‘Nothing Compares to This’: Survivors Denounce Online ‘Trivialization’ of Holocaust Found in Study
by Benjamin Kerstein
A comprehensive study of Holocaust trivialization online released on Wednesday revealed over 60 million online incidents that compared the Holocaust to the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting calls from a group of survivors to treat such rhetoric as a form hate speech.
The study, commissioned by the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) and conducted by monitoring agency Buzzilla, studied online content from January 2020 to December 2021 on major social media platforms, websites, blogs, forums, and comment sections in English, Spanish, French, Italian, Arabic, and Hebrew.
This brand of trivialization, said CAM, is becoming mainstream among both politicians and grassroots extremist movements. Demonstrators at protests against pandemic restrictions have routinely been seen wearing the “Judenstern” that Nazis forced Holocaust-era Jews to wear; giving Nazi salutes, and even shouting Nazi slogans such as “Heil Hitler.” Meanwhile, online, discussion and debates around measures to contain the pandemic have become increasingly saturated with antisemitic references.
“The trivialization of Nazi Germany’s crimes against humanity fuels Holocaust deniers who seek to downplay Nazi transgressions and allowing it to flourish unchecked has created safe spaces for antisemitic conspiracies, outright Holocaust denial, and other extremist ideologies to spread,” said CAM CEO Sacha Roytman Dratwa.
“These comparisons have opened a gateway for the revival of age-old antisemitic conspiracies including blaming Jews for the pandemic as purveyors of disease and accusing Jews of a vast conspiracy for global control through mandates,” Dratwa said. “This trend minimizes both Holocaust remembrance and Jewish concerns for safety during an already-resurgent wave of global antisemitism.”
Buzzila identified 30 keyword combinations linking terms related to the pandemic and to the Holocaust, and sought any posts, comments, reactions and shares in which they occurred. Of the 60 million instances the study found, some 57 million took place in English.
Nearly half of the occurrences gathered by the study were seen on social media platforms, with another 40% found in news articles.
Vera Grossman Kriegel, who survived medical atrocities committed by the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, denounced the comparison of the Holocaust to COVID-19, saying, “Those who compare the two do not understand deep enough, and do not know enough about the Holocaust, because there is nothing to compare.”
“These were atrocities for which there are no words to describe. In the Holocaust, they sought only to kill people, including with injections,” she said. “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.”
Another survivor, Dita Kraus, said, “In the Holocaust, they wanted to exterminate the Jews. The ‘Green Pass’ [indicating vaccination] exterminates Jews? That’s simply ridiculous. The comparison is so absurd. It is impossible to compare the Holocaust to anything.”
“The Holocaust was unique, nothing is like the industrial-scale extermination of people in gas chambers,” Kraus said. “Nothing compares to this, and nothing ever will.”
The CAM report was released a week ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and one day before the United Nations is expected to vote on an Israeli resolution aiming to define and counteract Holocaust denial on social media.
Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, a Holocaust survivor, founder of the International March of the Living, and the president of Yad Vashem, issued a plea to “respect the Holocaust, respect the truth.”
“The Holocaust has no comparison, and any attempts to compare the COVID pandemic to the Holocaust is shocking and appalling,” he said.