Don’t Trivialize the Holocaust

For the second time in less than three years, a popular media personality is facing accusations that he trivialized the horror of the Holocaust.

In July of 2011, radio talk show host Glenn Beck made headlines and drew condemnation when he declared that the camp in Norway where a gunman opened fire on young people, killing 76 people sounded “like Hitler Youth.”

During an address Beck gave last weekend to the National Rifle Association, he lashed out at New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his efforts to limit the size of sugary drinks, salt intake, tobacco displays and gun control.

“I’ve come up with a new advertisement for New York, we all know ‘I heart New York.’ I’d like to show you my new advertisement for it, new slogan… ‘You will love New York!’” Beck said.

He then unveiled a massive new logo for New York City to the large crowd. It showed an image of man somewhat similar to Bloomberg, wearing an armband on his sleeve, giving what looks like a Nazi salute.

For his part, not only does Beck not think he did anything wrong, but he actually has demanded an apology from the mainstream media for their depiction of the incident, claiming that the image was actually based on a poster of Russian communist leader Vladimir Lenin.

“I would like to call for an apology now by the mainstream media, particularly ABC News, for smearing my name and saying that I am making Bloomberg look like a Nazi,” Beck said on his Tuesday radio program.

But when asked by Hamodia to identify the image, readers had a different reaction.

“That is a Nazi salute,” they immediately declared.

Abraham Foxman, a Holocaust survivor and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, condemned the use of the image.

“While he doesn’t say it, it seems Glenn Beck is implying through an image of Mayor Bloomberg in an apparent Hitlerian salute …  that the mayor’s policies on gun ownership and other issues are turning New York city into a Nazi-like state. That suggestion is outrageous, insensitive and deeply offensive on so many levels,” Foxman said,

As he went on the offense in response to the growing outrage over the incident, Beck actually dug himself a deeper hole as he sought to play down the singular status of the Holocaust in the annals of history.

“I’m sorry this looks to you like Adolph Hitler, but this was actually the exact image ripped off Soviet propaganda art — who also killed a lot of people, yes. But you guys never seem to have a problem with Lenin. You never seem to have a problem with Mao. You never seem to have a problem with Stalin. Isn’t that weird?”

Though we have firmly disagreed with the very policies of Mayor Bloomberg cited by Beck in his speech, Beck’s use of such imagery is wrong and of great disrespect to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. Through that image, and his subsequent defense of that decision, he is actually sending a subtle message to his millions of listeners that the Nazis may have been bad, but not all that terrible.

This is hardly the first time he has made this error. In addition to the aforementioned incredibly insensitive remark about the victims of the terror attack in Norway, Beck has a long history of using Nazi-related terminology to score political points.

In a 2010 column in the Washington Post, Dana Milbank observed that during the first six months after President Obama took office, Beck had “202 mentions of Nazis or Nazism, according to transcripts, 147 mentions of Hitler, 193 mentions of fascism or fascist, and another 24 bonus mentions of Joseph Goebbels.”

Glenn Beck has been hailed in some circles as a devoted friend to Israel and to the Jewish people. It’s about time that Mr. Beck realizes that part of being a friend is refraining from remarks and actions that are hurtful and insensitive.

In his statement, Foxman urged Beck to desist from such conduct.

“Glenn Beck should know better. He has drawn similar inappropriate analogies to the Holocaust before. We wish he would stop trivializing the history of the Holocaust to score partisan political points,” he said.

On this point, we agree with Mr. Foxman.

There are a great many appropriate and accurate metaphors Mr. Beck can use to further his agenda. Holocaust-related comments and images that appear to be reminiscent of the Nazis should never be an option.

It is time for Beck and the various other pundits on both sides of the political aisle to show real respect to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust by undertaking to avoid all insinuations that in any way can be interpreted as trivializing the murder of the six million.