Amid the Rampage at the U.S. Capitol, a Sweatshirt Stirs Troubling Memories

BERLIN — Of all of the upsetting photographs broadcast all over the world as a violent mob overran america Capitol in Washington, the one which significantly distressed Dr. Eva Umlauf, 78, a pediatrician and psychotherapist who survived Auschwitz as a toddler, was of a bearded man carrying a black hoodie emblazoned with “Camp Auschwitz.”

“I couldn’t consider what I used to be seeing,” Dr. Umlauf stated. “It actually broke a taboo. I by no means would have believed that was attainable from People.”

That image made its rounds by social media and was identified in newspapers from Britain to Germany to Poland for example of who was within the mob that rampaged by the Capitol on Wednesday, and what they considered a spot thought-about by many as an emblem of a low level for humanity.

It had specific resonance as anti-Semitism and far-right nationalism are on the rise worldwide. And for individuals who survived the Nazi demise camp like Dr. Umlauf, there was added ache with the conclusion that later generations could not have realized the teachings of the Holocaust.

Dr. Umlauf was solely 2 years outdated when Auschwitz was liberated; the quantity the Nazis tattooed on her arm — A-26959 — is seen to today. Her mom additionally survived, they usually returned to their residence in Slovakia, the place the daughter attended medical faculty. She moved to Munich within the Sixties, when she acquired married, and raised three sons there.

Considered one of them married an American lady and moved to america, the place he has lived for the previous 30 years, she stated.

It wasn’t simply the sweatshirt, she stated. Seeing the home windows damaged within the Capitol, the statues defaced and lawmakers’ papers strewn throughout the ground symbolized a deep disregard for the democracy that lengthy served as a beacon in darkish corners of the world. “They trampled on democratic rules within the coronary heart of democracy,” she stated.

“As Jews, we tried to get our youngsters to America so they may stay in freedom and security,” she continued. “What occurred in that nation is just one step away from totalitarianism.”

The day earlier than the protests, an incoming member of Congress, Consultant Mary Miller, Republican of Illinois, praised Hitler for his marketing campaign in indoctrinating youth, in a speech earlier than the Capitol as a part of a Mothers for America rally. She issued an apology on Friday, amid requires her resignation.

For a lot of Auschwitz survivors, January is an particularly tough month, bringing again haunting reminiscences of the demise marches that most of the camp had been compelled on and of the ultimate horrible days earlier than Auschwitz was liberated on Jan. 27, 1945, stated Christoph Heubner, govt vice chairman of the International Auschwitz Committee, a gaggle based by survivors to forestall one other Auschwitz. That solely worsened the influence of the photographs.

“These pictures are sickening to these of us who’re survivors,” stated Eva Fahidi, who was deported together with her household in 1944 to Auschwitz, the place her dad and mom and sister perished. “The concept that somebody would put on such a shirt on their very own physique is horrifying.”

That it was an American made it even worse, she stated. Though she has skilled what she described as a “renaissance” of anti-Semitism previously 20 years, for her america at all times remained an exception.

In spite of everything, she stated, it was the People who freed her when the U.S. Military liberated in central Germany the place she had been moved by the Nazis and compelled to work at a munitions manufacturing facility.

“People and freedom, they had been one and the identical,” she stated from her residence in Budapest. “They had been synonymous.”

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, which preserves the location of the unique focus and extermination camp and educates the general public about its historical past, seems to be for discussions in regards to the camp and the way it’s portrayed in public debate. When officers observed the dialogue in regards to the sweatshirt on their social media channels, they weighed in with a hyperlink to a historical past lesson in regards to the camp.

The talk additionally targeted consideration on websites that had been promoting the sweatshirts and different objects of clothes with anti-Semitic symbols or sayings, prompting individuals to achieve out to them and request they be eliminated, stated Pawel Sawicki, a spokesman for the memorial.

“Hundreds of individuals additionally opened the net lesson in regards to the historical past of Auschwitz we shared,” Mr. Sawicki stated. “So there may be hope that the controversial scenario will even increase some historic consciousness.”

Not each survivor was shocked by the picture. Marian Turski, who survived Auschwitz and a demise march, stated the experiences he had whereas touring within the Deep South through the Civil Rights motion uncovered him to the racism and hatred harbored by some white People.

In 1965, whereas on a fellowship in america, he marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in Selma, Ala., and had his automobile burned in Mississippi, as a result of he rode along with a black man.

Whereas within the South, he stated, many individuals would ask him whether or not, as a Holocaust survivor, he thought that one thing like what occurred in Germany underneath the Nazis may ever be attainable in america.

“I instructed them sure, it could be attainable,” he stated from his residence in Warsaw. “Nationalism and fascism weren’t solely German. Below the precise situations and circumstances, it may additionally occur right here.”

He additionally instructed them that the most effective barrier towards racism and nationalism was the protection of democracy, he stated.

On Friday, he expressed hope that after witnessing the occasions of Wednesday, extra People may be impressed to take motion towards makes an attempt to weaken democracy.

“Occupying the capital — possibly this was an excellent lesson for the American individuals,” Mr. Turski stated. “Possibly it’ll strengthen the need to defend democracy.”

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