Prominent Holocaust scholars have appealed to politicans and writers to stop comparing their opponents to the Nazis.

The scholars’ action came in response to a recent op-ed in the Washington Post by Katrina
vanden Heuvel, editor of the liberal political newsweekly The Nation, who offered what she called “A modest proposal for improving national political discussion”: a “cease-fire” on Nazi analogies.

Vanden Heuvel cited numerous recent examples of such “demonizing rhetoric,” including a Democratic Senator comparing Guantanamo Bay interrogators to the Nazis and a Republican Congressman comparing the Guantanamo detainees to the Nazis; entertainer Harry Belafonte calling the Homeland Security Department “the new Gestapo”; NAACP chairman Julian Bond saying Republicans want “the American flag and the swastika flying side by side”; and conservative activist Grover Norquist equating some tax laws with “the morality of the Holocaust.”

Vanden Heuvel’s appeal was especially significant because one of the columnists for The Nation is Alexander Cockburn, who frequently compares his opponents to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. Two years ago, Cockburn devoted an entire column in The Nation to comparing President George Bush to Hitler. But Vanden Heuvel insisted on including an “Editor’s Note” expressing “profound disagreement” with Cockburn. Her action generated a large volume of mail from readers, most of it sympathetic to Cockburn.

Now vanden Heuvel is throwing down the gauntlet once again, but this time on a different and larger battlefield: the op-ed page of the Washington Post, where her arguments were read by Members of Congress, government officials, and the many journalists who cover Washington, D.C.

In response, The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies organized eleven prominent Holocaust scholars to send the following letter to the Post:

As historians of the Holocaust, we applaud the appeal by Katrina vanden Heuvel (March 27) for an end to the use of Hitler analogies by public figures and pundits. Such analogies trivialize the Holocaust and undermine efforts to educate the public about the real nature of Hitler, Nazi Germany, and the mass murder of six million European Jews.

Comparing one’s opponents to the Nazis has become all too prevalent in contemporary discourse, whether by politicians or writers trying to score rhetorical points, or by political partisans or government officials trying to delegitimize Israel. We agree with Ms. vanden Heuvel that the time has come to “declare a ceasefire on such demonizing rhetoric.”


Michael Berenbaum
Director, Sigi Ziering Institute on the Holocaust
University of Judaism

Israel W. Charny
President, International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS)
Editor-in-Chief, Encyclopedia of Genocide
Executive Director, Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide, Hebrew University

Debórah Dwork
Rose Professor in Holocaust Studies and Modern Jewish History and Culture
Director, Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies
Clark University

Henry R. Huttenbach
Editor in Chief, Journal of Genocide Research
History Department, The City College of New York

Steven T. Katz
Director, Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies & Professor of Religion
Boston University

Tony Kushner
Editor, Patterns of Prejudice
Professor of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations
Parkes Institute, University of Southampton, UK

Deborah Lipstadt
Director, Rabbi Donald A. Tam Institute for Jewish Studies
Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies
Emory University

Rafael Medoff
Director, The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies

Monty Noam Penkower
Senior Professor of Modern Jewish History
Machon Lander Graduate School for Jewish Studies

Robert Jan van Pelt
University Professor
University of Waterloo

James E. Young
Professor and Chair, Dept. of Judaic & Near Eastern Studies
University of Massachusetts-Amherst