Nazi reference by Gary Lineker revives debate
NEW YORK –
The links seem endless and they can come from anywhere. In recent days, Pope Francis has compared Nicaragua’s oppression of Catholics to Hitler’s rule in Germany. In Britain, a BBC sports presenter compared the nation’s asylum policy to 1930s Germany, prompting his brief suspension and national outcry.
For Holocaust and anti-Nazi scholars and organizations, both sentiments were understandable but troubling. They warn that invoking Hitler and Nazi Germany often serves to revive a familiar and unwanted line of argument.
“We need to be aware of and confront contemporary cases of discrimination, hate speech and human rights violations around the world,” said Polish sociologist Rafal Pankowski, who heads the anti-Nazi association NEVER AGAIN. But he added: “Of course, historical analogies should not be abused and devalued. The label ‘Nazi’ should not be demeaned and turned into a term of abuse for someone we don’t like.”
Last week, Pope Francis criticized the Nicaraguan government, where religious leaders have been arrested or fled, for behaving like a “Communist dictatorship in 1917 or Hitler’s in 1935.” Nicaragua responded by offering to end relations with the Vatican.
Around the same time, the BBC’s Gary Lineker tweeted that the plan announced by Britain’s Conservative government was “extremely cruel” and included language “not unlike what Germany used in the 1930s”.
The bill, designed to stop tens of thousands of migrants a year crossing the English Channel to the country in small boats, would bar asylum claims from anyone who reaches the UK through unauthorized means and would force the government to detain and deport them. their home country or a safe third country”.
Initially, the broadcaster suspended Lineker, its highest-paid TV commentator. But on Monday he turned around and praised Lineker as a “valuable part of the BBC”.
Peter Fritzsche, “Iron Wind. The author of Europe Under Hitler, among other books, calls Lineker’s comments poorly worded and wrong, given that “Nazi Germany had no immigration policy.” Instead of being compared to the Nazis, Fritzsche believes Lineker will: it is better to describe the policy with the words “racist” or “inhumane”.
“Britain, in its rhetoric in its policies on immigrants and asylum seekers … is quite rightly causing enormous outrage because we believe that Britain is in the family of democratic, humanitarian nations,” said Fritzsche, the university’s history professor. the professor. Illinois. “The coach’s sentence is not accurate, the spirit is commendable.”
Sometimes, scholars and activists say, events warrant Nazi comparisons, whether it’s the 2017 White March in Charlottesville, Virginia, or the annual Independence Day march in Warsaw, Poland, organized by far-right groups. But Nazi references have also been used to criticize fiscal policy (anti-tax activist Grover Nordquist once invoked the Holocaust when criticizing estate taxes) or insult rival heads of state (Saudi Arabia and Iran recently restored diplomatic relations, six years after Prince Mohammed bin Salman called Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “the new Hitler”).
Nazis have been mentioned so often and for so long on the Internet that in 1990 author-lawyer Mike Godwin coined “Godwin’s Law” for them. approaches 1.” They come up so often that the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington has developed a standard response, which it cited this week when contacted by The Associated Press.
“Nazism represented a unique evil that led to the murder of 6 million Jews and the persecution and death of millions more for racial and political reasons,” the statement said.
“Comparing modern situations to Nazism is not only insulting to its victims, but also inaccurate and distorts both the history of the Holocaust and the present,” the statement said. “The Holocaust must be remembered, studied and understood so that we can learn from it, it must not be manipulated for opportunistic purposes.”
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Nazi references can be weird (actress Megan Fox once compared “Transformers” director Michael Bay to Hitler); obvious (Kanye West, who years ago complained about being looked at like “he’s Hitler,” declared in 2022 that “there are good things about Hitler”); and strategic (Russian President Vladimir Putin has listed the “denationalization” of Ukraine as one of the main goals of his “special military operation,” falsely claiming that there are Nazis in Ukraine’s leadership).
Putin’s accusation is not new. It has been part of the Kremlin’s propaganda effort for years, used to justify a Moscow-backed rebellion in eastern Ukraine and to attack the pro-Western government in Kiev that has ruled since a popular uprising ousted the pro-Russian president in 2014.
Analysts say the story appears to be playing well in Russia, where the Soviet Army’s defense of Nazi Germany during World War II is still a fundamental part of the national identity. Officials and state media routinely use the term “Nazi” to describe the Ukrainian government and its military.
Moscow’s rhetoric has provoked some international reaction. Responding to Russian claims in an interview with an Italian news channel that it invaded Ukraine to “corrupt” the country, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Ukraine may still have Nazi elements, even if some figures, including the country’s president, , be Jewish.
“So when they say, ‘How can there be Nazism if we’re Jewish?’ In my opinion, Hitler was also of Jewish origin, so that means absolutely nothing. For some time, we heard from the Jewish people that the biggest anti-Semites were Jews,” Lavrov told the radio station in Russian. Italian translation.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called Lavrov’s statement “unforgivable and scandalous and a terrible historical mistake,” adding that “the Russian government should apologize.”
In Israel, the Holocaust is considered unique, and comparisons with the Nazis or Nazi Germany in the modern context are usually dismissed as cheapening the memory of the victims. But there are comparisons. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has compared Iran to Nazi Germany, and ultra-Orthodox protesters have called Israeli police “Nazis” as they arrest people.
Ephraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, says Lineker’s comparison is flawed. The Conservative proposal, he says, is more akin to British policy towards Holocaust survivors who tried to enter British-mandate Palestine after 1945 on ships such as the Exodus and were turned back.
Zuroff says the bigger problem is that people like Lineker invoke the Holocaust to draw attention to their problems. Perhaps, according to Zuroff, the BBC figure “should be punished by being put in a library and made to read 10 accurate history books”.
AP reporters Vanessa Gera, Daria Litvinova and Lori Kelman contributed to this report.
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