By Jack Rosen, President of the American Jewish Congress

Published originally in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette.

Sadly, when a FOX News host compares a respected epidemiologist to the notorious Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, we have not stooped to a new low. Our political discourse has been debased for some time. Over the course of the COVID pandemic we have seen yellow stars— used to identify Jews in World War II, millions of whom were destined for the gas chambers — used to protest mask mandates, T-shirts of President Joe Biden defaced to give him a Hitler mustache, and the like. And that’s the problem: We are becoming inured to the casual evocation of Nazi imagery in our politics, which actually diminishes the shock value of Nazi crimes against humanity, making the probability of their ideas and actions more likely to return.

The Holocaust was a singular episode in human history. Never before had the extermination of a people, fueled by a radical racist political ideology, been executed on such a scale of cruelty and barbarism. However, the stain of the Holocaust is eternal, its depiction in history books and museums a perpetual reminder not only of the historic persecution of the Jewish people but of the potential for bottomless evil and as a clarion call to vigilance.

Evoking Nazi imagery must shock. Our consciousnesses require it. Nazi symbols must jar us only to images of barbed wire and crematoriums, of shuffling skeletons and stacks of bodies. Instead, they are being used to score cheap points with viewers and to rouse the rabble against reasonable accommodations for public health.

Lara Logan, the FOX Nation host who made the Dr. Anthony Fauci-Mengele comparison, cannot be excused for equating science-based vaccination requirements with the hideous experiments committed by Mengele on men, women and children. Indeed, if Ms. Logan needed to evoke an infamously cruel Nazi in order to make a point about vaccines, then she had no point at all.

It is the sheer frequency and moral disparity of comments like Ms. Logan’s that pose a long-term danger that the Holocaust will become a malleable political prop rather than a towering monolith that warns of the depths of evil.

In early July, less than a month after issuing a public apology for comparing coronavirus protections to the Holocaust, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) tweeted that Americans “don’t need (Joe Biden’s) medical brown shirts showing up at their door ordering vaccinations.”

Rep. Greene’s Republican colleague, Rep. Lauren Boebert, compared U.S. federal COVID-19 vaccination efforts to Nazism, tweeting that Joe Biden “has deployed his Needle Nazis” to her Colorado district.

In August, John Bennett, chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, posted a video online in which he compared vaccine mandates for businesses and public areas to the Nazis’ use of yellow stars to identify Jews.

In September, Heidi Sampson, a Republican state representative in Maine, declared that “we have Josef Mengele and Joseph Goebbels being reincarnated here in the state of Maine” in reference to Gov. Janet Mills and her sister, who is an executive with MaineHealth, the state’s largest health care provider.

Then, Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie tweeted a meme comparing COVID restrictions to the treatment of prisoners in concentration camps during the Holocaust. The meme, since deleted, showed a hand raised in a fist with a tattooed number visible on the wrist.

Outside of COVID, Evangelical Christians have also offered Nazi analogies to describe what they see as threats to their religion. And such comparisons are not the domain of Republicans alone. Democrats, too, have invoked Nazi imagery to criticize former President Donald Trump.

Paradoxically, the use of such Nazi imagery is itself inherently anti-Semitic. Evoking Nazis to oppose reasonable accommodations for public health demeans the experience of millions of Jews who actually suffered and perished under the Nazis. Diluting that history is a form of Holocaust denial.

“Never forget” has long been the call of Jews and people of goodwill who understand that to avoid the repeat of last century’s atrocities we must submit ourselves to the full measure of their pain and cruelty.

Ms. Logan and her cohorts, by equating the Holocaust with the baseless sense of victimization of their viewers and voters, diminishes the rawness and truth of the Nazis’ crimes against humanity and desensitizes Americans to the power of its lesson for future generations. Never forget? For many, the Holocaust is already forgotten.

© 2020 American Jewish Congress.