When the travel ban for refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority counties was issued last week, one of the first religious groups to show up en masse at the airports were Jews.
“Jews for Muslims,” “Never Again,” and signs showing red X’s through swastikas dot the scene in the Bay Area, and throughout the country.
Amanda Fried spent her Sunday at San Francisco International Airport with her two young daughters to welcome passengers flying in from across the world. "My family escaped from Holocaust and I promised grandparents I would never let it happen again,” she said.
The extra vetting of passengers based on where they were born, and where Muslims comprise the vast majority of the population, is extremely concerning to many Jews. That's because they remember what it was like during the Holocaust, a war that started with words and scapegoating, long before the gas chambers. And even though the two religious groups often disagree vehemently over the state of Israel and Palestine, members of the Jewish faith say they are standing behind Muslims over what they see as blatant discrimination.
But some Holocaust survivors, who are indeed concerned about some of the rhetoric coming from the White House, do not see exact parallels between now and then.
“For me, it’s scary,” said Misia Nudler, 89, of Oakland, who spent three years hidden in Poland on a farm with her sister starting in 1939. “But the Holocaust was different. All the world was quiet. I’m so glad to see all the people protesting and the young people standing up.”
Hennie Hecht, 76, also of Oakland, is also scared of President Donald Trump. “There’s a lot of resemblance, we should be extremely wary and be aware of what’s going on,” she said. “Hitler played on weakness of not having jobs. Isn’t Trump doing the same thing? Hopefully we’ve learned not to go that route.”
Hecht was born in Amsterdam in 1941 and during the war was saved by a righteous Gentile in Holland when she was 18 months old. Her father ended up in a concentration camp. The others were sent to the gas chambers. She too, feels it’s imperative that “the populous let the government know how they feel.”
Letting the government know how he feels is exactly the reason that Daniel Sokatch, CEO of the New Israel Fund, went to SFO with family and signs in tow last weekend. He, like some other Holocaust survivors don’t think that the United States has become Nazi Germany – yet.
“Sure, it’s frightening, and some of what’s happening reminds us about 75 years ago in Germany and Europe. A person we thought was a clownish, buffoon got elected, there are all these xenophobic, anti-religious feelings with, refugees being denied entry. But do I think there’s another Holocaust brewing, no? Do I think that something terrible? Yes.”
What’s different for Sokatch is that many still remember the lessons of the past and will fight not to let bigotry win. And, he also believes that American democracy will prevail. That’s because the U.S. Constitution comes with equality clauses for all people, he said, and because it comes with an independent judiciary.
“We can take inspiration from history to speak up and stand up,” he said. “It’s not impossible for things to go really bad. But it won’t be nearly so easy for them to do or succeed. There’s a lot of people who will say, ‘Hell no, not on my watch.”