Don't Forget the Holocaust but Try Not To Talk About It Either

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After Germany's World War II defeat, the shamed postwar German government banned Nazi symbols on everything from flags to model airplanes, in an attempt to suppress Nazi sympathizers--although the need to forget that they allowed the Holocaust on their soil probably played a role in banishing swastikas and iron crosses from their sight.

Others, especially in the United States, want to remember the Holocaust and keep pointing to its atrocities so that mankind might not make the same mistake. Whereas the German anti-swastika laws even ensnare anti-fascists, who, for example, might display a swastika being smashed to pieces by a fist, Americans have been more common sense in their approach.

Like the Germans, however, sometimes we can overreact to the subject of Nazism and the Holocaust and try to stamp it out of existence altogether.

While it's poor form to label your political opponents Nazis, fascists, and anti-Semites simply because they disagree with you, sometimes it's appropriate if certain clinical definitions are met.

True, Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies is at play, which states that as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of someone calling someone a Nazi or Hitler approaches one. If you use this Reductio ad Hitlerum attack, you've probably lost the argument.

However, that's not to say that you should never use it. In fact, if we can never mention Nazism or Hitler aren't we bound to forget it, and isn't that exactly what we don't want to do?

The Left disproportionately benefits from Godwin's Rule, because, let's face it--Hitler was a socialist. The Nazi Party was the National Socialist Party. They believed in big government, big education, big social programs, and top-down social engineering.

Now, that's not to say that all socialists are like Hitler because Hitler was a socialist. To say so would be to introduce a fallacy to the discussion. However, if Hitler liked socialist policy X (or libertarian policy Y), then it would be fair to point that out so that people might realize, "oh wait, maybe this is a bad idea."

Unfortunately, if someone makes that point now, they are attacked as poisoning the debate.

A Catholic bishop in Pennsylvania found himself in that position recently when he said Hitler and Mussolini would have loved to have a powerful government-run education system.

The bishop made a comparison between the interests of the public school system and totalitarianism, while discussing what he sees as a lack of school choice in Pennsylvania.

"In the totalitarian government, they would love our system," McFadden said. "This is what Hitler and Mussolini and all them tried to establish -- a monolith; so all the children would be educated in one set of beliefs and one way of doing things."

He said the "H" word, and the Anti-Defamation League and the ACLU jumped on it.

McFadden's comments drew immediate criticism from the Anti-Defamation League and the American Civil Liberties Union - which complained that the bishop had raised the specter of the Holocaust.

You'd think the Anti-Defamation League, of all groups, would not want to stifle criticism of Hitler's policies.

"The Holocaust was a unique experience.  It does not lend itself to inappropriate analogies.  We have an obligation to protect the memory of those who suffered because of it from those who would distort it and undermine and trivialize the history of the Holocaust, however inadvertently.  Our role should be to honor those who fought to defeat the murderous Nazis, and not to inappropriately draw reckless comparisons."

But in this case, the analogy is true. Hitler and Mussolini wanted state-run education that promoted the state. It's not inappropriate. If the ADL wants people to remember the Holocaust, than it should want to remember what sort of conditions made it possible. Government propaganda was one important factor.

It's also appropriate to point out that the Catholic Church would benefit financially from a voucher system that promotes more school choice. Dollars that would be spent on public schools would instead be attached to students that went to Catholic schools.

Adults need to be mature enough not to shut down a debate when the H-word is mentioned, or when schools are attacked, or when it's pointed out that non-profits might be motivated by money.  Not being able to talk about certain things merely ensures they'll occur again.

This blog attempts to add perspective and context to local and national politics, through a variety of disciplines, such as history, economics, and philosophy--all tempered with common sense. About the author

Eric Ingemunson's commentary has been featured on Hannity, CNN, NBC, Inside Edition, and KFI's The John and Ken Show. Eric was born and raised in Ventura County and currently resides in Moorpark. He earned a master's degree in Public Policy and Administration from California Lutheran University. As a conservative, Eric supports smaller government, less taxation, more individual freedom, the rule of law, and a strict adherence to the Constitution.