(JTA) — The White House statement commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day did not mention Jews or anti-Semitism because it was intended to be “inclusive,” Trump administration spokeswoman Hope Hicks told CNN.
“Despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered,” Hicks said Saturday, responding to criticism by the Anti-Defamation League and others of the statement issues Friday, which referred to “the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust” without singling out the Jewish victims.
Hicks provided CNN with a link to a Huffington Post UK article titled “The Holocaust’s Forgotten Victims,” which noted the Nazis had killed not only some 6 million Jews, but also “gay people, priests, gypsies, people with mental or physical disabilities, communists, trade unionists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, anarchists, Poles and other Slavic peoples, and resistance fighters.”
By contrast with the Trump statement, a 2015 statement by the Obama administration on International Holocaust Remembrance Day spoke of “the six million Jews and millions of others murdered by the Nazi regime.” A 2008 statement by President George W. Bush referred to his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Israel and condemned “the resurgence of anti-Semitism, that same virulent intolerance that led to the Holocaust.”
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt noted the omission of Jews in the Trump statement in tweets Friday, saying, “@WhiteHouse statement on #HolocaustMemorialDay, misses that it was six million Jews who perished, not just ‘innocent people'” and “Puzzling and troubling @WhiteHouse #HolocaustMemorialDay stmt has no mention of Jews. GOP and Dem. presidents have done so in the past.”
Many Jewish leaders, while aware of the persecution and murder of millions of other peoples under the Nazis, have insisted that the genocide of the Jews be acknowledged as a unique goal of Hitler’s regime. In the past, similar Holocaust commemorative statements that have omitted specific mention of the Jewish victims have been decried as an attempt to “de-Judaize” the horrors of the Nazi era.
In her response to CNN, Hicks also referred the network to a statement from Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, criticizing Greenblatt and the ADL.
“It does no honor to the millions of Jews murdered in the Holocaust to play politics with their memory,” Lauder said, in a statement issued Saturday. “Any fair reading of the White House statement today on the International Holocaust Memorial Day [sic] will see it appropriately commemorates the suffering and the heroism that mark that dark chapter in modern history.”
“There are enough real anti-Semitism [sic] and true threats facing the Jewish people today. Our community gains nothing if we reach a point where manufactured outrages reduce public sensitivity to the real dangers we confront,” Lauder said.
Pundits on the left and right were critical of the Trump White House statement. Former Reagan White House speechwriter John Podhoretz called Hicks’s defense of the Trump administration statement “abominable.”
Writing for Commentary, Podhoretz said the omission of the Jews is “the culmination of decades of ill feeling that seems to center on the idea that the Jews have somehow made unfair ‘use’ of the Holocaust and it should not ‘belong’ to them. Someone in that nascent White House thought it was time to reflect that view through the omission of the specifically Jewish quality of the Holocaust.
“Now the question is: Who was it?”
Josh Marshall, editor and publisher of the liberal website TalkingPointsMemo.com, noted “it has long been a trope of Holocaust deniers and white nationalists to insist that Jews were only incidentally targeted.”