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Wisconsin state lawmaker compares museum mask policy to Nazi Party

A Wisconsin state lawmaker sparked uproar after comparing a mask policy at a local children's museum to the Nazi Party in a Facebook post.

Wisconsin state Rep. Shae Sortwell (R) shared a post late last week on his verified Facebook page from the Central Wisconsin Children's Museum that detailed its mask policy, Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) reported.

“The Gestapo wants to see your papers, please," Sortwell wrote, referencing the secret police of Nazi Germany who coordinated the forced deportation of Jews to death camps.

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The museum currently asks most visitors over the age of 5 to wear a mask when inside. Vaccinated visitors are permitted to choose whether to wear a mask.

WPR noted that the post elicited a slew of negative comments toward the museum, while others also called on the lawmaker to apologize.

Museum Director Cory Rusch told WPR that he spent the entire past weekend responding to negative comments, phone calls and harassment from people all over the country.

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"I'm not afraid to say that that was really hard, and I need to catch my breath before I go back to it," Rusch said.

Rusch said museum staff members were shaken by the barrage of harassment, adding that he had so far not heard from Sortwell about the situation.

Despite the negative calls and comments, the director said many people have also come out in support of the museum, with donations, memberships and small shows of support.

"People have shown us support in many ways: private messages, donations, memberships, virtual hugs," Rusch added. "It's really amazing. And all those people, every one of those messages counts for so much."

Mike Wiza, the mayor of Stevens Point, Wis., where the museum is located, came out in support of the museum, saying Sortwell "doesn't represent any place near Stevens Point."

"To the best of my knowledge, he's never been to the children's museum. ... I’m wondering what personal beef he has with Stevens Point or the children's museum in making a comment relating to the Gestapo," Wiza said.

The mayor said he had reached out to Sortwell and called for the state representative to make a public apology.

In a Facebook Live video titled "Papers Please" that aired Tuesday on his Facebook page, Sortwell was unapologetic and said he "absolutely" stood by his statement.

Sortwell claimed that asking for medical information, as he claims the museum is doing, is "exactly what the Gestapo did."

"Let's look at the actual little history lesson of what the Nazis indeed did. They started off by getting people's records," Sortwell said.

"They collected records from people, and if you couldn't provide proper records, the proper documentation to prove that in fact you were not a 'filthy Jew,' as they would put them out, because keep in mind another part of the Nazi propaganda was that these people, the Jewish people, were diseased disease spreaders," he said.

Sortwell baulked at accusations of antisemitism and compared the mask policy of the museum to "abuse and tyranny."

The Hill has reached out to Sortwell for further comment.

Sortwell is not the first Republican lawmaker to compare COVID-19 guidelines and practices to the Nazi Party and the Holocaust.

Controversial U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor GreeneMarjorie Taylor GreeneGOP efforts to downplay danger of Capitol riot increase The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene says she's meeting with Trump 'soon' in Florida MORE (R-Ga.) received widespread rebuke, including from GOP congressional leaders, when she compared COVID-19 mask and vaccine rules to the Nazis earlier this year.

Republican leaders including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyGOP increasingly balks at calling Jan. 6 an insurrection House Democrats' campaign arm raises almost million in May Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision MORE (Calif.), Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseHillicon Valley: Senate unanimously confirms Chris Inglis as first White House cyber czar | Scrutiny mounts on Microsoft's surveillance technology | Senators unveil bill to crack down on cyber criminals Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision FCC votes to advance proposed ban on Chinese telecom equipment MORE (La.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP increasingly balks at calling Jan. 6 an insurrection Black lawmakers warn against complacency after Juneteenth victory Graham quips key to working with Trump: We both 'like him' MORE (Ky.) all condemned her remarks, though no indication was made that Greene would face any disciplinary actions.