Extreme Nazi rhetoric emanating from the United States in the wake of Donald Trump’s election win is “dangerous and intimidating”, leading figures in the Jewish community and Holocaust educators warned this week.
In the run-up to Holocaust Memorial Day, the world is witnessing a “chilling upsurge” in racism and hatred from white supremacist groups buoyed by Trump’s win.
Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, denounced the threatening language being used in the run-up to the day of national commemoration in January.
She said: “We are gravely worried about the recent Nazi rhetoric made by white supremacists in America. Such language is dangerous and intimidating, and has no place in civilised society.”
The focus for Holocaust Memorial Day 2017 “confronts the difficulties in rebuilding post-Holocaust and post-genocide while ideologies such as these persist,” she said, adding: “HMD brings people together, it doesn’t pull them apart. Participants reflect on the past, they don’t trivialise or deny it.”
Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism, said: “Many of us are anxious at what we see unfolding in the aftermath of Trump’s victory. Our response should be to do the things that we do best as Jews: Act according to central Jewish values. We should commit to calling out every single abhorrent incident, acting to stamp out normalisation of this immoral, repugnant, fascist, and anti-Semitic behaviour.”
Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “Footage of people doing sieg heils at a political gathering are chilling and worrying, and must be outrightly condemned. The Nazis were responsible for the murder of six million Jewish people. Invoking and even lauding this appalling legacy is a disgrace.”
Colleagues at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum struck a similar note, expressing “deep alarm” at the resurgence of white nationalists making “several direct and indirect references to Jews and other minorities, often alluding to Nazism”.
The museum added: “The Holocaust did not begin with killing. It began with words.”
The Community Security Trust’s Mark Gardner echoed these sentiments, saying: “It is deeply concerning to see these extremists believing that things are now turning in their favour. What matters next is the extent to which they are shown to be right or wrong in their assumption.”
Board of Deputies’ president Jonathan Arkush said: “We are seeing a chilling upsurge of hatred directed against minorities in the US, including Jews.”
A restaurant in Washington DC apologised this week after it hosted white supremacists who praised Hitler and did Sieg Heil salutes, while on Monday the leader of a white nationalist think tank was said to have addressed a conference in German, quoting Nazi propaganda and implying the media was protecting Jewish interests.
Jews on both sides of the Atlantic have argued the far-right’s renewed vigour stems from Trump’s campaign comments on minorities.
“Rhetorical violence is a precursor to actual violence,” said professor Jon Silverman, an expert in nationalism and xenophobia at Bedfordshire University. “When Trump castigated Hillary Clinton for being part of a liberal elite, supported by the media and the big financial institutions, the subtext seemed uncomfortably close to the ‘Jewish conspiracy’ tropes peddled by the far-right down the ages,” he said.
“Now, post-election, the xenophobes are emerging from the woodwork and although they remain a vocal minority, they can do great damage in a divided society. This is why Trump’s Cabinet appointments – especially in the field of justice – are of enormous significance in setting the tone for the next four years, perhaps longer.”
Senior Masorti Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg agreed, saying: “The way we speak leads to how we act. Hate speech must not be condoned as part of public, political, or any other rhetoric.”