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Historian: Comparing Idaho's Coronavirus Restrictions To Nazi Regime "Extremely Stupid"

Heath Druzin
Boise State Public Radio
Ammon Bundy, right, shown earlier this year. On Saturday, he told a crowd of protesters that not standing up to government could result in them being killed like the Jews in the Holocaust.

Pushback against Gov. Brad Little’s (R) stay-at-home order has spawned protests and other public demonstrations. It’s also drawn comparisons to the Nazi regime, and even Adolf Hitler himself, which some say are out of touch with reality.

On Saturday, protesters gathered at the Idaho Capitol and urged business owners to disobey Little’s phased-in approach to re-opening the state’s economy.

Ammon Bundy, who infamously occupied a federal wildlife reserve in Oregon in 2016, was one of them. Bundy said people must stand up to their government, otherwise they could end up like the millions of Jewish victims who died during the Holocaust.

“Because if you comply now, they will go further; and if you comply then they will go further; and if you comply then they will go further until we are lined up naked facing a mass grave being shot in the back of the head,” he said.

Bundy was far from the first person to make these comparisons.

On Facebook, Rep. Judy Boyle (R-Midvale) said a private business requiring customers to wear masks was, “too similar to not allowing Jews to shop when they were ‘required’ to wear the yellow star!!!”

Judy Boyle, Nazi, Holocaust, Jews
Credit James Dawson / Boise State Public Radio
Boise State Public Radio

And during a recent interview on an episode of the Jess Fields Show podcast, Rep. Heather Scott (R-Blanchard) said Little was acting like a dictator.

“They’re already calling him ‘Little Hitler,’” Scott said.

Declaring businesses either “essential” or “non-essential” and only allowing some of them to stay open during this global pandemic, she said, is a problem.

“I mean, that's no different than Nazi Germany where you had government telling people you were an essential worker or nonessential worker and the nonessential workers got put on a train,” Scott said.

These comparisons hold no water for Thomas Kühne, the director of the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University in Massachusetts, who called the remarks "extremely stupid."

“What shall I say? It’s just such a massive distortion of historical reality,” Kühne said.

From 1933, the Nazi regime planned and methodically pushed Jews to leave Germany and Europe, robbed them of their citizenship and boycotted their businesses.

Then, beginning in 1941, they began executing them by the millions in what’s now known as the Holocaust.

Einsatzgruppen death squads gunned down more than a million Jews. They packed Jews into vans that were then filled with carbon monoxide to suffocate them en-route to a mass grave.

Hitler’s “Final Solution” aimed to eradicate 11 million Jews. Six million were ultimately murdered.

Kühne said that’s not at all what’s happening in the United States as governments try to balance the interests of public health and the economy.

“These people could not give any proof that there’s any plan from whoever – Democratic or Republican or whatever governments…to use the lockdown to destroy their existence on a material or cultural or social basis. Such a plan does not exist.”

Making these kinds of comparisons is not a new phenomenon. It’s been happening for years, Kühne said, with the advent of the internet fanning the spread of them.

The ultimate consequence of this rhetoric is it desensitizes Americans to the realities of the Holocaust, he said, which leads to people losing their sense of reality, and with it, their ability to see the real problems facing the country.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!

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