Jewish community leader outraged protesters’ signs featured Holocaust symbols, comparisons

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) ─ Some demonstrators carried signs that featured Holocaust comparisons and symbols during this week’s protests against COVID-19 restrictions and regulations, sparking outrage from the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver.

“It really denigrates the memory,” Ezra Shanken told NEWS 1130 as his organization continues to help educate people about the use of hateful symbols.

This week, protesters in B.C., Ontario and Quebec took to busy streets and hospital entrances with some signs comparing public health advice and upcoming orders to the horrors of the Second World War. This comparison has continued throughout the pandemic as anti-Semitic incidents rise across the country.

“I would challenge that there are many other ways to say I’m frustrated, then sprawling a swastika on a campaign sign, or making one of our public health officers out to be a Nazi doctor or a premier have to be an Adolf Hitler,” Shanken said. “These are obviously not appropriate for this day and age.”

Shanken says he can’t fathom how people who oppose the health recommendations believe they are experiencing the same tragedies as Holocaust survivors.

“That’s not happening.”

The Jewish Federation CEO says the comparison is nowhere near accurate, adding the Holocaust is not a synonym.

“The Holocaust is not like a public health campaign to try to save lives,” he said. “The Holocaust was about finding people, branding people because of who they were − be it Jews, gypsies, Catholics, gays, disabled … communists, anybody who was against the government.

“They were branded, they were discriminated against, and they were exterminated systematically.”

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Shanken calls the shocking comparison incredibly traumatizing for survivors.

“I cannot imagine what they’ve been through. And then to see these symbols really being used so openly is really something that can be psychologically damaging to them.”

But it’s not just survivors that are impacted, “it’s about our children of survivors.”

“The incredible amount of intergenerational trauma that was created by this single moment in history − one of the most horrific moments in history − is very hard to measure.

“What we do know is that people who have gone through these types of experiences really never recovered from it. And every little bit that they see that links back to that type of experience can then bring back up a really, really traumatic memory from their past.”

Shanken adds he supports anyone’s right to protest, but he says there is no place for the use of Holocaust symbols − whether you’re pro-vaccine or anti-vaccine.

He hopes others will step in and stop these types of comparisons from happening.

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