The trouble with the Nazi Comparison

Posted 1/13/21

I was doom-scrolling through my Facebook feed last Wednesday when a comment on a local’s post stood out to me. It compared the government’s response to the Capitol attack to the Nazi occupation …

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The trouble with the Nazi Comparison

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I was doom-scrolling through my Facebook feed last Wednesday when a comment on a local’s post stood out to me. It compared the government’s response to the Capitol attack to the Nazi occupation in Germany.

I’ve seen similar statements crop up throughout the past year, taking aim at everything from Confederate monument removal to stay-at-home orders.

On this same day, a viral photo showed an insurrectionist wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” shirt. Under the phrase were the words “work brings freedom,” a rough translation of the “Arbeit macht frei” sign that still hangs at the aforementioned Nazi death camp. I remember last seeing that sign when a Holocaust survivor came to speak at my college campus. He described how he and his family hid in the woods for months on end, dying of starvation in fear that the soldiers would find and kill him.

You may be paying close attention to this piece because you know that I am Jewish, either from my last name or from my prior columns. You may have also seen the contrasting photos of law enforcement’s response to last summer’s protests and their response to the storming of the Capitol building. We need to separate these events and ask why they were handled so differently, just like we do with historical genocides and the current political climate.

The Nazi comparison isn’t new at all, but it does return in a flurry every year or so. When Chatham County took down the Pittsboro courthouse’s Confederate monument in 2019, someone posted the comparison in a Facebook group, noting that Auschwitz is still standing because “only idiots destroy history … others learn from it.” However, we do not celebrate or worship Auschwitz, while people absolutely idolize the confederate statues the quote alluded to.

Another comparison arose during the stay-at-home measures, with many social media accounts taking to N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper’s Facebook feed. “Cooper has turned into Hitler!” one proclaimed. Anyone who has studied the horrors of the Holocaust would never equate it to being barred from a bar after 9 p.m.

Finally, we must discuss the latest Nazi comparison — social media censorship. People like to label the Silicon Valley social media creators “fascists,” as well as compare the private companies’ rules to George Orwell’s “1984.” “This is how it starts,” shared one misinformed Facebook commenter. “This is how the Nazis took over Germany.”

Actually, Hitler rose to power in part because of his speeches that incited violence in the hearts and minds of his supporters.

Rachel Horowitz resides in Chatham County and works in Pittsboro. She is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media and can be reached at


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