Friday, January 15th | 2 Shevat 5781

October 4, 2019 1:38 pm

High School Students Demean the Holocaust

avatar by Harold Brackman


The main gate at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Photo: Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum.

In suburban Colorado, high school students posted a picture on Snapchat under the caption: “Me and the boys bout to exterminate the Jews.” In an example of implausible deniability, the three students pictured blamed the caption on a fourth friend.

I call this posting “genocide chic.” Perhaps it was meant as a grotesque answer to the Poway synagogue shooter’s explanation that “Jews are destroying the white race,” but it should primarily be viewed in the broader context of the explosion of Hitler glorification and death threats against Jews since the August 2017 eruption at Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists shouted: “The Jews will not replace us.”

In Washington, DC, a man who described himself as a white nationalist was arrested on a gun charge after telling relatives that Pittsburgh was “a dry run for things to come.”

During the Hanukkah period following the Pittsburgh massacre, antisemitic campus incidents were numerous and alarming. A swastika was painted over a mural at Duke University honoring the victims of the synagogue shooting. Three swastikas were discovered at Cornell University. A Jewish fraternity at Pennsylvania State University, Zeta Beta Tau, had its menorah vandalized and then stolen.

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At the University of Vermont, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) repudiated the Israeli flag raising on campus — an act of solidarity with victims of antisemitism — as instead symbolizing “the moral bankruptcy of Zionist ideology .. [and the] ethnic cleansing of Palestinian civilians,” as well as Israel’s “racist and oppressive  … sexist, homophobic, and transphobic policies.”

I myself observed not-so-innocent Holocaust humor among high school students during the same period in San Diego. A boy soon to be bar mitzvahed was roasted by seeming buddies with “jokes” mocking Anne Frank, and referring to gas chambers and grandmothers being made into lampshades. One source of the insults could have been the antisemitic “satiric” site, Six

In 2018, the UCLA administration gave tacit approval to the National Conference of Students for Justice in Palestine, whose ranks included leaders who have tweeted: “LOL let’s stuff some Jews in the oven”; “We need to put Zionists in concentration camps. Now that would be a life experience for them”; and, “Every time I read about Hitler, I fall in love all over again.”

Of course, teenage boys and girls are both prone to testing the limits of good taste. But now, Andrew Anglin, founder of the notorious Daily Stormer, modeled on Der Stürmer, views the antisemitic words and deeds of pre-teens and teens this way: “I have long thought that we needed to get pre-teens involved in the movement. At that age, you can really brainwash someone easily. Anyone who accepts Nazism at the age of 10 or 11 is going to be a Nazi for life.”

Indeed, Holocaust chic among the younger set is no laughing matter.

Historian Harold Brackman is coauthor with Ephraim Isaac of ‘From Abraham to Obama: A History of Jews, Africans, and African Americans’ (Africa World Press, 2015).

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