The following letter, signed by a variety of esteemed Holocaust scholars, was presented to members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations prior to their hearing on David Friedman today, as part of a broad push of liberal Jewish organizations, among them Partners for Progressive Israel, to oppose Friedman’s nomination.
As scholars specializing in study of the Holocaust, we strongly object to the way President Donald Trump’s nominee to be US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has distorted and misused events during that tragic period in order to advance his own political goals.
In approaching the Holocaust, we believe that one must show scrupulous respect for the facts as well as respect for the victims in all their humanity. We must also acknowledge the unique nature of the tragedy we are describing. To do otherwise is to dilute the moral and historical significance of this subject in human history.
We are especially troubled that Mr. Friedman has repeatedly compared fellow members of the Jewish community whose views on Israel differ from his own to “kapos” or even “worse than kapos.”
The historical record shows that kapos were Jews whom the Nazis forced, at pain of death, to serve them in the concentration and extermination camps. These Jews faced terrible dilemmas, but ultimately were made into unwilling tools of Nazi brutality. To brand one’s political opponents, members of one’s own community, as kapos, merely for engaging in legitimate debate, is historically indefensible and is a deeply disturbing example of the abuse of the Holocaust and its victims for present political gain.
Mr. Friedman also trivialized the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust in an effort to discredit women who accused Donald Trump of sexual assault. At that time, he declared, “While the revelation of Mr. Trump’s demeaning comments caught on tape some 11 years ago brought him, as one would expect, widespread negative attention, The New York Times ran with the story with all the journalistic integrity of the worst gossip rag. If only the Times had reported on the Nazi death camps with the same fervor as its failed last-minute attempt to conjure up alleged victims of Donald Trump, imagine how many lives could have been saved.”
Reporting on the Holocaust as it occurred is a complex historical question Friedman oversimplified for the sake of politically expediency. Coverage of the serious allegations against President Trump is wholly unrelated to the Holocaust. We reject the use of the Holocaust to reinforce contemporary political messages and view this tactic as grossly trivializing the historical reality of the death and concentration camps.
These examples show a callous disregard for history and for the suffering of the victims of Nazism. As such, they are unbefitting of one who would become a diplomatic representative of the United States and call into serious question his capacity to serve the United States honorably and successfully in this role.
We hope that you will keep Mr. Friedman’s disrespectful and politically cynical use of the Holocaust in mind as you consider his nomination to serve as our ambassador to Israel.
** All signatories are signing as individual scholars and do not necessarily represent the views of their institutions.
|Andrew Mathis, Adjunct Professor, University of the Sciences
|Atina Grossmann, Professor, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Cooper Union, New York
|Avinoam Patt, Director of the Museum of Jewish Civilization, University of Hartford
|Beth Lilach, Senior Director of Education and Community Affairs, Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center
|Christine E. Schmidt, Adjunct Professor, Gratz College and UMUC
|Deborah Dwork, Rose Professor of Holocaust History and Director of the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Clark University
|Deborah Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies, Emory university
|David Abraham, Professor of Law Emeritus, University of Miami
|Elissa Bemporad, Associate Professor of History, CUNY
|Gabriel Finder, Associate Professor and Ida and Nathan Kolodiz Director of Jewish Studies, University of Virginia
|Henry Greenspan, Lecturer, Social Theory and Practice, University of Michigan
|Hubert Locke, John and Marguerite Corbally Professor of Public Service (Emeritus) , university of washington
|Idit Gil, Department of Sociology, Political Science and Communication, Faculty Membe, The Open University of Israel
|Jared McBride, PhD, History, UCLA
|Jay Geller, Associate Professor of Modern Jewish Culture, Vanderbilt University
|Jeffrey Blutinger, Assistant Professor of History, Co-Director of Jewish Studies, California State University, Long Beach
|Jeffrey Koerber, Assistant Professor of History, Chapman University
|Jennifer Marlow, Adjunct Instructor in History, Gratz College
|Joanna Michlic, Honorary Research Fellow, The UCL Centre for Collective Violence, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, UCL, London
|Joanna Sliwa, Archives Project Specialist, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC)
|John-Paul Himka, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Alberta
|Kate Brackney, PhD Candidate, Department of History , Yale University
|Ken Waltzer, Professor Emeritus, Social Relations and Policy, Michigan State U.
|Laura Brade, PhD Candidate, Department of History , University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
|Lawrence Baron, Professor Emeritus of Modern Jewish History, San Diego State university
|Leah Brown, Gallery Educator, Museum of Jewish Heritage
|Leonard Grob, Professor of Philosophy and Coordinator of Philosophy Studies , Fairleigh Dickinson University
|Lori Lefkovitz, Ruderman Professor and Director of Jewish Studies Program; Professor of English; Director, Humanities Center, Northeastern University
|Marion Kaplan, Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies; Skirball Professor of Modern Jewish History, New York University
|Matthew Girson, Associate Professor, Art, Media, and Design, DePaul University
|Nancy Civin, Retired high school teacher and Holocaust scholar,
|Omer Bartov, John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History and Professor of History and Professor of German Studies, Brown University
|Paul Jaskot, Professor of History of Art and Architecture, DePaul University
|Ranen Omer-Sherman, Endowed Chair of Jewish Studies, University of Louisville
|Simone Schweber, Goodman Professor of Education and Jewish Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison
|Veronica Grodzinski, Ph.D. Modern Jewish History / Art History / German History, Alumna UCL London and Hebrew University, Jerusalem
|Waitman Beorn, Lecturer in the Corcoran Department of History , University of Virginia