. “We write this public letter to urge its retraction.”
The USHMM posted on its website last week that it “unequivocally rejects efforts to create analogies between the Holocaust and other events, whether historical or contemporary. That position has repeatedly and unambiguously been made clear in the Museum’s official statement on the matter—a statement that is reiterated and reaffirmed now.”
“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,” it continued. “The Museum deeply regrets any offense to Holocaust survivors and others that may have been engendered by any statement ascribed to a Museum historian in a personal capacity.”
In response, the letter by academics stated that “scholars in the humanities and social sciences rely on careful and responsible analysis, contextualization, comparison and argumentation to answer questions about the past and the present. By ‘unequivocally rejecting efforts to create analogies between the Holocaust and other events, whether historical or contemporary,’ the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is taking a radical position that is far removed from mainstream scholarship on the Holocaust and genocide. And it makes learning from the past almost impossible.”
The letter went on to warn that the museum could lose its credibility by releasing the statement it did.
“The Museum’s decision to completely reject drawing any possible analogies to the Holocaust, or to the events leading up to it, is fundamentally ahistorical,” it stated. “It has the potential to inflict severe damage on the Museum’s ability to continue its role as a credible, leading global institution dedicated to Holocaust memory, Holocaust education, and research in the field of Holocaust and genocide studies.”
“The very core of Holocaust education is to alert the public to dangerous developments that facilitate human-rights violations and pain and suffering; pointing to similarities across time and space is essential for this task.”
The USMM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.