The editor of left-wing news site The Canary has caused consternation after tweeting about the Conservative’s economic policy, saying: “Arbeit Macht Frei.”
Kerry-Ann Mendoza’s use of the phrase written above the gates to Auschwitz-Birkenau drew immediate criticism from Jewish representatives and Holocaust educators, as well as MPs.
In her tweet mocking Conservative priorities and slogans, she wrote: “Get Brexit done; Build, build, build; Jobs, jobs, jobs; Arbeit Macht Frei.” The phrase is German for ‘work sets you free’ and adorned the entrances to other Nazi death camps.
The phrase is taken from the title of a German novel from 1873 about gamblers and fraudsters finding a path to virtue through labour. It was first used at Dachau by SS officer Theodor Heike and later copied by Rudolf Höss at Auschwitz.
Holocaust Educational Trust chief executive Karen Pollock said: “Using phrases that the Nazis used to taunt, torture and murder millions of Jews during the Holocaust is not comparable to British government policy.
“Suggesting that it is is abhorrent, but perhaps this should be unsurprising from the editor of conspiracy theory blog The Canary.”
Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat said: “I hope that this brand of hate-filled propaganda will soon be a bad memory. Then, those that fed it and stoked the fires of division and racism will have to look at themselves and realise what they did.”
He added: “I hope we will not forget their names. They deserve to be remembered.”
Far from distancing herself from the comment, Mendoza told Jewish News that “the historical resonance of the phrase was the entire point”.
She said: “The replacement of meaningful political debate with propagandist slogans, alongside the demonisation of refugees and people seeking asylum should be a source of national shame for England. And I consider it a compliment to be criticised by a Conservative MP helping drive that descent into fascism.”