For two days, at the end of September 1941, nearly 34,000 Jewish men, women and children were gathered in the streets of Kiev in Nazi-occupied Ukraine, stripped of their clothes and forced to plunge into a narrow ravine where they were taken. been mowed down with a machine gun. The dead and wounded were then buried there. At the solemn ceremony, which took place the same day that provincial authorities unveiled details of Ontario’s vaccination passport system, there was little sympathy for those who protested against these passports and vaccination warrants – some comparing themselves to the victims of Nazi brutality.
“It is a total desecration of the memory of… those who were killed in the Holocaust,” said prominent Ottawa lawyer Lawrence Greenspon, who co-chaired Tuesday’s commemoration. “It’s incredibly insulting. “
The comparisons are “despicable,” agreed Andrea Freedman, CEO of the Ottawa Jewish Federation.
“They are dangerous, and they are a gross and willful distortion of history,” she told CBC News.
“It’s offensive. It is offensive to the survivors, and it is offensive to the memory of the six million people who have been systematically murdered. “
It is difficult to say whether the sentiment is widespread among the protesters, or representative of an extreme fringe. Protesters wearing yellow stars like the ones Jews were forced to wear in Nazi-occupied Europe have been seen during protests across Canada.
During a protest in Calgary last week, a protester held up a photo of Anne Frank, the teenage journalist who died in a Nazi concentration camp.
A circulating internet meme shows two forearms, one wearing a vaccination proof bracelet from a baseball game, the other sporting a six-digit tattoo of a concentration camp.
“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” says the legend.
But CBC News saw no signs of protesters comparing their cause to the plight of Jews during World War II when about 50 gathered near The Ottawa Hospital’s Civic campus on Monday.
Freedman dismisses such comparisons as not only flawed, but potentially dangerous.
“There can be absolutely no comparison between torture and persecution, getting a vaccine or wearing a mask, and quite frankly, making such comparisons only trivializes the horrors of [Holocaust], ” she said.
For Freedman, this distortion is linked both to a general and growing ignorance of the Holocaust.
“It’s a lack of knowledge, it’s a lack of education, and it’s a willful ignorance of understanding the complexities of history,” she said.
This is especially true when it comes to hospital protesters comparing themselves to Frank, who is said to have died of typhus.
“The irony of this is that Anne Frank perished from a treatable disease,” Freedman said.
Increasingly, politicians are also speaking out against such comparisons.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson called them “incredible and appalling”.
“Please think of the millions of Jews and others murdered and tortured and stop using that analogy,” he wrote on Twitter last week.
I find it incredible and appalling that so many anti-mask and anti-vaccine activists continue to compare public health guidelines to fight Covid 19 with the Holocaust and Nazism. Please think of the millions of Jews and others murdered and tortured and stop using this analogy
“I really wish there was a way to prevent this from happening, but I don’t think the criminal law is currently equipped to be able to do it,” said Greenspon.
During Tuesday’s commemoration, several speakers hinted at a key lesson from the Holocaust: that such evil is only made possible when others look away. For this reason, Freedman says everyone has a duty to speak out against such comparisons.
“We cannot remain silent,” she said. “This is one of the lessons of the Holocaust is that you cannot remain silent. “