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We tend to view the Holocaust through the lens of hindsight, but considering the state of the current presidential election, I think we need to take a step back and ask ourselves a question: “How did the Holocaust start, and is it possible that we’re seeing something similar happening—or beginning to happen—here in the United States?”
As an editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry, I have worked closely with Jewish Holocaust survivors. Their stories are harrowing and difficult to read, especially when we consider the fact that most present-day survivors were children when they and their families were robbed of their homes, property and human rights.
Many survivors lost parents, siblings and other relatives. No child should be made to suffer through such horrors. But if Donald Trump does what he says he intends to do, will we soon have American Anne Franks hiding in American attics and cellars from an American Gestapo?
Of course no one is talking about gas ovens and mass murders in the United States, but it is important to understand that Hitler and the Nazis didn’t begin with the idea of deliberately murdering large numbers of people. Hitler’s original plan was to round up, hold, then deport Germany’s “undesirables.” And isn’t that also Trump’s plan?
What could go wrong with Trump’s idea? Well, the same things that went wrong with Hitler’s.
First, as Hitler discovered, it is not easy to get other nations to accept millions of destitute refugees. Many illegal immigrants are undocumented. How can Trump and his deputies prove that they were born in a particular country? Why should any nation take a family that can’t prove where it originated?
Second, before millions of people can be deported, they have to be held somewhere. Thus, the United States will need gigantic internment camps similar to those of Nazi Germany. What will the conditions be like? Such camps will be full of despair, as parents agonize about what will become of their children, and the children pine over the loss of their freedom and friends. Moving anywhere, even under the best of circumstances, can be hard on children; moving into a giant open-air prison is something no child should ever have to experience.
Third, in order to round up millions of people, the American deportation forces will need sweeping powers. However, just as compassionate people protected the Frank family from the Gestapo, surely compassionate Americans will strive to protect American Anne Franks. So it seems likely that there will be a war of sorts between the deporters and those who oppose them.
Fourth, what will happen to the character of the United States? The character of Germany as a nation rapidly deteriorated once the Holocaust was underway. Will the same thing happen here?
Fifth, if Trump is not successful with his plan to deport millions of people, what will his next brainstorm be? He has already talked about ordering American soldiers to hunt down and murder Muslim women and children for purposes of “retribution” after terrorist attacks. A man who talks so loosely about murdering women and children may be capable of almost anything. I, for one, am not willing to discover what he and his ilk are capable of doing.
I believe Trump’s plan would open a Pandora’s box of evils here in the United States. It is time to use our voices and our votes to keep him out of the White House.
Author: Michael R. Burch
Image: Flickr/Gage Skidmore
Editor: Travis May