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Amid the Rampage on the U.S. Capitol, a Sweatshirt Stirs Troubling Memories

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BERLIN — Of all of the upsetting photos broadcast world wide as a violent mob overran the United States Capitol in Washington, the one which notably distressed Dr. Eva Umlauf, 78, a pediatrician and psychotherapist who survived Auschwitz as a toddler, was of a bearded man sporting a black hoodie emblazoned with “Camp Auschwitz.”

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Dr. Umlauf mentioned. “It really broke a taboo. I never would have believed that was possible from Americans.”

That picture made its rounds by way of social media and was identified in newspapers from Britain to Germany to Poland for instance of who was within the mob that rampaged by way of the Capitol on Wednesday, and what they considered a spot thought-about by many as an emblem of a low level for humanity.

It had explicit resonance as anti-Semitism and far-right nationalism are on the rise worldwide. And for individuals who survived the Nazi loss of life camp like Dr. Umlauf, there was added ache with the belief that later generations might not have discovered the teachings of the Holocaust.

Dr. Umlauf was solely 2 years previous when Auschwitz was liberated; the quantity the Nazis tattooed on her arm — A-26959 — is seen to at the present time. Her mom additionally survived, they usually returned to their home in Slovakia, the place the daughter attended medical faculty. She moved to Munich within the 1960s, when she bought married, and raised three sons there.

One of them married an American girl and moved to the United States, the place he has lived for the previous 30 years, she mentioned.

It wasn’t simply the sweatshirt, she mentioned. Seeing the home windows damaged within the Capitol, the statues defaced and lawmakers’ papers strewn throughout the ground symbolized a deep disregard for the democracy that lengthy served as a beacon in darkish corners of the world. “They trampled on democratic principles in the heart of democracy,” she mentioned.

“As Jews, we tried to get our children to America so they could live in freedom and safety,” she continued. “What happened in that country is only one step away from totalitarianism.”

The day earlier than the protests, an incoming member of Congress, Representative Mary Miller, Republican of Illinois, praised Hitler for his marketing campaign in indoctrinating youth, in a speech earlier than the Capitol as a part of a Moms for America rally. She issued an apology on Friday, amid requires her resignation.

For many Auschwitz survivors, January is an particularly tough month, bringing again haunting reminiscences of the loss of life marches that most of the camp had been pressured on and of the ultimate horrible days earlier than Auschwitz was liberated on Jan. 27, 1945, mentioned Christoph Heubner, government vp of the International Auschwitz Committee, a gaggle based by survivors to stop one other Auschwitz. That solely worsened the influence of the pictures.

“These photos are sickening to those of us who are survivors,” mentioned Eva Fahidi, who was deported along with her household in 1944 to Auschwitz, the place her dad and mom and sister perished. “The idea that someone would wear such a shirt on their own body is horrifying.”

That it was an American made it even worse, she mentioned. Although she has skilled what she described as a “renaissance” of anti-Semitism up to now 20 years, for her the United States all the time remained an exception.

After all, she mentioned, it was the Americans who freed her when the U.S. Army liberated in central Germany the place she had been moved by the Nazis and compelled to work at a munitions manufacturing facility.

“Americans and freedom, they were one and the same,” she mentioned from her home in Budapest. “They were synonymous.”

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, which preserves the positioning of the unique focus and extermination camp and educates the general public about its historical past, appears for discussions in regards to the camp and the way it’s portrayed in public debate. When officers observed the dialogue in regards to the sweatshirt on their social media channels, they weighed in with a hyperlink to a historical past lesson in regards to the camp.

The debate additionally targeted consideration on websites that had been promoting the sweatshirts and different gadgets of clothes with anti-Semitic symbols or sayings, prompting folks to succeed in out to them and request they be eliminated, mentioned Pawel Sawicki, a spokesman for the memorial.

“Thousands of people also opened the online lesson about the history of Auschwitz we shared,” Mr. Sawicki mentioned. “So there is hope that the controversial situation will also raise some historical awareness.”

Not each survivor was shocked by the picture. Marian Turski, who survived Auschwitz and a loss of life march, mentioned the experiences he had whereas touring within the Deep South in the course of the Civil Rights motion uncovered him to the racism and hatred harbored by some white Americans.

In 1965, whereas on a fellowship within the United States, he marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in Selma, Ala., and had his automobile burned in Mississippi, as a result of he rode along with a black man.

While within the South, he mentioned, many individuals would ask him whether or not, as a Holocaust survivor, he thought that one thing like what occurred in Germany beneath the Nazis might ever be attainable within the United States.

“I told them yes, it would be possible,” he mentioned from his home in Warsaw. “Nationalism and fascism were not exclusively German. Under the right conditions and circumstances, it could also happen here.”

He additionally advised them that the perfect barrier towards racism and nationalism was the protection of democracy, he mentioned.

On Friday, he expressed hope that after witnessing the occasions of Wednesday, extra Americans is likely to be impressed to take motion towards makes an attempt to weaken democracy.

“Occupying the capital — maybe this was a very good lesson for the American people,” Mr. Turski mentioned. “Maybe it will strengthen the will to defend democracy.”





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