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Rep. condemned for Hitler comparison

Comments by a U.S. congressman who compared post-Sept. 11 Bush administration policies to Nazi manipulations in the early 1930s were condemned.

“It’s almost like the Reichstag fire, kind of reminds me of that,” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said July 8, addressing a group of Minnesota atheists. “After the Reichstag was burned, they blamed the communists for it, and it put the leader of that country in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted.”

Adolf Hitler, then the German chancellor who was unable to obtain a Nazi majority through democratic means, used the Feb. 23, 1933 burning of the Reichstag as a pretext to impose police powers. It is still unclear who was responsible for the fire.

Defending his comments to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Ellison said, “In the aftermath of a tragedy, space is opened up for governments to take action that they could not have achieved before that.” Ellison, the first Muslim to serve in Congress, cited the Iraq war and parts of the Patriot Act, which granted the government greater arrest and surveillance powers after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The Anti-Defamation League called Ellison’s comments “outrageous and offensive.”

“Whatever his views may be on the administration’s response to 9/11 and the conduct of the war on terrorism, likening it to Hitler’s rise to power and Nazism is odious and demeans the victims of 9/11 and the brave American men and women engaged in the war on terror,” the ADL said in a statement. “Furthermore, it demonstrates a profound lack of understanding about the horrors that Hitler and his Nazi regime perpetrated.”

Reps. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.) called on Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, to reprimand Ellison.

“These comments inflame hatred and division at a time when we should be promoting our unity and reconciliation,” their letter said.

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