By Daniel Chejfec
I was struck recently by how easily some people bring up comparisons with Hitler. They used to do it with George W Bush, and they now do it with Obama; on the other hand, these comments can come from the left or the right and be applied to anybody on the left or the right...what is going on?
Over the last 64 years the Holocaust changed from being a vivid memory in the minds of survivors, liberators, and contemporary witnesses to become more and more something people read about in the books or see in museums. The result is the lack of personal involvement in the topic for a growing number of people, while the numbers of those for whom the Holocaust is a personal experience in one way or another is going down.
So the consequence is that some people believe that it is OK to question the historical veracity of the testimonies, and some other people question it openly to advance their political agenda (Ahmadinejad a case to the point). By the same token, Adolph Hitler is becoming less and less the German leader who planned, justified and implemented the systematic murder of people and he is becoming more and more the bogeyman to wave in people's faces when we don't like what we hear. This is not new. Other historical figures of times past went through the same transformation... A "Samson" is very strong, and a "Judas" is a traitor, and a "Scrooge" is, well, a scrooge... to mention just some cases.
What becomes problematic in the case of Hitler is that the way his name is being used erases his actions, and is used only to indicate that we disagree with somebody. In 1994-1995, Likkud party members showed Rabin as Hitler, and in 2009 some elements in the Israeli right show Netanyahu as Hitler. In other words...if I don't agree with you, you are a Nazi.
My problem with it is many fold. To begin with, it cheapens the Holocaust, transforming it from a tragedy that destroyed countless Jewish communities and Gipsy tribes into something which we vaguely remember as horrible with no historical context attached to it. Secondly, it creates a moral equivalency between planned genocide and political disagreement, as if both belonged in the same context. Thirdly, it obfuscates the political debate by using the "Hitler" accusation to define the term of the debate as an absolute black or white with no room for the grey reality in which we live.
Adolph Hitler was an historical figure who plunged the world into the bloodiest military confrontation of the twentieth century and who promoted and implemented systematic genocide on a scale never known before or after. The use of his name to provoke emotional responses in the audience in order to win them over is not only wrong, but counterproductive. Political discussions need to be kept rational and centered on the issues - anything else could become a threat to Democracy.