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The time has come to draw a line. I have learned to eschew involvement in public debate because what currently passes for civil discourse is all too often anything but civil. I am especially reticent about commenting on matters pertaining to Judaism because it is my experience as a historian of Jewish descent that many people involved in these discussions do not appreciate the depth of historical Jewish suffering. Prima facie evidence of this issue can be seen in the growing tendency of commentators to use Jewish bodies as a currency for measuring an expressed sense of grievance.

Now this tendency has come to Rappahannock. One of our county officers recently attended a misguided rally dedicated to the mendacious premise that our most recent national election was decided by fraud. This has aroused some debate in the pages of our local newspaper. Among these letters was a deeply personal statement from Thomas Storch in which he expressed dismay that the politician in question had stood alongside “those who espouse a Nazi ideology.” Given his family’s trauma, these sentiments should not come as a surprise. After all, it is part of Jewish historical memory that a modern democracy can lose its mind, resulting in massive loss of life. What we witnessed on January 6 was political theatre followed by political madness and politicised violence. We should all be grateful that our Republic has subsequently demonstrated its resilience.

Mr. Storch’s letter resulted in an excoriating reply from Ben Jones, who characterized Mr. Storch’s remarks as a gross generalization that was insulting to the thousands of participants at the Stop the Steal rally who did not attack our Capitol, and who did not assault the law enforcement officers tasked with its protection, and who did not attempt to disrupt the lawful processes of our government, as well as constituting an insult to the millions of Americans who voted for the person responsible for disseminating the falsehood that motivated the mob in the first place. In doing so, Mr. Jones made his own generalization, that Mr. Storch has accused all of these persons of being Nazis. I will grant that Mr. Storch could have used more specific language, but I did not think that he was referring to this larger group of people. My immediate response was to think of various persons whose participation in the riot has been well documented, and whose remarks and attire made clear their anti-American lust for Nazism with such execrable slogans as “Camp Auschwitz - Staff Member,” and “6MWNE,” which latter statement is shorthand for “six million was not enough,” a wretched love letter to genocide. 

Mr. Jones asserted that he saw no evidence of “Nazis” at the “event” in the Capitol Ellipse. This claim strains credulity. I suggest that he look to online sources using the keywords “Nazis” and “Capitol Riot.” He will find his evidence without difficulty. Mr. Jones remarked in his letter that he has visited Auschwitz, and has spoken at events associated with Holocaust memorials, for which he is to be commended. Yet having reflected on man’s inhumanity to man, he needs to reconsider those very lessons. It is clear from Mr. Storch’s letter that his family suffered under the Nazis. This does not appear to have mattered to Mr. Jones, who made no acknowledgement of Mr. Storch’s anguish, of his loss, or of his obvious dismay that there were Neo-Nazis among a mob that stormed the Capitol of the United States of America. Instead, he chose to lecture him about Nazism. In fact, Mr. Jones concluded his letter by maligning Mr. Storch with the accusation that in expressing his opinion, this individual was acting like a Nazi. 

To whit, Mr. Storch — who had family members murdered in the Holocaust — expressed dismay that one of our county officers was in any way affiliated with an event attended by people who went on to attack our Capitol in concert with persons espousing approbation for the Third Reich. In response, Mr. Jones denied the presence of Nazis at the riot, insinuated that the letter writer was taking a page from Hitler’s playbook, and demanded an apology for the “attack” against Ron Frazier and other persons who attended the rally. Mr. Jones should stand more firmly on the moral high ground if he wishes to claim it. The erstwhile Congressman could have taken a step in that direction merely by acknowledging Mr. Storch’s personal loss. Instead, he did quite the opposite. Such misplaced rhetoric is precisely the wrong way to talk about the Holocaust, especially to someone who is not a student of the same, but a victim. Mr. Storch, you are not the one who needs to apologize.

The writer lives in Flint Hill.

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