Detention centers unlike concentration camps

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

I am a 91-year-old Jewish survivor of the Holocaust. I was born in Lodz, Poland. I was shocked and terribly disappointed that anyone in the U.S. Congress could make such a statement like U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez about the detention centers on the Mexican border being the same as “concentration camps.” I hope she accepts the invitation from Dominik Tarczynski, of Poland’s Parliament, to visit the real “concentration camps” in Europe and Poland such as Auschwitz.

We had family members worked to death in concentration camps like Auschwitz, or die in gas chambers in concentration camps like Birkenau.

If you were lucky enough to survive days crammed in cattle cars by the Nazis to get to these concentration camps, you would then not only lose all of your belongings and your clothing and your hair, but also any gold teeth. My parents died in a real concentration camp called Treblinka. My husband, Alan Zimm, was detained in Dachau, Dora and Bergen-Belsen for five years and was lucky to get a piece of stale bread for breakfast and a raw onion for dinner. The real concentration camps were surrounded by electrified barbed wire and Nazi guards only too eager to kill prisoners or use them for horrible experiments.

I lived in terror from 1939 until 1945 that any day I would be tortured and killed and be separated from my family. The people in the detention camps on the Mexican border have no such fear.

Where I and other Jews desperately tried to evade Nazi authorities, the various people in the detention camps are desperately trying to be detained by U.S. border agents who are trying to manage what sounds like an unmanageable situation.

Speaking for myself and my husband, it was extremely painful to hear someone like Ocasio-Cortez so callously use the phrase “Never Again” as if the detention centers are comparable to real concentration camps. The comparison she tries to make is utterly and tremendously misplaced and misleading. “Never Again” was a phrase created by the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in their efforts to make sure others would not suffer a similar fate, which absolutely does not lend itself to the plight of those in the border detention centers. Ocasio-Cortez’s “concentration camp” comments belittle the truly horrific aspects of the Holocaust and those who suffered from it. Visit the Virginia Holocaust Museum here in Richmond to see the difference.

Halina Zimm.


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