MAITLAND — The Holocaust Memorial Resources & Education Center is warning about the lessons of the Holocaust as it condemned what it called a humanitarian crisis facing immigrants in the United States, with children at the border forced into “inhumane” conditions.
“As echoed through our mission, the Holocaust Center believes in using the history and lessons of the Holocaust to build a just and caring community free of anti-Semitism and all forms of prejudice and bigotry,” the Center noted in a statement released on Friday. “One such lesson is of those seeking to escape persecution, poverty, and oppression by seeking asylum within the United States.”
The Holocaust Center released the statement just a week after U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, compared the U.S. government’s immigrant detention facilities on the Mexican border to concentration camps.
How Did the Comparison With Concentration Camps Start?
In an Instagram post, Ocasio-Cortez wrote that “The fact that concentrations camps are now an institutionalized practice in the Home of the Free is extraordinarily disturbing and we need to do something about it.”
She also called the Trump presidency “fascist” and added, “I don’t use those words lightly. I don’t use those words to just throw bombs. I use that word because that is what an administration that creates concentration camps is. A presidency that creates concentration camps is fascist and it’s very difficult to say that.”
While those comments have been criticized by both Republicans and some fellow Democrats, others have pointed out that her posts followed news reports that young migrant children were being held at overcrowded facilities that did not have basic sanitation, and were endangering the health of the children there.
In a column for Bloomberg Opinion titled “AOC Wasn’t Wrong About Concentration Camps,” Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg Opinion’s Europe columnist, wrote “The use of family separation as an immigration deterrent is what makes AOC’s concentration camp remarks largely justified rather than merely speculative … she certainly knew exactly the power her words held; if it were not for the Nazis, the very term ‘concentration camp’ would not fill us with quite the same horror. But there’s no need to be as evil as the Nazis to go down in concentration camp history. Several U.S. administrations have gone down this inglorious road, but Trump’s may have crossed an important line, and AOC was right to call it out.”
On Friday, the Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center responded to this ongoing debate by calling those living conditions for immigrants, particularly children, “inhumane.”
How Did the Holocaust Center Respond?
“The mistreatment, abuse or imposition of inhumane living conditions upon those fleeing persecution or oppression is inconsistent with the mission of the Holocaust Center. No person, regardless of their citizenship status, should be denied a safe living environment, nor basic human rights,” the Center noted.
However, the Center also urged a civil and respectful dialogue on the issue moving forward.
“While we acknowledge that there are differing perspectives on these issues and how to resolve them, we encourage those with opposing views to engage in a healthy dialogue with one another to seek understanding with the ultimate goal of promoting a just and caring community in Orlando, the United States, and the World,” the Center noted.
The Holocaust Center has issued statements in the past, including one on the deadly and tragic shooting that happened on March 15 at two mosques in New Zealand that left 49 people dead. The mosques, filled with worshippers attending Friday prayers, came under assault by a white man armed with two rifles.
And last October, the Center condemned the deadly shooting by a gunman who had stormed the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing at least 11 of its members and injuring many more. During the rampage, police reported that the suspect, Robert D. Bowers, had shouted “All Jews must die.” It was the single worst attack of anti-Semitic violence on American Jews in the nation’s history.
What Is the Holocaust Center’s Mission?
The Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center was built in 1986 and often hosts students from local schools to learn more about the Holocaust. The Museum hours are Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.
The Center is located at 851 N. Maitland Ave., Maitland.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Of Cats And Wolves.” Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.