Saturday, June 6, 2020 -
Print Edition

Yes, AOC, you invoked ‘extermination’

Here’s a good rule of thumb for Congress: Unless it’s an actual genocide, don’t ever compare anything to the Holocaust. Ever. The fate of the victims of the Holocaust was painfully unique.

This feels like a statement that is all too obvious and simple. But for some reason, it’s not. Even to someone who currently holds a seat in Congress.

Over the years, I’ve watched, listened, read and observed so many Holocaust-related books, films, discussions, conversations, audios, etc. Never have I witnessed the Holocaust bandied about so glibly, so casually, so detachedly — never mind, for a moment, the inaccuracy of comparing migrant detention centers at the border of the US (going so far as to use the word “exactly” with such certitude) to “concentration camps” — as was done this past week in a video disseminated by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Even just the tone, the narcissism, the immaturity, the know-it-all-ness.

When you consider that offensive layer, in addition to the ignorance, it just boggles the mind.

It seems that in one of the criticisms addressing Ocasio-Cortez, the phrase “the extermination of the Jews” was employed, to which she, instead of showing even a smidgen of self-reflection, regret or understanding, doubled down. She took what seemed like feigned offense at this choice of words; it was they that she chose to focus on.

But you know what, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, words do have meaning. The Jews were exterminated. The Nazis did, horrifyingly, view Jewish human being as vermin. Yes, Jews were targeted and exterminated in concentration camps, like rats. That’s precisely what happened; that’s precisely what you compared the border detention centers to by calling them “concentration camps.”

I know, people often talk about how six million Jews perished. Perished. It sounds so much better than exterminated. It’s nice, it’s sterile, instead of gruesome and sadistic. But that’s not what actually happened. Jews were not tomatoes on the supermarket shelf that “perished,” that just went bad on their own. Jews in Nazi Germany didn’t just disappear, didn’t just “perish” because they were past their expiration date. It’s not about expiration, it’s about extermination.

An all too calculated plan to exterminate the Jews and eliminate them completely from the earth.

When someone in the Jewish community uses the “extermination,” it is because this precisely reflects the reality. It is what happened.

Jews in Nazi Germany were targeted and rounded up from within their own country by their own government for one reason and one reason only: because they were Jews. They were brutalized. Ghettoed. Beaten. Murdered. Slaughtered. Burnt in crematoria, where they went up in smoke. Either that, or shot in mass graves.

And not just German Jews. Jews all over Europe.


Like Pol Pot and the Cambodians, or the Ottomans and the Armenians.

Genocide — that is the difference between the detention centers at the US southern border and the Holocaust language you, AOC, used.

Your intended Holocaust comparison was obvious. The cluster of these two words — “concentration camp” — and “Never Again” meant one thing in our society: Holocaust.

So now, in addition to trivializing the Holocaust and hurting Holocaust survivors and the Jewish community, Ocasio-Cortez has us arguing over over semantics and definitions and basic Holocaust history instead of her supposed intention of illuminating the troubling reality and difficulties faced by immigrants at the US border.

The situation at the border is difficult and complicated enough. Why the need to exaggerate it to make a point? Not only is this wrong, it is ineffective. Because now there is no credibility in her call for attention to moral difficulties at the border. They aren’t taken seriously once they have been caricatured and twisted into something they are not.

If her goal were to generate a productive conversation about more compassionate border enforcement, she had other words available, besides “concentration camps.”

Going straight for “concentration camp” is nothing short of provocative and narcissistic — creating a discussion that would obviously put Cong. Ocasio-Cortez and her bombastic antics at the center of the discussion — versus the humanitarian topic itself. She did not create a conversation that could possibly help immigrants and potential immigrants.

It’s highly frustrating and concerning to see invitations from Jewish organizations extended to first-term American congresswomen for the purpose of educating them about basics facts regarding anti-Semitism, about the basic history of the formation of the state of Israel, and about the basics of Holocaust history.

While I genuinely do believe in the process of learning, of changing and of growing, it is hard to believe these congresswomen are truly as ignorant as either they or their defenders say about such fundamental life truths and seminal historic events. But if they truly are so ignorant, this only begs the question: Why are they American congresswomen?

Copyright © 2019 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Tehilla R. Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

2 thoughts on “Yes, AOC, you invoked ‘extermination’

  1. Mark Levine

    There was in fact a difference between concentration camps and death camps. That was the distinction I believe you were going for. But your clear distaste for AOC got the better of you. Take a deep breath. No one is trying to diminish the. Holocaust.

  2. Gail Zwiebel

    For whatever reasons you don’t care for AOC, and they may be well grounded, your criticism got in the way of considering how and when anybody can ever use of the words “concentration camp”. Will they forever be solely the property of the the Jews who were confined, tortured and murdered there during the Holocaust ? Or do they belong to any government perpetrating organized detainment and slaughter of large groups of other human beings simply because of their race, religion or ethnicity ? As we well know, genocide knows no borders and despite our cries of “never again” it continues to happen everyday in other parts of the world; perhaps not on the scale that occurred during the Holocaust but to it’s innocent victims it is no different. Rather than taking almost a full page to excoriate AOC I would’ve much preferred a commentary on how our government’s policies and procedures vis-a-vis brown skinned immigrants is deplorable and antithetical to Jewish values. I would’ve loved to read a call to action for all Jews to protest in anyway possible against this travesty perpetrated by the American government. AOC is smart, “in your face” and young with much to learn about getting folks on her side; however she is also stimulating dialogue on issues about which we are all too complacent and I believe that is a very good thing.What is really important here and well deserving of a full page IJN editorial is that hundreds of innocent children are suffering thanks to our tax dollars being paid by our government to for profit private corporations running our internment camps. How can we continue to let this happen ? And why is anybody with half a mind or heart willing to give this administration a second chance to do even more damage than what we’ve already seen ?


Leave a Reply


Dear valued reader,

We are deeply appreciative of the support shown by you during these difficult times — through new subscriptions, continued advertisement or your positive notes and comments.

The Intermountain Jewish News has been working hard to cover the impact of COVID-19 in a relevant and meaningful way.

Like other small businesses and media companies, the IJN is being impacted in an unprecedented way by effects of the coronavirus.

Please subscribe today or purchase a gift subscription — an online gift is social distancing.

As a thank you for your new subscription, we will send you (or your gift recipient) a copy of The Unexpected Road, Rabbi Hillel Goldberg’s collection of stories of inspirational lives encountered as a journalist, scholar and student. Simply enter the coupon code BOOK at the top of the page when you check out.

If you’re already a subscriber, you can also donate to the IJN to support our mission of providing quality and comprehensive journalism to the Colorado Jewish community.