Trump's Holocaust statement was tragically incomplete
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Donald Trump has done a lot of unfortunate things during his first two weeks as president. I don't have to list them — anyone who is the least bit informed knows them by now, all too well.

But put at the top of the list the omission of the words "Jewish" or "Jews" from the annual presidential proclamation on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

On the anniversary of Auschwitz-Birkenau's liberation, past presidents have issued a statement. This statement seeks to remind the world of the horrors of the Nazi-perpetrated Holocaust.

The statement issued Jan. 27 will never be forgotten, because it represents a brand-new low for Trump.

The slaughtering of 6 million Jews is not an irrelevant fact when speaking or writing about the Holocaust. It was essential and integral to the Nazis' "Final Solution."

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was very perturbed that anyone would dare bring up or criticize the statement's very notable omission.

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Here are Spicer's words from his Jan. 30 daily briefing: "To suggest remembering the Holocaust and acknowledging all of the people — Jewish, gypsies, priests, disabled, gays and lesbians — I mean, it is pathetic that people are picking on a statement."

 

You notice that Spicer mentioned "Jewish" in his response to the criticism, something the presidential statement did not. Trump's statement only referred to "victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust."

At his briefing, Spicer said the following: "The statement was written with the help of an individual who is both Jewish and the descendent of Holocaust survivors."

The writer was later identified in published reports as Boris Epshteyn, who works in the White House as special assistant to Trump and assistant communications director for surrogate operations.

That brings up the following questions:

  1. Did Epshteyn write the statement by himself, or were others involved?
  2. Did he voluntarily omit any reference to the Jewish population?
  3. Did he include the word "Jewish" and was it later deleted by someone else before it was made public?
  4. Finally, what does he think of the entire controversy?

I emailed Epshteyn those questions, but got only this official response:

"The statement issued by President Donald J. Trump on International Holocaust Remembrance Day beautifully honored the unfathomable atrocities suffered by the Jewish people, with my ancestors among the victims who perished.

As evidenced by repeated comments of Prime Minister Netanyahu, President TrumpDonald TrumpIran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' Ivanka Trump, Kushner distance themselves from Trump claims on election: CNN Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs chairman clashes with GOP on critical race theory | House bill introduced to overhaul military justice system as sexual assault reform builds momentum MORE is a loyal friend to, supporter of, and advocate for the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

I am proud to be part of an inclusive and diverse team working for the President, his Administration and the American people."

So my four questions remain unanswered. (And, frankly, what does Netanyahu have to do with this?)

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus also weighed in, but his words were confused and incoherent: "I mean everyone's suffering [in] the Holocaust including, obviously, all of the Jewish people, affected and miserable genocide that occurs."

Once again, though — just like Spicer and Epshteyn — a Trump administration official included the word "Jewish" in its defense of officially omitting the word.

How strange and peculiar.

Could it be that Steve Bannon, the No. 1 adviser to the president, had something to do with all of this? You remember that Bannon — as detailed by his former wife in a court document during their divorce — allegedly did not want his children to go to a certain school in Los Angeles because it had too many Jewish students.

"The biggest problem he had with Archer [School for Girls] is the number of Jews that attend," his ex-wife stated in writing.

(For the record, a spokesperson denied that Bannon ever said those remarks.)

The president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is a devout Orthodox Jew and is now in the White House as an adviser to the president. Trump's daughter, Ivanka, converted to Judaism.

Do you think they approved of the omission?

We do not know. Someone should ask both of them.

The entire episode graphically illustrates a central tenet of the Trump presidency: a stunning ignorance of history and its importance. When necessary and expedient, Trump and his team use "alternative facts" to make their case. Facts are not absolute and certain, but malleable or easily omitted.

One thing is certain: Trump allowed this tragically incomplete statement to be issued. He bears personal and individual responsibility for its content.

He must rectify this awful insult to the Jewish people.

Mark Plotkin is a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a columnist for The Georgetowner. Previously, he was the political analyst for WAMU-FM, Washington's NPR affiliate, and later became the political analyst for WTOP-FM, Washington's all-news radio station. He is a winner of the Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in writing.


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