July 6, 2017

I Did Not Speak Out

So... I'm looking at this "God Awful exploitation of Auschwitz by a US Congressman"... and it got me to wondering.  Just what was so offensive?  The prevailing narrative is that Louisiana Representative Clay Higgins used the World War II era concentration camp as "a stage".  His public narrative video was posted to social media and quickly drew the ire and condemnation of nearly everyone.

Congressman Higgins' five minute and ten second video, to my mind, shows no disrespect.  He walks you through a few of the areas many people likely will never visit.  He tells you a few facts about what took place in the rooms while offering some rather mild personal commentary about how it made him feel personally.  While there were a few mentions of government agencies and the might of the US military, there was NOTHING political in his message that would give credence to idea that he was using it as some form of political stage.  The main point of contention was that he put his campaign logo in the end of the video.  I had to watch it twice to even notice.  It felt more like his personal documented experience.  His folly was perhaps opening it up to scrutiny by posting it on ever offended social media.
The video drew responses from the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum as well as the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect.  Auschwitz Museum accused Higgins of using the the gas chambers as a stage and criticized his lack of silence.  The Anne Frank Center rejected an apology offered by the Congressman as "...an affront to respectful mourning, his video also neglected to mention Jews or the Holocaust."

Pardon me for doing something you're not supposed to do (say anything negative sounding, surrounding the Jews, the Holocaust or any of their monuments)... but... really?  You've got to be kidding me here.  Sure what the Congressman did may not have followed the rules, and it may not have respected other people's ideas of mourning... but ultimately it harmed no one.  Aside from the two organizations, no one really seems to be that offended.  At least no one to my mind or finding.

Whats even more interesting is that these two organizations have some financial incentive and political incentive.  And to my ability to understand, are clearly using the Holocaust and the death of Anne Frank as a political and fundraising stage.  While admission to the grounds of the Auschwitz Museum is free, groups are required to pay a fee to a "Memorial Guide".  The fee's for such a guide range from $88.40 to $200.91 depending on the size of the group and the time of the tour.  Individual tours (for one person) range from $6.70 to $18.75 depending on language and time.  While the Anne Frank Center is billed as a 501c3 not-for-profit organization, I was unable to find out what the Memorial Museum does with the money generated.

The Anne Frank Center is also quite interesting in that it holds clear political leanings and isn't even really accepted by the most prominent of Holocaust organizations.  Additionally according to an article by the Atlantic (well written in my opinion) Emma Green quotes the organizations Board chair as saying "it is neither a Jewish organization nor a Holocaust organization. Teaching about the Holocaust is a valuable thing, but that’s not what we do,”.  Weird mission for an organization capitalizing on the name of a Jewish girl that died in a Concentration Camp during the Holocaust.  Seems like the ole Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect is hopping on a train, as it were, to generate image and perhaps political clout off the back of a sitting US Congressman by writing a scathing news worthy rebuke of much to do about nothing in an effort to turn their red books black.  As important as their stated mission of Civil and Human Rights, Social Justice and their commitment to "Tikkun Olam"; their snarky empty sounding critique of one mans position on the Holocaust and Auschwitz seems like a big steaming pile of bullshit with no other purpose than to generate interest, controversy and revenue for their mostly failing organization.  I suggest you read the article by the Atlantic and look into a few other instances of them politicizing the name of Anne Frank and using the holocaust as some sort of moral invincibility shield.

What is also a bit troubling about this whole thing is that the whole Holocaust and the rise of Nazi's and Hitler was predicated on silence.  It was only possible because so many people said nothing.  They were just doing their jobs, or they were inflicting their view of what was right onto others without mercy.  It may be on some level disrespectful to the Museum... or maybe even a few others that he filmed the location... and that he said whatever he had to say for whatever reason.  I personally feel that this situation has been blown way out of proportion and there is no need to silence this man's feelings on the matter.  It is more despicable that a few organizations would rather silence a man than maybe just let it slide.  The organizers for remembrance and respect are saying that a man was wrong for the way he decided to feel and give those feelings to the world.  That is a tyranny greater than any disrespect the dead may have felt for his lack of silence.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

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