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A congressman compared COVID vaccine cards to Nazi-era passes. The Auschwitz memorial says he's exploiting the Holocaust.

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Ohio Rep. Warren Davidson is being criticized by Poland's Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and State Museum after he compared COVID-19 vaccination cards to Nazi-era health passes. The memorial said that the Republican congressman's comparison is "exploiting" the Holocaust, which resulted in the deaths of millions. 

The comparison in question was made on Tuesday, after Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser tweeted a reminder for D.C. residents that, beginning this weekend, they will need their proof of vaccination and a mask to enter indoor establishments. Davidson responded to the tweet with a photo of a Gesundheitspass, a health pass that Nazi officials required, among other documents, for citizens to carry with them and prove their identity. 

The image that Davidson tweeted — along with the message "This has been done before" — was a pass that was auctioned off on a military antiques website.

"Let's recall that the Nazis dehumanized Jewish people before segregating them, segregated them before imprisoning them, imprisoned them before enslaving them, and enslaved them before massacring them," Davidson tweeted. "Dehumanizing and segregation are underway - and wrong." 

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has said that it's "impossible" to know the true number of people who died as a result of Nazi policies during the Holocaust. To the best knowledge available, it's estimated that six million Jewish people were killed during the regime. 

As stated on the U.S. Holocaust Museum's website, Nazis "believed that Germans were 'racially superior' and they wanted to create a 'racially pure' state." Jewish people were considered a threat to that mission. 

Poland's Auschwitz Memorial is located on the site of the former Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration and extermination camp. Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest of the German concentration and extermination camps and is the site where more than 1.1 million people were killed. 

"Exploiting of the tragedy of all people who between 1933-45 suffered, were humiliated, tortured & murdered by the totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany in a debate about vaccines & covid limitations in the time of global pandemic is a sad symptom of moral and intellectual decay," the museum said. 

Davidson's  comments drew criticism from many others, as well. Jon Wolfsthal, who was a special assistant to former President Barack Obama, tweeted at the congressman that his own father spent more than two years in a Nazi concentration camp. 

"I would like to talk and help you understand both why these remarks are offensive and hurtful and why you are incorrect in your comparison," Wolfsthal said. "Please DM me to arrange a call if you believe in dialogue."

Researcher Julie Carpenter issued a similar response, saying "My family were forced into ghettos and concentration camps 'for existing' and slaughtered during the Holocaust." 

"You are being asked to participate in responsible self care and public health," she said. "Attempting to compare the two is detestable, absurd. Your words reek of ignorance." 

Davidson's comparison is not the first to emerge during the pandemic. Last year, Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene compared vaccination requirements to the Holocaust. In March 2021, the official Twitter account for the Libertarian Party of Kentucky posted, "Are the vaccine passports going to be yellow, shaped like a star, and sewn on our clothes?"

Richard Grenell, who served as acting director of national intelligence under former President Donald Trump in 2020, tweeted a meme from the movie "Inglorious Basterds," in which a Nazi soldier is looking for Jewish people. The scene is shown with the individual asking, "You're hiding unvaccinated people under your floorboards aren't you?" 

Last year, as the Nazi Germany comparisons and anti-Semitic violence grew, 51 Holocaust survivors issued an open letter through the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum asking for it to end. 

"This targeted violence is happening as we also watch with great dismay a persistent and increasing tendency in American public life to invoke the Holocaust for the purpose of promoting another agenda," they wrote. "It is deeply painful for us to see our personal history—the systematic destruction of our families and communities and murder of six million Jewish men, women, and children—exploited in this way. What we survived should be remembered, studied, and learned from, but never misused."

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