Last week Attorney General Jeff Sessions tried to justify the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border with a quote from the Bible. This did not go as planned, as religious leaders said Sessions was misinterpreting scripture, and others noted that the passage was also used by defenders of slavery in the U.S., Nazis, and advocates for South African Apartheid.
In recent days many critics of the immigration policy, including former CIA director Michael Hayden and Senator Dianne Feinstein, have said it’s disturbingly reminiscent of tactics used by Nazi Germany. So Sessions took another stab a defending the policy on Monday night — and once again, it backfired.
At the start of her Fox News show, Laura Ingraham brought up talk of “Nazi Germany, concentration camps, human-rights violations,” asking Sessions, “What’s going on here?”
“Well, it’s a real exaggeration, of course,” Sessions replied. “In Nazi Germany, they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country. But this is a serious matter.”
“We need to think it through, be rational and thoughtful about it,” he continued. “We want to allow asylum for people who qualify for it, but people who want economic migration for their personal financial benefit, and what they think is their family’s benefit, is not a basis for a claim of asylum — but, they can make that claim, we will process it, and I will review the situation and make a decision.”
What Sessions said about the Nazis is not true. While Adolf Hitler alluded to mass genocide as far back as 1922, the Nazis initially looked into expelling all the Jews from Europe. In October 1938, Germany began forcibly deporting Jews with Polish citizenship, many of whom had been living in Germany for generations. When Poland refused to allow them entry, roughly 17,000 Jews were stranded in a refugee camp on the border between Poland and Germany. When a German diplomat was assassinated by a man whose parents were trapped in the camp, the Nazis used it as a pretext for launching Kristallnacht.
It’s believed that the Nazis did not have a plan for the systematic annihilation of the Jews until 1941. A year earlier, top Nazi officials considered the Madagascar Plan: forcibly relocating Europe’s Jews to the African island, which would be run as a police state by the Nazi SS.
So in addition to not being a biblical scholar, Sessions is not up on his World War II history. But in general, you want to be able to say your policies are nothing like the Nazis’, not that your critics are making too much of the similarities.