In April 1944, two Slovakian Jews named Alfred Weczler and Rudolf Vrba escaped from Auschwitz, and provided one of the first eyewitness accounts of the horrors of the European concentration camps. Both men had been rounded up with a group of their countrymen and sent to the Birkenau section of the camp in the spring of 1941, where they were immediately put to work as slave labor.
Of the 2,722 Slovakian Jews who had been rounded up with Weczler and Vrba, only 159 survived to the summer of 1942. Those who died had been dumped, with another approximately 105,000 bodies, into shallow trenches around Birkenau. “As they decomposed” Conot noted, “the earth rose like a yeasty mixture of dough and bubbled up nauseating gases, which spread for miles.”
I think of that last sentence whenever some modern-day know-nothing begins comparing the United States to a proto-Nazi state. Maybe it’s because their analogies are embarrassingly ignorant and intellectually lazy, or maybe it’s because people like Ocasio-Cortez, perhaps unknowingly, diminish the suffering of millions of dead. Or maybe it’s because my own grandfather was taken as slave labor in Austria.
Then again, maybe it’s because the comparison itself is a despicable smear of the American people. It’s true that we’re not prepared for the crush of refugees on the southern border (although it should be noted that many Democrats contend any border is immoral). While there is a border, however, we ask migrants who show up to follow existing laws; ones that are subject to the democratic process and the court system.