During a recent visit to the Auschwitz camp in Poland, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) took the opportunity to record a video, which he later posted to his Facebook page. In the 5-minute video, he spoke of what happened there during the Nazi Regime and stressed the need for a strong U.S. Military. He further went on to call for the hunting down and killing of people suspected of being what he referred to as “radical Islamic terrorists” and stricter immigration policies.
However, he should have understood where he was standing or, at least read the sign posted above the entrance.
Higgins received a pointed lesson on decorum from officials of the and Museum. On its official Twitter account, Auschwitz Memorial wrote: “Everyone has the right to personal reflections. However, inside a former gas chamber, there should be mournful silence. It’s not a stage.” The next day, it was followed by a tweet of a sign over the entrance to the building, which asks visitors to “maintain silence here”.
The congressman also heard from a number of people on social media who sharply criticized using such a hallowed place to make a political speech on the need for homeland security in the U.S. Quite a few people also let Rep. Higgins know that his analogy didn’t hold much water. The congressman was using this place to rail against threats from the outside. However, many on social media reminded the Higgins that the Nazi threat grew from inside, not outside.
A Twitter user made the following poignant point about his message of keeping people out of America:
“Obscene to use this as a message to keep people OUT in the name of security. All doors and all countries were closed to Jews. SHAME on YOU.”
Rep. Higgins has since pulled the video and issued the following apology:
“I filmed the Auschwitz message with great humility. My intent was to offer a reverent homage to those who were murdered in Auschwitz and to remind the world that evil exists, that free nations must remember, and stand strong.
“However, my message has caused pain to some whom I love and respect. For that, my own heart feels sorrow. Out of respect to any who may feel that my video posting was wrong or caused pain, I have retracted my video.
“The atrocities that happened at Auschwitz were truly despicable, and we must never let history repeat itself in such a way. I have always stood with Israel and all Jewish people, and I always will. We live in a dangerous world, and massive forces of evil do indeed yet exist. We must all stand united against those evils. My Auschwitz video has been removed, and my sincere apology for any unintended pain is extended.”
Not everyone is ready to accept his apology. Steve Goldstein, Executive Director for the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect issued this statement:
“Though forgiveness is a cherished value in both public and everyday life, Congressman Clay Higgins created his own astounding circumstances that make it impossible to accept his apology for his Auschwitz video — an apology that has come, by the way, only after a day of worldwide criticism.”
Going forward, it would best serve politicians not to use sacred places for political grandstanding. If they still choose to do so, they should be prepared for much-deserved criticism and rebuke.