November 2, 2012

Another View: Abuse of Holocaust rhetoric by Maine politicians is offensive

By Derrek L. Shulman

Recent descriptions by Linda Bean of the policies of President Obama as "Hitlerian" are deeply upsetting ("

Bill Nemitz: Is Barack Obama comparable to a man who helped murder 11 million people? One Maine lobster-roll saleswoman says 'yes'"

Oct. 26).

We neither support nor oppose candidates for political office, but believe that invoking Holocaust analogies is offensive not only to survivors of the Nazi regime but also to all those who value civil discourse and a shared community of respect. It is unfortunate that political and business leaders must be reminded of the need for greater care when invoking the Holocaust. There are appropriate instances to recall the unique evils of Adolph Hitler, along with the important moral and historical lessons from his regime. A comparison to modern-day American presidential policies does not qualify as such an appropriate occasion.

The current trend in Maine and elsewhere, however, has been for certain public figures to stretch Nazi terminology to make a cheap political point or to attack a political rival. A governor, state legislators and now a business leader have used comparisons to the Shoah to wage political attacks. Such comparisons are out of bounds, and serve only to diminish the authenticity and the true meaning of one of history's most destructive manifestations of hatred and anti-Semitism. It is essential that we teach about the timeless lessons of the Holocaust. Otherwise, the ideal behind the imperative "Never Again!" will lose all meaning.

Community leaders and others bear a responsibility to steer clear of Nazi imagery when attempting to make political hay. At the same time, those who speak-out against improper references to Hitler deserve to be commended. We therefore thank the management of L.L. Bean, among others, for publicly distancing themselves from the hurtful comments attributed to Ms. Bean.

Derrek L. Shulman, is regional director and Jeffrey Robbins is chairman of the board of directors of the Anti-Defamation League, New England Region in Boston.

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