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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

U.S. Holocaust Museum Takes ‘Radical Position’ in Migrant Camps Debate, Hundreds of Scholars Say

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(JTA) — Hundreds of scholars criticized the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for its “unequivocal” rejection of analogies between the Holocaust and other events.

An open letter published in the New York Review of Books said the 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 museum in a strongly worded statement rejected such analogies in the wake of the recent debate over comparisons between concentration camps and the migrant detention camps established by the Trump administration, most on the border with Mexico.

Some 375 scholars and academics, many who write on and teach about the Holocaust and genocide, wrote to museum director Sara Bloomfield that they “strongly support” the museum, whose resources many have used for their academic research.

But, their letter said, the museum’s decision to reject drawing any possible analogies to the Holocaust or the events leading up to it is fundamentally ahistorical.”

“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,” they wrote. “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.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., last month likened migrant detention camps on the border to concentration camps, and invoked the phrase “Never again.” The lawmaker later said she was not likening the detention camps to the camps run by the Nazis, but to other detention camps, including those that imprisoned Japanese Americans during World War II. But it raised a firestorm among Jewish critics and others.

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