Robert F. Kennedy Jr. recently compared governmental efforts to promote mask and vaccine efforts to Nazi persecution of Jews and other victims and said we’re less safe than Anne Frank. In doing so, he undermined his own case while reflecting the ineffectiveness and lack of reason and the downright evil that using Nazi analogies in modern political discourse reflects. He should spend less time arguing against vaccines and spend more time learning about the Holocaust.
Anne Frank has been much in the news lately. She was arguably the most famous victim of Hitler’s Holocaust, for which the annual Remembrance Day was Thursday, January 27th. CBS’s 60 Minutes recently reported on the most recent attempts to discover who told the Nazis of the Secret Annex in which she and her family and others were hiding until the Nazis found them.
But perhaps the most noteworthy comment about Anne Frank was made by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who told an anti-vax rally that we were in greater danger from supporters of mask and vaccine mandates than Europeans were at the hands of Hitler. “Even in Hitler’s Germany,” he told a crowd, “you could cross the Alps into Switzerland. You could hide in an attic like Anne Frank did.”
Kennedy conveniently forgot to tell his audience that Anne Frank’s efforts to hide were ultimately unsuccessful: She, her family, and others in the Secret Annex were discovered by the Nazis and sent by rail to Auschwitz. From Auschwitz Anne was sent to Bergen-Belsen, where she died of typhus in early 1945. In fact, everyone in the Secret Annex but her father died in the camps. So much for the safety of “hiding in an attic.”
Negative reaction to Kennedy’s drivel, one should be pleased to note, was swift, brutal, and honest. One of his sisters wrote that “Bobby’s lies and fear-mongering yesterday were both sickening and destructive.” And even his own wife, actress Cheryl Hines (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) got into the act: She said, “My husband’s reference to Anne Frank at a mandate rally in D.C. was reprehensible and insensitive. The atrocities that millions endured during the Holocaust should never be compared to anyone or anything.”
To be fair, it should be noted that Bobby Jr. did offer a mealy-mouthed semi-apology: “I apologize for my reference to Anne Frank, especially to families that suffered the Holocaust horrors,” he said. “My intention was to use examples of past barbarism to show the perils from new technologies of control. To the extent my remarks caused hurt, I am truly and deeply sorry.” Whatever. Of course, his “apology” came only after the blowback he received, as well as the publicity he obviously wanted. And while he at least acknowledged, under pressure, the existence “Holocaust horrors,” his initial remarks show he has no true understanding of what he was talking about.
With his offensive use of a Nazi analogy to make his case, Kennedy obviously undermined it. One can make an argument that mandates undermine a person’s right to bodily autonomy, infringe on his personal freedom, excessively expand the powers of the federal government, and therefore should be rejected as a policy option. But to make an argument based on assertions that Americans today are in more danger than Anne Frank or other Holocaust victims is pure lunacy. The Holocaust was not the systematic enforcement of requirements that we wear face masks, or take free vaccines, or otherwise take steps not to infect ourselves and others. It was the application of modern managerial and technological measures to systematically murder millions of Jews and others perceived as Nazism’s enemies. There is no equivalence between mandates meant to save lives and mandates to murder as many people as possible. The failure to draw the obvious distinction is pure lunacy. And arguments based on lunacy, at the very least, undermine the very goals which the arguments are employed to make. The responsible opponents of mask and vaccine mandates would be well-advised to cut Bobby Jr. adrift and deny him whatever opportunities they can for him to be their spokesman.
And should this happen, what should Bobby do with the greater free time he’s likely to have? Here’s a suggestion: He should visit Auschwitz, where Anne Frank’s family was sent from the “safety” of the Secret Annex, and then to Bergen-Belsen, where her grave can be found. Who knows? If Bobby is still open to learning—admittedly a big if—he may learn lessons that will enhance both his capacity for logic and his basic humanity too.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.