In the first half of his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Trump warned of the swarms of “criminal illegal aliens” massing at the southern border, threatening to bring gang warfare and sex trafficking and illegal drugs into the United States.
Later in the speech he introduced two Holocaust survivors who had been liberated from Nazi death camps by American soldiers, likening their rescuers to angels coming “down from heaven” and their subsequent life in America as “proof that God exists.”
What he didn’t say is that thousands of Jews who died in the Holocaust could have been saved if an earlier president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had allowed them into the country when they tried to flee Germany before World War II. Or that the “criminal illegal aliens” he is demonizing are in a similar situation to those German Jews, seeking refuge from oppression and violence at the hands of gangs that rule many towns in Central America.
“On the one hand he celebrates the liberators, some of whom were immigrants, and the liberated, who became immigrants,” said Deborah Lipstadt, a professor of Jewish history at Emory University and author of “Antisemitism Here and Now,” which was published this week. “On the other hand he vilifies the people today who are here to become immigrants. Those immigrants are the same as these immigrants, but some are terrifying and the others are heroes in the same speech. The mind spins.”
In the decade before Herman Zeitchik (the soldier Trump honored last night) had liberated Dachau, saving Joshua Kaufman (whom Trump also honored), hundreds of thousands of German Jews applied for entry to the United States.