White House Defends Trump Holocaust Statement That Didn't Mention Jews
The White House has defended its omission of Jews and antisemitism from a statement remembering the Holocaust by saying that Donald Trump’s administration “took into account all of those who suffered”.
On International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday, the White House made no mention of Jews, Judaism or the antisemitism that fueled Nazi Germany’s mass murder of six million Jews in the 1940s.
The head of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, wondered aloud about the “puzzling and troubling” statement, and its break with the precedent.
The executive director of the Anne Frank Center, Steven Goldstein, similarly scolded the president: “How can you forget, Mr President, that six million Jews were murdered because they were Jews? You chose the vague phrase ‘innocent people.’ They were Jews, Mr President.”
White House representatives did not answer queries about the statement until Saturday, when spokeswoman Hope Hicks forwarded to CNN a link to a Huffington Post article about the millions of people who were killed by Nazis for their ethnicities, sexual orientation, politics or religious beliefs.
“Despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered,” Hicks told CNN.
She did not answer a question about whether Trump did not want to offend people, saying only: “It was our honor to issue a statement in remembrance of this important day.”
In its original statement, the White House said: “It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.”
Trump later pledged in the statement “to do everything in my power throughout my presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good”.
“Together,” he added, “we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world.”
Past presidents have made special note of Jewish people, who were singled out for persecution throughout Adolf Hitler’s regime.
In 2015, Barack Obama condemned “the scourge of antisemitism”. In 2007, George W Bush declared: “We must continue to condemn the resurgence of anti-Semitism, that same virulent intolerance that led to the Holocaust”. In 1993, Bill Clinton noted: “Millions died for who they were, how they worshipped, what they believed, and who they loved. But one people, the Jews, were immutably marked for total destruction.”
In 1985, Ronald Reagan’s White House apologized even for the perception of omitting the Jewish people from public remarks on the Holocaust, saying: ‘The president is very sensitive to the colossal tragedy of the Jewish population during world war II. He has often said that the Holocaust should never be forgotten.”
The omission of Judaism from a Holocaust remembrance was not the first occasion that the Anti-Defamation League has urged Trump to remember the horrors of history.
The group has condemned Trump’s use of the slogan “America First”, which traces back to a 1940s isolationist group, led by Nazi sympathizers including aviator Charles Lindbergh, who believed “civilization depends on a western wall of race and arms which can hold back … the infiltration of inferior blood”.
Later on Friday, Trump signed an order suspending the entire US refugee program for 120 days and the Syrian refugee program indefinitely.