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No one who has visited the preserved horror of the Auschwitz-Birkenau rail yard or walked into its gas chambers would make an analogy like Taylor Greene's

Even a few years ago, it would be an extraordinary thought that the Holocaust, in which millions of European Jews were wiped out in Adolf Hitler’s crimes against humanity, would become the latest grubby Washington battlefield.
No one who has visited the bleak preserved horror of the Auschwitz-Birkenau rail yard or walked into its gas chambers would make an analogy as offensive as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s appropriation of the Holocaust to protest mask wearing.
And America already knows where the Republican Party’s appeasement of this kind of extremism can lead.
For four years, party leaders explained away, or enabled, former President Donald Trump’s racial, social and cultural demagoguery. Their cowardice nurtured the Capitol insurrection and an unprecedented attack on American democracy.
Now, by failing to punish another example of far right-wing zealotry in their ranks, they risk further swelling a tide of violent threats and incivility that is now a dominant feature in US politics and brings its own dangers.
It took five days for the Republican House leadership to respond to the claim by Greene, a first-term Georgia congresswoman, that requiring people to don masks in a pandemic was comparable to the persecution of millions of Jews who were forced to wear fabric stars by the Nazis and later taken off to extermination camps.
Greene’s apparent escape from serious consequences for her rhetoric cheapens one of history’s worst crimes. The use of the Holocaust in such a context also represents another rejection of basic, provable facts by a key member of the GOP in a grab for political power. And Greene’s complaint about mask wearing being a form of persecution comparable to the Nazis also underscored the vibrant strain of self-victimization and grievance that runs deep in Trumpism, which its leaders use as a galvanizing force.
And when they did react, statements by leaders — the same ones who forced Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney out of her leadership job because she stood up to the authoritarian extremism of Trump — were tainted by political opportunism.
House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who has worked to rehabilitate Trump’s reputation after his attempted coup, released a statement saying, “Marjorie was wrong,” and that her comparison was “appalling.”
“Let me be clear, the House Republican conference condemns this language,” the California Republican said.
But the only reason it wasn’t clear was because McCarthy took so long to say it, likely reluctant to rebuke a lawmaker supported by Trump. Greene is also a new star in conservative media and is beloved by the ex-President’s supporters who the GOP will need in the midterm elections.
Like his other leadership colleagues, McCarthy turned his statement into a partisan attack, accusing Democrats of ignoring and fomenting anti-Semitism. He later weaponized the fight against that scourge by introducing a bill that lashed out at liberal Democrats like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and blamed their criticism of Israel for inciting violence against American Jews.
The conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas did spur considerable criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government from Democrats. And it also triggered an alarming spike of hatred and attacks against some American Jews from California to New York to Florida. Sometimes in the past, criticism of Israel by prominent Democrats has crossed the line into anti-Semitism. Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota was, for instance, forced to apologize by party leaders for using anti-Semitic tropes about Israel’s US supporters.
But by drawing a direct equivalent between criticism of Israel — over issues like disproportionate deaths of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza conflict — and anti-Semitism, McCarthy may be making an already fraught issue more complicated. Some US Jewish groups have, for example, tried to point out during Middle East conflicts that criticism of Israeli policy does not automatically equate to anti-Semitism.

Dishonoring the dead

Greene’s willingness to speak so casually of the Holocaust is the latest example of a trend of ahistorical analogizing that often seeks to compare modern day events to history’s most painful chapters.
The custodians of the Auschwitz Memorial site in Poland thought so too.
“The instrumentalization of the tragedy of Jews who suffered, were humiliated, marked with a yellow star, isolated in ghettos & murdered during the Holocaust, in a debate on different systems that aim at protecting public health is a sad symptom of moral and intellectual decline,” the Twitter account for the Auschwitz Memorial posted on Tuesday.
Ill-informed comparisons to Hitler’s murderous regime are not a phenomenon unique to Republicans. Sometimes, during the Trump administration, activists on the left used to compare statements or actions by the former President with those of Hitler. While his presidency did end in a riot of lawlessness and anti-democratic violence, nothing he did came anywhere near the vile inhumanity of the Nazis.
For decades, while World War II veterans were alive and Holocaust survivors provided personal testimony about the evils of the past, offensive comments like Greene’s were harder to justify in public. But now that generation is mostly faded away, the lessons of its experience of inhumanity are at risk of being forgotten or de-emphasized.
The late Elie Wiesel, a human rights campaigner and survivor of the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps, spoke to the obligation of future generations when he said that “whoever listens to a witness becomes a witness.”
Casual and flippant references to the Holocaust dishonor that duty.

Greene is following the Trump playbook

In many ways, Greene’s behavior — after being stripped by a Democratic-led House of her committee assignments for past anti-Semitic statements and condoning violence against Democratic leaders — is in the image of Trump.
She seems to pick the most incendiary possible comment, designed to attract outrage and attention, and that brings down a media storm — which she (and Trump) then turns on its head to suggest she is the one being persecuted.
“The media and Democrats and everyone feeding into it is allowing them to hide the truth, which is the digusting (sic) anti-semitism within the Democrat Party,” Greene said in a tweet thread on Tuesday.
As is often the case in such controversies, her statement, which was really a new attack filled with rage, contained an apology that was not an apology.
“Sorry some of my words make people uncomfortable, but this is what the American left is all about,” Greene wrote. The Georgia lawmaker’s firebrand reputation has made her a celebrity in conservative media — and one of her party’s most prolific fundraisers since she arrived in Washington in January.
The next likely stage of the latest Greene saga could be expected to feature pro-Trump media propagandists claiming that “mainstream” journalists are willfully misinterpreting her remarks, powering new disinformation on biased news networks that helped to convince millions of Republicans that Trump’s lies about a stolen election are true.
Such a whitewash occurred when Trump said there were “very fine people, on both sides” of a clash between white supremacists and anti-racism groups in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. And the price of Republicans excusing Trump-style extremism was laid bare when the ex-President told the Proud Boys — members of which allegedly stormed the Capitol on January 6 — “to stand back and stand by” during a presidential debate. Trump fans denied that the ex-President ever offered legitimacy to the group even though he made the comment on live television.
In recent weeks, some Republican members of Congress have sought to deny the facts that millions of Americans saw on their television about his culpability in the Capitol insurrection and the violence of Trump’s mob. Their denial has led the party to turn against the idea of a bipartisan, independent probe into the Capitol Hill invasion and further cementing a narrative that the GOP has turned against truth and democracy.
The transformation in a party that once stood for the preservation of such pillars of a free society still puzzles Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of the handful of Republican lawmakers ready to stand up to Trump and Greene.
“What we can do as a party is take a stand and say, ‘You don’t belong in our conference.’ That’s what I think we should do,” Kinzinger said during a Politico Playbook interview on Monday.
“If there was a kind of organic, within-the-conference movement to oust Liz Cheney, certainly we can have the same kind of movement to oust somebody that is trying to compare wearing a mask to the Nazis.”
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