Stop comparing Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis – it trivialises the Holocaust

Published by the IB Times on 08/02/17


The Emmy-nominated The Man in the High Castle is set in a dystopian world where Nazi Germany has won the Second World War and now rules over the USA. Given the vast number of people who believe that Trump’s election marks the inauguration of the Fourth Reich, one could be forgiven for viewing the TV show as a documentary.

Following Trump’s travel ban on refugees and citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries, his presidency has immediately been equated with the rise of Hitler. Perennial loud-mouthed MP Dennis Skinner has labelled President Trump as a “fascist”. On the continent and across the Atlantic, the mayors of Madrid and Philadelphia have both compared Trump to Hitler. Who knew that Ken Livingstone’s constant blathering on about the Führer would finally catch on?

Fortunately, the US Appeals Court that will rule whether the travel ban is constitutional substituted this sensational rhetoric for genuine criticism when grilling those defending the restriction.

The panel queried whether Trump’s so-called Muslim Ban will actually stop terrorism on US soil – an important question given that between 1975 and 2015, zero Americans were killed in terror attacks from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

But while the court showed how important it is to objectively criticise Trump’s travel ban, politicians and commentators still insist on comparing President Trump to Hitler. This must stop.

The SNP’s Carol Monaghan has warned that “the Holocaust didn’t start with the gas chambers” and, consequently, we needn’t wait for Trump to plaster the White House with Swastikas to label him a Nazi. But while it’s true that it took Hitler a few years to pass the Nuremberg Laws, it is absurd to equate Trump’s inclination towards authoritarianism with Hitler’s rise to power. Although the 45th president’s half-hearted approach towards press freedom deserves criticism, it is hardly comparable to the 1933 Enabling Act which gave Hitler the power to pass laws without consulting the Reichstag.

Of course, the tendency to refer to the travel ban as “Trump’s ban” certainly encourages people to assume President Trump is acting in a dictatorial manner. Not only does it forget that the list of seven countries was previously drawn up by Obama, but it also ignores the fact that more Americans support the travel ban than oppose it. This isn’t Trump imposing his will on America. It is Trump carrying out an election promise.

However, the most pernicious effect of equating Trump with Hitler is that, ultimately, it risks trivialising the Holocaust. At its most extreme interpretation, Trump wants to stop immigration – a far cry from the genocide committed by the Third Reich.

Moreover, his ban isn’t targeted at an entire race; it is estimated that around 15% of the world’s Muslim population originate from the seven countries to which the ban applies. Indeed the closest travel ban we actually have that bears any resemblance to Nazi policy is the 16 countries that forbid citizens of Israel – the Jewish nation – from entering.

But even this constraint on Israelis cannot be compared to the atrocities committed by Hitler. Many of today’s leaders in the West, including President Trump, deserve criticism. But one doesn’t need a GCSE in history to work out that their actions aren’t as bad as the systematic execution of six million Jews.

For some absurd reason, people are still insensitive to the atrocities committed by Hitler’s operation. You can visit Auschwitz, where one in six Jews executed in the Holocaust were killed. There, you can see the inside a gas chamber first-hand; you can see the piles of human hair, glasses and shoes that the Nazis failed to destroy just before they were defeated. The detention of Muslims at JFK airport two weeks ago marked a low-point in US immigration policy, but can we really equate it with Hitler’s treatment of the Jews?

When it comes to President Trump, we risk substituting genuine criticism for sensationalism. His policies – whether it be his travel ban or block on US funding for NGO abortion referrals – deserve to be denounced in their own right. Yes, both Hitler and Trump have dodgy haircuts. But that is where the comparisons should end.

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