What is the best way to shut down the debate on immigration? By heightening the language to levels impossible to be debated. That is what has been happening in the new -- and false -- trend of comparing the waves of migrants arriving in Europe to Jews during the Holocaust.
Recently, Franco Berardi, the Italian author of a play in Germany, "Auschwitz on the Beach", charged Europeans with setting up "concentration camps" on its territory. One line in the performance was, "Salt water has replaced Zyklon B" -- a reference to the poison gas used by the Nazis in World War II to exterminate Jews. After protests from the Jewish community, the play was cancelled. Adam Szymczyk, the director of the Documenta exhibition, defined the show as a "warning against historical amnesia, a moral wake-up call, a call to collective action". This response, while true for the mass-murder of Jews, is a grotesque distortion of what has been happening in Europe for the last three years. On the contrary, governments, non-governmental organizations, bureaucrats, charities and the media have all embraced migrants in the millions, and welcomed them with open arms. The Jews during the Second World War -- most of whom were turned away, turned in or betrayed by all European governments -- were not so fortunate.
Auschwitz on the Beach?
The current misrepresentation was first formulated by Sweden's deputy prime minister, Asa Romson. "We are turning the Mediterranean into the new Auschwitz", she said. Since then, this sham comparison has entered into the European mainstream, and the death of six million Jews has been turned into an ideological platform -- a parable of human suffering -- to justify importing even more unknown migrants. Even Pope Francis, who compared a center for migrants to "concentration camps", adopted this nonsense.
Jewish organizations in the US rightly condemned the comparison. David Harris, Executive Director of American Jewish Committee, said: "The Nazis and their allies erected and used concentration camps for slave labor and the extermination of millions of people during World War II, there is no comparison to the magnitude of that tragedy."
All of Europe's efforts, in fact, have been devoted to rescuing migrants: on borders, at sea and in cities hosting asylum centers. Such distinctions, however, are apparently not enough: the immigration question is apparently supposed to become the new ideology, like a religion. That is why there seems an orchestrated attempt by large segments of the establishment to turn the rescue operations into a "new Holocaust". Questioning them must become a taboo.
Despite Muslims historically having been the most aggressive colonizers, Europe's élites have come to idealize them due to a mix of demographic decline, misconception of Islam, self-hate for the Western culture and a fatal, romanticized attraction for the decolonized Third World people.
In Italy, currently at the center of the migrant crisis, the "Holocaust comparison" has even entered into the country's jurisprudence. An Italian tribunal recently ordered the government to pay compensation of 30,000 euros to the municipality of Bari for "damage to the image of the town" caused by the presence of a migrant identification center. "Think about Auschwitz, a place that immediately recalls the concentration camp of the Holocaust and certainly not the Polish town in the vicinity", the magistrate said.
According to the judiciary, a migrant center disfigures Italian territory just as the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp did the Polish town of Oświęcim. It is not even helpful to ask anyone, "Where are the gas chambers and the crematoria in the Italian migrant centers?" We are already in the field of ideological irrationality.
During World War II, Germans and their allies hunted down Jews in every corner of Europe, murdering them on the spot or deporting them to concentration camps, where they tortured and killed literally millions. Today's Germans, on the contrary, have opened their borders to millions -- seven out of ten of whom, according with the United Nations, are not even refugees but economic migrants simply seeking a better life.
Many Europeans are trying to close the debate about the supposed benefits of immigration by using "Holocaust words" such as "extermination" and "genocide". A headline in Italy's largest newspaper, La Repubblica, lamented, "Libya, fewer migrants have been arriving [in Europe] because they end up in a concentration camp..." These migrant centers, stated the paper, remind one of "the noteworthy atrocities of the 20th century".
These dramatic remarks seem to reflect a high degree of guilt by Europeans about not having offered more help to the Jews. Yet, we never hear any appeals from Europeans and groups -- unlike the US Congress -- to save Christians and Yazidis, who have truly suffered a genocide in regions controlled by ISIS. Instead, European leaders continue to close their eyes to the religious and ethnic persecution of minorities in the Middle East, including Jews, but are eager to point to "the Holocaust" to pressure European nations to open their borders to millions more migrants.
There was also an appeal recently, accompanied by a picture of barbed wire at a Nazi concentration camp, and signed by Italian intellectuals, personalities and non-governmental organizations which stated: "Our government is not indifferent to this carnage." It is accomplished, it said, by sending ships to prevent migrants from leaving the African coast. The appeal even used the Nazi term Vernichtung ("extermination"). These comparisons simply diminish everyone's ability to distinguish between a mass-murder and a mass-rescue. It succeeds in letting migrants keep coming, whatever the cost.
A hysteria to adopt this false comparison had been proliferating. The magazine Famiglia Cristiana talked about the "the Holocaust of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea" -- as if Europeans had drowned them there deliberately. An online magazine, Linkiesta, actually called migrant centers "concentration camps where only furnaces and Zyklon B are missing". In Italy, a well-known priest, Father Zanotelli, said on television: "About migrants, one day they will say about us the same things we say about the Nazis and the Shoah". Oxfam Italia, a non-governmental organization, criticized an agreement between the Italian government and Libya to patrol their coasts and talked about "a real concentration camp". The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees wrote: "Migrants' centers? Just concentration camps".
Even musicians were recruited: "Shoah yesterday, migrants today: Ute Lemper sings for the invisibles". The Pime, the Catholic missionary center of Milan, wrote: "The Shoah and the refugees". Even the two presidents of the Italian Parliament, Pietro Grasso and Laura Boldrini, sponsored a conference called, "Europe, the Shoah, the massacres in the Mediterranean". The deception can also be seen on the website of the Italian Parliament. The lie is becoming official.
The point is that for the first time in a Western country, a debate about immigration -- how to manage and control it -- is being shut down. On one side, you find people who want to "stop the new Shoah" and, on the other side, "collaborators" who want to stop the large wave of unvetted migrants.
If there is a "Holocaust of refugees", those who oppose it are all branded as the "new Nazis". That is the campaign against Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the most outspoken critic in Europe of unlimited migration. Austria's chancellor, Werner Faymann, has likened Orbán's policies of keeping refugees from entering Hungary to Nazis deporting Jews during the Holocaust. Since then, Orbán has been often compared to Hitler for trying to protect both the borders of his country and the humanist-Judeo-Christian tradition of Europe.
The Italian Parliament this year established a "National Day to Remember Immigration Victims" by comparing it to the "International Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust Victims". It is a powerful ideological ploy: in the "new Holocaust", the flow of refugees to Europe seems unstoppable. The perpetrators of this duplicitous myth are playing dirty with the future of Europe.
Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.