Deval Patrick’s Hollow Holocaust Reference

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Am I Still Here?) sort of stepped in it the other day, making a comparison that’s ill-advised nine out of ten times and indefensible the other.

Yesterday’s Boston Globe, Page One:


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(Interesting – but not unusual: The web subhead was the much blander “Says immigrants detained in Southwest deserve a safe haven.”)

As night follows day, crosstown rival Boston Herald found a politician to jump on Patrick’s comments. From today’s edition:

Rep: Gov’s Holocaust analogy is ‘ludicrous’

Gov. Deval Patrick’s decision to compare the flood of unaccompanied Central American kids crossing the Texas border to the Holocaust sparked outrage in some circles yesterday, including a Jewish lawmaker who said the “off-putting” remarks had no place in the (7/17/14) Mass State Rep Steven S. Howitt (R)from howitt web siteimmigration debate.

“I think it was a poor choice and a poor analogy,” said state Rep. Steven S. Howitt, a Seekonk Republican. “Does he get a free pass because he’s the governor and he can say that?

“I just feel that one does not equate one to the other, and to compare Central America to Nazi Germany is just ludicrous,” Howitt said. “The children that were sent back (then) were sent back to death camps and eventually the gas chambers. To my knowledge, we don’t have them in whatever countries these children came from in Central America.”


Back at the Globe, it was left to a reader to point out Patrick’s misjudgment. From today’s Letter to the Editor:

No comparison between migrants and Nazi victims


GOVERNOR DEVAL Patrick is attempting to guilt-trip us by contrasting US refusal to allow legal entry of European Jews in 1939 with his decision to support the illegal entry of immigrant children. His statement offends the memory of six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust (“Patrick wants Mass. to host children,” Page A1, July 17).

Patrick referred specifically to the St. Louis, a ship with 928 passengers, almost all of them Jewish refugees from the Nazis. They were victims of a mandate to torture and exterminate a people because of their faith.

The passengers of the St. Louis never tried to force their way into this country illegally. They did not seek to come here for free health care, free housing, welfare subsidies, or better jobs. Theirs was a voyage of survival, not economic upgrading. Just to save their lives, they would have been content to settle in Honduras, Guatemala, or El Salvador, where many immigrants originate today.

The governments of Central America are lax, corrupt, and inefficient, but, unlike Nazi Germany, they do not have an agenda for their citizens’ torture and extermination.

Those that govern us should be ashamed of their self-serving obfuscation of fact and their violation of the sacred memory of the Holocaust victims’ annihilation.

Michael Zack





6 Responses to Deval Patrick’s Hollow Holocaust Reference

  1. Bob Gardner says:

    Did Patrick actually compare the children coming here to the Holocaust, or did he compare their plight to that of the passengers of the St Louis?

  2. Bob Gardner says:

    I’m not so sure of that. No analogy is perfect, of course. Children, versus adults, a freight car versus an ocean liner, legal versus illegal, violent street gangs versus Nazi SS–none of those comparisons are very close.
    But Gov. Patrick’s main point is apt as I read it. The reasons given to deny asylum to refugees in both cases are pretexts–pretexts that barely disguise the anti-Semitism and the racism that are the real reasons for these controversies.
    Michael Zack’s letter is a good illustration. “. . . free housing, welfare subsidies . . . “? Zack inserts these racist stereotypes for the real cause– the violence that is driving children out of those three countries, not only to the US but also to other countries in the region.
    Zack, (and the other critics of Patrick’s statement) seem to want to draw distinctions between the St Louis passengers and any other victims so the critics can play the part of the Cuban and American bureaucrats who sent those passengers to their doom, and then claim that as long as they are not sending those children back to actual Nazi’s, it’s not so bad.
    The humane and proper use of what happened to the passengers on the St Louis would be to avoid repeating it.
    John, I was going to say that I was disappointed that you would give an “amen” to such sentiments, but I’m really less disappointed than appalled.

    • Campaign Outsider says:

      The only thing I’m endorsing, Bob, is the objection to the overuse of Holocaust analogies. (Added): I should have made that clearer.

  3. Dan Kennedy says:

    John, here’s how the Herald story you cite ends: “Jeremy Burton, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, defended Patrick, saying, ‘No historical metaphor is ever exact or precise,’ he said. ‘When I saw his comments, I was very moved and touched by it.'”

    I think you know that I’m not a big fan of our only governor, but in this case I thought his remarks were appropriate, even moving.

    • Campaign Outsider says:

      I think his sentiments and his intentions are laudable, Dan. I just don’t happen to approve of his analogy, all due respect to Mr. Burton.

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