On college campuses, the reaction to Donald Trump winning the presidential election last week has gone from sadness to madness to ignorance and bigotry. Hundreds of George Washington University students participated in a “post-election group cry,” where at least one student compared Trump’s victory to Kristallnacht, or the night of broken glass in Nazi Germany when nearly 100 Jews were murdered.
The student newspaper at Indiana University made a similar comparison. The Indiana Daily Student reported an increase in “hate crimes” since the election, and interviewed Bloomington high school German teacher Vanessa Domizlaff, who said, “Nov. 9 plays out as a significant date, and it keeps resurfacing as a significant moment where there is a huge shift in power.”
“What’s making me fearful is this violence that we have been seeing, and now it’s coming into expression,” Domizlaff said. “Mostly because people are gaining bravery, and it is exactly how Kristallnacht came into form. It gave nameless brown shirts the power to bully.”
As the grandson of Holocaust survivors, I believe these comparisons need to stop.
Comparing the looting of Jewish businesses, synagogues, and homes, which started on Nov. 9, 1938, to Trump capturing the presidency on Nov. 8, 2016, is bigoted. Aside from incorrectly comparing the dates of these events, students are either misinformed or don’t care to learn about Kristallnacht.
In the aftermath of Trump’s victory, there have been reports of violence both by Trump supporters and by those against him.
During Kristallnacht, aside from Jewish-related locations being terrorized by the Nazis, Jews were deported. There is no plan to deport anyone who may be against the upcoming Trump administration (the only deportation plan under Trump is for 2-3 million illegal immigrants to be sent back to their country of origin). Unlike Kristallnacht, there is no state-sponsored genocide in sight. Unlike Kristallnacht, there is no state-sponsored terror against any group of individuals.
This hysteria is dangerous and ignorant. The late Elie Wiesel, who survived the Holocaust, warned against comparisons like this. He said, “Only Auschwitz was Auschwitz. I went to Yugoslavia when reporters said that there was a Holocaust starting there. There was genocide, but not an Auschwitz. When you make a comparison to the Holocaust it works both ways, and soon people will say what happened in Auschwitz was ‘only what happened in Bosnia.’”
For example, Wiesel said that it is irresponsible to compare the Iranian nuclear threat to the atrocity which killed 11 million people, six million of whom were Jews. “Iran is a danger, but to claim that it is creating a second Auschwitz? I compare nothing to the Holocaust,” he said.
While it is understandable that Americans may be concerned about Trump’s bombastic rhetoric from the campaign trail, which has inspired a rise in the bigoted and xenophobic alt-right, to compare the presidential election to one of the saddest days in Jewish history is an example of how lackluster American civics has become.
If we’re going to say “Never Again,” let’s start by saying “No More.” No more false equivalences. No more hate. Conversing, not ostracizing, is the solution to bridge divisions between people.