Some notable Republicans across the country, including Coloradans, have honed in on an analogy to protest public health and safety precautions taken during the pandemic: enforcement of masks, lockdowns, and contact tracing = Nazism.
The Chaffee County Republicans’ Facebook page is the latest platform for conservatives to lament the mask-wearing requirements.
Its Facebook post from last week features a right-wing article criticizing U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) comments in an ABC This Week interview that the wearing of masks should be mandatory.
The Chaffee County GOP shared the article, adding “Uhmm, the Nazis made the Jews wear the Star of David as a sign of submission – too much similarity for me!” in the post.
David Williams, Chairman of Chaffee County Republicans, told the Colorado Times Recorder that he did not have a response to the post.
“I’d have to see if it’s even one of our members that put it up. We have an open Facebook page, you know,” said Williams. “For example, the Democrats, they keep theirs closed to where only they can monitor it. Where ours is totally open–we don’t have a lot of control of who does what on there.”
The Chaffee County GOP isn’t the first to compare mask-wearing to Hitler’s Nazi regime.
In Kansas, a GOP county party chairman published a cartoon comparing the Kansas mask order to forcing people onto cattle cars during the Holocaust.
In Idaho, a Republican state representative called Republican Idaho Gov. Brad Little “Little Hitler” for shutting down nonessential businesses during the pandemic, which she likened to Nazis deciding who were essential and non-essential workers, and sending the non-essential workers on a train.
An Alaska state representative sent out an e-mail comparing a sticker that people entering the Alaska State Capitol are required to wear showing they’ve passed health screening, to wearing an armband with a Star of David.
Colorado has seen similar Holocaust comparisons as well.
The most high-profile example is from the beginning of stay-at-home orders. Colorado state House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock) remarked that the stay-at-home order could lead to a “Gestapo-like mentality,” the Gestapo being the secret police of Nazi Germany.
Neville later apologized, telling the Denver Post that he should have said “authoritarian” instead of “Gestapo.”
Democratic Colorado Governor Jared Polis, who is both Jewish and openly gay, was asked to comment at a press conference in April. He responded, tearful, that he was offended, and that the stay-at-home order was “the exact opposite of the slaughter of six million Jews and many gypsies and Catholics and gays and lesbians and Russians and so many others.”
More recently, Rupert Parchment, a Republican Colorado state Senate candidate who lost in the June primaries, compared coronavirus contact tracing to Nazism.
“Are we going to start going back to Jim Crow and tagging people, or Nazi Germany where we’re making someone wear a stamp on their chest, because someone has a hateful interpretation?” Parchment told the Colorado Times Recorder, referring to what might be allowed to happen in the future if the government is given the opportunity to contact trace those who have contracted COVID-19.
Comparing policies to Nazi Germany, and political figures to Hitler, is nothing new to both sides of the aisle.
In 2017, Jonathan Greenblatt, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), told BBC News that the reason for the constant comparisons is due to the fact that the Holocaust is the “most available historical event illustrating right versus wrong.”
However, “misplaced comparisons trivialize this unique tragedy in human history,” Greenblatt said.
It seems that political discourse about the pandemic, and the government’s response to it, is especially rife with talk of Nazi Germany. Individuals who are used to being able to do whatever they please without the potential risk of seriously harming someone else now feel stifled by restrictions.
But, remarked an editorial in April from Colorado newspaper The Gazette, “stay-at-home orders are not concentration camps,” per the title of the piece.
“Yes, we are hunkered down at home by order of the governor,” the editorial board wrote. “Yet, we live with assurance no one will round us up and cram us into concentration camps.”
“We are not awaiting mass abuse, torture, rape, and branding, only to end up in mass graves,” the editorial board wrote. “Authorities are fighting a virus, not a demographic.”