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Thursday, February 02, 2023

On the second day of Passover, the most practiced Jewish holiday in the U.S., White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer compared the Syrian government’s use of a chemical weapon to attack its own people to the Holocaust, arguing that Adolf Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons” on his people.

Only he did.

Let the record show that Hitler orchestrated the mass slaughter of millions of Jews, blacks, members of the LGBTQ+ community and Roma, a nomadic ethnic group, by forcing them into concentration camps, or as Spicer referred to them, “Holocaust centers.” In gas chambers, Nazi officers pumped in poisonous gas to kill those forced inside.

Spicer was essentially stating that as bad as Hitler was, he was never as bad as Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose chemical attack killed about 87 people last month. The statement left one of Spicer’s aides with his mouth agape, and Spicer quickly released a statement following the press conference trying to clarify.

“In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust,” Spicer said in the statement. “I was trying to draw a distinction of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on population centers. Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable.”

This is an administration that has already claimed to give “alternative facts” in order to cover up some of their blunders in the present. It looks like they’ve moved beyond current events and started to gloss over tragic events in history. Spicer’s reference to concentration camps as “Holocaust centers” minimizes the actual horror of the mass imprisonment and institutionalized murder of millions of people. This isn’t something he could have simply blundered on and we could forgive him for; being a political figure requires an understanding of history, events both great and terrible, concerning your country and the world. At the very least, one needs to recognize that the Holocaust wasn’t full of “centers” and did, in fact, use chemical weapons to commit mass murder.

And why do we always use Hitler as a sliding measure of what’s “evil?” Murder of innocent civilians is wrong, regardless of what period in time it happened, who the civilians were and what the means were. The actions of Assad and Hitler don’t need to be compared; they were both horrible, inhumane actions. Minimizing the actions of one should not be done to make the other seem worse. Murder is wrong. Murder of innocents is wrong. Why are we fixated on ranking it?

Following the gaffe, the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect called for President Donald Trump to fire Spicer. In a statement posted to the center’s Facebook page, Steven Goldstein, the center’s executive director, said Spicer engaged in “Holocaust denial, the most offensive form of fake news imaginable, by denying Hitler gassed millions of Jews to death.”

The post ends with a hashtag: #NeverAgain.

But the fact that this was said at all is appalling. On Monday and Tuesday night, Jews around the country and world gathered for Passover seders, retelling the story of how the Jews fled slavery by the Egyptians in search of freedom from persecution. It’s a story echoed in many Jewish holidays, and it’s a story that will likely ring truer over the next six days as Jews around the world eat matzo in memory of when they didn’t even have the luxury of waiting for bread to rise.

And while we at the Alligator find these comments horrific, the only cure for ignorance is education. We ask you, dear reader, to fight against ignorance by broadening your horizons. Attend a Passover seder. Go to Easter services. Seek to learn what you don’t know. As we doubt Spicer will be fired for his remarks, we can only hope he does the same.

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