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October 1, 2021 1:55 pm

Anchorage Mayor Apologizes for Defending Appropriation of Holocaust Imagery by COVID-19 Vaccine Opponents

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Anti-vaccination protestors, some of whom wore the Nazi era ‘Judenstern’, are seen at a council meeting in Anchorage, Alaska. Photo: Screenshot

The mayor of Anchorage, Alaska has issued a lengthy apology for defending the appropriation of Holocaust imagery by COVID-19 conspiracy theorists as representing “a credit” to the Jewish people.

“I understand that we should not trivialize or compare what happened during the Holocaust to a mask mandate and I want to apologize for any perception that my statements support or compare what happened to the Jewish people in Nazi Germany,  that was one of the most evil and darkest times in our world’s history,” Dave Bronson, who was elected mayor of Alaska’s main city in May, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Bronson’s statement followed a council meeting earlier that evening that witnessed a protestor handing out yellow Stars of David adorned with the phrase “Do not comply” as council members arrived.

Jews under Nazi occupation were compelled to wear the “Judenstern” (“Jews’ Star”) on their outer clothing. Over the last 18 months, opponents of mask mandates, mass vaccinations and other public health measures to counter the pandemic have eagerly seized on the “Judenstern” and related Holocaust imagery in a bid to paint themselves as the victims of a repressive government.

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When a Jewish council member, Forrest Dunbar, pointed out at the meeting that the use of Holocaust imagery was offensive, Bronson responded: “I think us borrowing that from them is actually a credit to them.”

Dunbar had condemned those wearing the symbol and read a letter from his rabbi, Abram Goodstein, to the meeting.

“For myself and most Jews, seeing the yellow Star of David on someone’s chest elicits the same feeling as seeing a swastika on a flag or the SS insignia on a uniform,” Goodstein wrote. “It is a symbol of hate that reminds us Jews of the terror and horror we suffered. … I request that you do not use symbols that diminish the six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust.”

Wednesday’s meeting — held to discuss a mask mandate that would require face coverings in Anchorage’s indoor public spaces and at large outdoor gatherings — quickly devolved into tense exchanges and disruptive outbursts. Four people were arrested, with two facing trespassing charges and two facing disorderly conduct charges. One was also charged with misconduct involving a weapon, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

At least 57 percent of Alaskans have had at least one dose of the vaccine. In the past week, daily reported cases in Alaska rose more than 35 percent, making it the highest rate in the country, according to the Washington Post.

Many attendees spoke before assembly members while wearing the “Judenstern.” At one point, an attendee held up the star and pointed directly at Dunbar.

Jewish organizations were quick to condemn Bronson’s comments, which echo similar remarks about the Holocaust made by other US legislators opposed to the pandemic measures.

“The Holocaust has no place in a debate over pandemic restrictions,” Rabbi Yosef Greenberg of the Alaska Jewish Campus told the Anchorage Daily News.  “This is a direct disrespect to victims, survivors, the Jewish community and the community as a whole.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called Bronson’s comment at the meeting “disturbing and offensive.”

“During these challenging times of rising antisemitism, elected officials continue to deepen the pain through ignorant Holocaust analogies to COVID-19 health guidelines,” commented Miri Cypers, the ADL’s Pacific Northwest regional director.

In his statement of apology, Bronson admitted that he “should have chosen my words more carefully, and if I offended anyone, I am truly sorry.”

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