As a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol last week clamoring to overturn the result of November’s presidential election, photographs captured a man in the crowd wearing a shirt emblazoned with “Camp Auschwitz,” a reference to the Nazi concentration camp.
Two white nationalists known for racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric livestreamed to their online followers after breaking into the Capitol during the deadly insurrection. And video circulated on social media showed a man harassing an Israeli journalist who was trying to do a live report outside the building.
The presence of anti-Semitic symbols and sentiment at the Capitol riot raised alarms among Jewish Americans and experts who track discrimination and see it as part of an ongoing, disturbing trend.
The protests in Washington was “not so much a tipping point” for anti-Semitism but rather “the latest explicit example of how [it] is part of what animates the narratives of extremists in this country,” said Oren Segal, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.
On Tuesday, the Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and the Network Contagion Research Institute released a report that identified at least half a dozen neo-Nazi or white supremacist groups involved in the insurrection.
Anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. hit a four-decade high in 2019, according to the ADL’s internal tracking.
Although some high-profile recent anti-Semitic attacks were not linked to far-right groups — such as the 2019 assault on a New York Rabbi’s Chanukah gathering — several others were, most prominently the deadly 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Three-quarters of extremist-related murders in the U.S. over the past 10 years were committed by right-wing extremists, Segal said, citing ADL data.
Eric Ward, executive director of the progressive anti-discrimination group Western States Center, linked the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon, adherents of which were at the forefront of the insurrection, to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the infamous 20th-century screed that falsely claimed Jews were colluding to take over the world.
QAnon’s unfounded assertion of a shadowy cabal “mirrors exactly the anti-Semitic track, the false narrative, of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” Ward said. “That is the real danger of the anti-Semitism in this moment.” QAnon believers also allege a false conspiracy to harm children, paralleling another anti-Semitic trope, he noted.
“It is no stretch to say there were visible signs of anti-Semitism in the makeup” of the riot, Ward said, “but the real power of anti-Semitism in the events on Wednesday is actually buried within the narrative.”
The man photographed wearing the Auschwitz shirt was arrested in Virginia Wednesday. Robert Keith Packer, 56, was arrested in Newport News, charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, and knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority.