(JTA) – A Poland-born Holocaust survivor from New Jersey invited Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., to tour Auschwitz following her remarks about concentration camps.
Edward Mosberg, 93, a real estate developer who survived several Nazi camps, on Friday, June 21, extended the invitation to the Democratic lawmaker who, on Monday, June 17, touched off a heated debate in the media about her use of the term “concentration camp” to describe migrant detention centers in the United States.
“The U.S. is running concentration camps on our southern border, and that is exactly what they are,” the freshman New York Democrat had said Monday night, June 17, in an Instagram Live video. “If that doesn’t bother you … I want to talk to the people that are concerned enough with humanity to say that ‘never again’ means something.” She tweeted the same message the following day.
“It should be a requirement of all United States Congressmen to visit Auschwitz,” wrote Mosberg, honorary president of the Holocaust commemoration group From the Depths.
It is necessary in Ocasio-Cortez’s case because of her “lack of proper education on the Holocaust,” the foundation’s founder, Jonny Daniels, also wrote in the invitation.
Mosberg and Daniels weren’t the only ones to suggest that Ocasio-Cortez educate herself by touring an actual camp. A member of the Polish parliament extended a similar invitation.
“With this letter, I am formally inviting @AOC to come to Poland, where Adolf Hitler set up the worst chain of concentration camps the world has ever seen, so that she may see that scoring political points with enflamed rhetoric is unacceptable in our contemporary Western societies,” Dominik Tarczyński, vice president of European Conservatives in the European Council, tweeted on June 20, in an open letter to the congresswoman.
“As you should be aware, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi), who led Germany, were responsible for the darkest period in my country’s and our whole continent’s history by devising a chain of concentration camps in order to exterminate those who they believed were subhuman, or a threat to their imperialistic machinations. This included both Jewish Poles and non-Jewish Poles, and as a result we lost 6 million of our citizens,” wrote Tarczyński.
He then explained that Germany set up the camps in Poland after invading in September 1939.
“This is why when someone cheapens the history or uses it for political point-scoring, we become agitated and upset,” he continued. “I understand that there are heightened tensions in your politics right now, but I would urge severe caution in attempting to leverage phrases such as ‘concentration camp’ for political ends. It will lead nowhere good.”
Tarczyński offered Ocasio-Cortez the chance to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor and Majdanek. She has yet to respond to the invitation.
Others criticizing Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks included historian Deborah Lipstadt, who argued the analogy is inaccurate and therefore potentially harmful to efforts to reverse the government’s detainment policies. Others said Ocasio-Cortez has to know that using the term “concentration camp” invariably invites comparisons to the Nazis, and by doing so, she not only exaggerates what is happening in the detention facilities but belittles the ways Jews.
Yad Vashem, Israel’s state Holocaust museum, responded on June 19 with a tweet saying, “Concentration camps assured a slave labor supply to help in the Nazi war effort, even as the brutality of life inside the camps helped assure the ultimate goal of ‘extermination through labor.’”
The tweet included a link to Yad Vashem’s web page about Nazi labor and concentration camps.
A number of Democrats also weighed in on Ocasio-Cortez’s comment. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called the comparison “wrong,” while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said “I have not used that word.”
But the criticism only caused Ocasio-Cortez to double down on her use of the term. And many defended Ocasio-Cortez’s comparison.
CAP: Edward Mosberg, holding a Torah scroll, during March of the Living in 2017 at the former death camp Auschwitz in Poland. (Courtesy of From the Depths)