Concentration camp remark inaccurate

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

The conditions endured by detainees at the United States’ southern border, particularly separation of parents from children, is immoral, outrageous and a national shame. But despite simplistic, perceived similarities with Nazi concentration camps, it is incorrect and hurtful to equate the two.

The term Konzentrationslager included different types of camps, none of which were intended to be mere detention facilities. Each work camp, transfer camp and death camp was an integral part of the Nazis’ effort to eradicate the Jewish people from the face of the Earth. Any comparison that fails to take that vital distinction into account is facile and uninformed.

Arbeitslagers (work camps) were operated to intentionally exhaust prisoners to death through slave labor, deliberate malnutrition, disease and brutal beatings. Some prisoners were subjected to unscientific “medical” experiments that often ended in excruciating, macabre death.

Extermination/death camps (Vernichtungslager and Todeslager) were death factories, funneling hundreds of victims at a time into gas chambers disguised as showers upon their arrival. Crematoria to dispose of the dead were constructed at camps of all types. Auschwitz alone had more than 40, each capable of disposing of 1,000 bodies every four hours. They were operated 24/7, and still could not keep up.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez needs to reassess her comparison and look beyond the superficial similarities between Konzentrationslagers and ICE detention centers, hopefully recognizing the vast chasm between their respective purposes. She needs to thoughtfully consider that a detention center might be a deplorable human rights nightmare, but concentration camps were created with the specific purpose and plan of deliberately, methodically and remorselessly murdering millions of men, women and children. She should then answer honestly: Does she really believe that the southern border detention centers are the moral equivalent of Nazi concentration camps?

Richard Samet.

Board Member,Virginia Holocaust Museum.

Receive daily news emails sent directly to your email inbox

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.
Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.