Ahead of Governor’s May 9 Holocaust Memorial, Cincinnati Survivor Speaks of Lingering Pain | Cincinnati News | Cincinnati
For the first time in 42 years, Ohio’s annual Governor’s Holocaust Memorial will take place outside the state capitol. Instead, it will be held at the Cincinnati Holocaust and Humanity Center at Union Terminal.
“Our location has such significance to history itself, says Sarah Weiss, CEO of the Holocaust and Humanity Center. “We are honored to host it.”
During the live-streamed event on May 9, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine will host a discussion with author and historian Rebecca Erbelding about America’s historic response to the Holocaust of the 1940s.
Erbelding, curator of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, says she was asked to attend because her work on her recent book Rescue Board: The Untold Story of American Efforts to Rescue the Jews of Europe.
“We’ll talk about why the United States took so long to respond to the genocide, what the country was like in the 1930s as Nazi persecution increased in Germany, and how the United States failed to facilitate the immigration process for Jews trying to flee Europe,” Erbelding said. CityBeat.
Other guests will include Holocaust survivor Conrad Wiener, who lives in Cincinnati, and World War II veteran and liberator Henry Armstrong. Armstrong, who served in the liberation of Gunskirchen and lives in Cheviot.
Erbelding’s book centers on the creation of the War Refugee Board, which she says was created when Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration received pressure to rescue or provide relief to Jews.
“Council staff streamlined humanitarian aid, used diplomatic pressure, attempted to evacuate Jews to safety, opened a refugee camp in upstate New York, and likely rescued tens of thousands of lives in the last year of the war,” Erbelding said.
The May 9 commemoration will be steeped in history, and the discussion comes three weeks after DeWine signed an executive order defining anti-Semitism for state agencies. The definition is based on language established by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance:
“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which can be expressed in hatred towards Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed at Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, at Jewish community institutions and religious establishments.
Erbelding says establishing a definition of anti-Semitism is a starting point.
“Definitions allow us to work from a common ground, and by establishing a definition of what anti-Semitism is, we can hopefully begin to combat it,” Erbelding says. “Often people avoid teaching or learning about antisemitism because they don’t want to see hateful antisemitic images. But we need to educate ourselves on what anti-Semitism is and what anti-Semitic tropes sound like.
According to data recently released by the Anti-Defamation League, there has been a 92% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in Ohio, including 43 in 2020. Incidents include criminal and non-criminal complaints of harassment, vandalism and of aggression.
Wiess says the definition of anti-Semitism is important because it includes not only acts of violence, but also the rhetorical abuses often found in modern politics and culture.
“We see manifestation across political ideologies, across the spectrum, and it needs to be defined because it manifests in different ways,” says Wiess. “Sometimes this manifests in forms of historic religious anti-Semitism in tropes and stereotypes. Sometimes it comes in the form of a conspiracy theory. That Jews are behind the scenes pressing the trigger and puppeteers. You see a lot of them these days.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted conservative politicians to criticize mask mandates, vaccinations and other public health protocols, comparing them to Nazi behavior.
In response to Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s tweet earlier this year about the city’s vaccination evidence and mask requirements, Ohio Rep. Warren Davidson tweeted a photo of this which appeared to be a Nazi-era health pass.
“It has already been done. #DoNotComply,” Warren wrote above the photo. in a tweet.
—Warren Davidson (@WarrenDavidson) January 12, 2022
After hundreds of users replied to Davidson and explained that this comparison was not only incorrect but also incredibly offensive, the congressman doubled down.
“Recall that the Nazis dehumanized the Jews before segregating them, segregating them before imprisoning them, imprisoning them before enslaving them, and enslaving them before slaughtering them,” he replied.
In 2021, former US Senate candidate and former state treasurer Josh Mandel – who is Jewish – criticized vaccine passports, saying, “We’ve seen this before… Nazi Germany also registered citizens . Our freedom is under attack!
Erbelding said the comparison is commonplace, incorrect and offensive.
“No one should compare anything to the Holocaust lightly, yet almost every week I hear people bring up the Holocaust to serve a contemporary political argument,” Erbelding says. “There is simply no comparison between the measures taken for the protection of an entire population and the Nazi efforts to murder European Jews. If anyone wants to criticize protection measures and mandates, they are free to do so, but bringing up the Holocaust to make this argument is offensive, inaccurate and morally reprehensible.
Weiner, who was released from a labor camp in Ukraine at the age of 7, says most of his memories of the Holocaust come from his mother and aunts remembering their stories and urging Weiner to never to forget the horrors endured by his family. He says any modern comparison to the Holocaust is painful.
“I cringe every time I hear it,” says Weiner CityBeat. “It really hurts, because it was the greatest oppression, the most horrible thing that could happen, that one person could do to another. It’s not just because of the six million Jews; are the thousands of Catholics, priests, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals and the disabled who perished. To compare this atrocity to having to be vaccinated is simply outrageous.”
Comparisons like these and other common forms of anti-Semitism are what Weiss says people need to close in their own social and political circles.
“People acknowledging it and calling it out in their own circles is hugely important,” she says. “It’s easy to call when it’s across the aisle, it’s harder to call when it’s in your own group or political affiliation and, most importantly, it’s is that people call him where they see him, where they have a voice.”
The Governor’s Holocaust Memorial will take place at 1:30 p.m. on May 9. Guests are welcome to attend virtually, but Weiss says those wishing to attend in person can contact the Center for the Holocaust and Humanity.
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