White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s shockingly ignorant claim during a Tuesday press conference that "Hitler didn't even sink to the level of using chemical weapons” during World War II drew swift condemnation from a number of Jewish groups, as did his clumsy follow-up attempts to clarify what he meant. The Anne Frank Center, for instance, accused Spicer of “Holocaust denial” and called on President Trump to fire him immediately.
The Anti-Defamation League, however, has decided to take a slightly different tack: offering to hold one of its Holocaust education classes for Spicer and others in the White House.
In a letter to Spicer on Thursday, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt wrote, “While you have apologized, this week’s incident as well as others (notably, the International Holocaust Remembrance Day statement omitting Jews and your vociferous defense of it), have exposed a serious gap in your knowledge of the Holocaust, its impact, and the lessons we can learn from it.”
The letter continued:
For decades, the ADL has been at the forefront of Holocaust education, providing trainings about the Nazi atrocities to a wide range of groups. ... Our programs provide historical context for how the Holocaust was able to occur; teach the Holocaust as a human story; and create opportunities for critical thinking. Each of these educational programs focuses on the consequences of unchecked bigotry and hate.
ADL would be happy to conduct one of these trainings at your convenience for you, your staff, and anyone at the White House who may need to learn more about the Holocaust. We know you are very busy, but we believe a few hours of learning this history will help you understand where you went wrong and prevent you from making these mistakes in the future.
As my colleague Jacob Gardenswartz notes, “Spicer’s Tuesday comments are but the latest in a series of anti-Semitic dog whistles and Holocaust denials emanating from the president, his staff, and his family.”
During the campaign, for instance, Trump tweeted out an anti-Semitic meme depicting Hillary Clinton with a Star of David and the phrase “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” atop a bed of money. (Trump later insisted that the six-pointed star was really a “Sheriff’s Star, or plain star!”)
In September, Trump’s son Donald Jr. compared the media treatment of his father to the atrocities of Holocaust concentration camps, claiming that if his father acted like Clinton, the news media would “be warming up the gas chamber right now.”
And, as Greenblatt mentions in his letter to Spicer, on January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the White House issued a short statement honoring the “victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust.” The statement failed to note that 6 million of those victims happened to be Jews — an omission the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer celebrated with glee.
Perhaps a Holocaust education class (or several) for the president’s staff and family — and the president himself — might not be such a bad idea after all.