Sweden's deputy prime minister Asa Romson was compelled to apologize on Monday after likening the migrant refugee crisis in the Mediterranean to the horrors of the Holocaust.
In a televised debate over the weekend, she had argued that the indifference of European governments was "turning the Mediterranean into a new Auschwitz." This sparked a predictable backlash, leading eventually to an apology.
"It was wrong to make an analogy with Auschwitz. I sincerely apologize," Romson, a politician with Sweden's Green Party, told local reporters. "When I thought of the terrible situation going on in the Mediterranean, I was so angry that so many people have died. The situation still cannot be compared with what happened in Nazi Germany."
Of course, both the experience of the Holocaust as well as the political narratives of World War II routinely serve as the ultimate metaphors for politicians, pundits, activists, and anyone else trying to make a point. In some cases, as in those of older and more recent genocides, the comparisons help to illustrate the depth of suffering of the victims, and the evil of the perpetrators.
But often, Holocaust analogies make a mockery of history and obscure the actual matter at hand. Here are six other recent examples of things that really are not like the Holocaust.
A nuclear submarine base is not like the Holocaust
Earlier this year, Lord Wigley, a leading figure in the Welsh political party Plaid Cymru, protested Britain's Trident nuclear deterrent program by comparing it to the evils of the Holocaust's concentration camps. Opposing suggestions that the nuclear weapons system could be relocated from Scotland to Wales, he said "no doubt there were many jobs provided in Auschwitz and places like that but that didn't justify their existence and neither does nuclear weapons justify having them in [Wales]." He added that the number of people who may be killed by nuclear weapons would "be infinitely more" than the Holocaust. Lord Wigley later apologized for his remarks.
Killing baby seals is not like the Holocaust
Outspoken British pop singer Morrissey engaged Canadian officials in a war of words last year regarding the country's annual commercial seal hunt. He dismissed the Canadian government's contention that a ban would take away jobs from the fur industry. "The Concentration Camps of Auschwitz also provided livelihoods, but this hardly made the Camps warranted," argued Morrissey in a post on his Web site.
Canada's fisheries minister said Morrissey was "a millionaire celebrity desperate for a hobby."
Criticizing the 1 percent is not like the Holocaust
The American billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins earned widespread and much-deserved ridicule after he equated the "progressive war" on the United States' wealthy elites with "fascist Nazi Germany's war" on "its Jews."
Abortion is not like the Holocaust
When TV personality Jessa Duggar visited Washington's Holocaust museum last year, she posted an image on Instagram of children in a concentration camp. The accompanying caption, though, had nothing to do with their miserable plight as victims of the Nazis' campaign of systematic slaughter and ethnic cleansing. It instead offered a muddled attack on abortion, linking the Nazis' racism with the supposed pro-choice "idea that man came from something less than human."
The backlash was swift. To be sure, by making the Holocaust comparison, Duggar was engaging in rhetoric already used by opponents of abortion. Other widely off-base Nazi analogies deployed in U.S. politics: Obamacare and gun control.
Animal slaughter is not like the Holocaust
— ∩( ・ω・)∩ (@sophiauselli) January 6, 2015
The actions of Islamists are not like the Holocaust
As leader of a state that emerged directly after the horrors of the Holocaust, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may feel he has a particular moral right to invoke the evils of the Nazis when inveighing against his present-day enemies. But that doesn't mean he's right in making the parallel.
Netanyahu raises the specter of Nazism frequently in speeches criticizing Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, the terrorist Islamic State, and the Islamic Republic of Iran, a geopolitical foe. In a speech on Holocaust Remembrance Day this year, Netanyahu said Iran had "plans to exterminate six million Jews [in Israel] and elsewhere" just like the Nazis did.
Netanyahu is one of Tehran's most outspoken critics, and the Islamic Republic is of course no fan of the Jewish state, but this is astonishing hyperbole. Not surprisingly, the Obama administration paid little heed as it pressed ahead with diplomatic efforts to secure a deal over Iran's controversial nuclear program.