January 27 was International Holocaust Remembrance Day. President Donald Trump marked it with a short statement and a long executive order. He forgot a few things:
First, the statement didn’t mention Jews or anti-Semitism. That’s kind of a big omission, since six million Jews were killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust.
Second, he forgot the U.S. role in denying refuge to people fleeing the Holocaust. According to the Smithsonian magazine, the United States considered Jewish refugees a threat to national security.
“World War II prompted the largest displacement of human beings the world has ever seen—although today’s refugee crisis is starting to approach its unprecedented scale. But even with millions of European Jews displaced from their homes, the United States had a poor track record offering asylum. Most notoriously, in June 1939, the German ocean liner St. Louis and its 937 passengers, almost all Jewish, were turned away from the port of Miami, forcing the ship to return to Europe; more than a quarter died in the Holocaust.”
Third, the president forgot the lessons of history. Anne Frank was denied entry to the United States as a refugee and died in a Nazi concentration camp. Writing about the denial of her application, the Washington Post observed:
“Many have noted the historical parallels between the current debate over Syrians seeking refuge in the United States and the plight of European Jews fleeing German-occupied territories on the eve of World War II.”
Instead of learning from historic U.S. mistakes in denying entry to refugees, the president issued a long executive order suspending all refugee admissions to the United States for 120 days. He issued that order on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.