Pope Francis on 'Concentration Camps'

The New York Times
David Harris
April 26, 2017

 

To the Editor:

Was the Pope Wrong to Compare Refugee Centers to Concentration Camps?” (Op-Ed, nytimes.com, April 25) questioned the American Jewish Committee’s criticism of Pope Francis for his regrettable choice of words to describe the migrant crisis in Europe.

The admired religious leader spoke of “concentration camps” in Europe today, where migrants too often languish, having left war-torn or collapsing Arab countries and facing growing hurdles to resettlement in an increasingly unwelcoming continent.

As we have personally witnessed, living conditions in the camps can be extremely tough, especially for the most vulnerable populations, and the A.J.C. has consistently supported humanitarian aid efforts.

But to compare these conditions to those of concentration camps, which, since the Nazi era, have taken on a specific meaning of bestiality, enslavement and annihilation, is to dilute the meaning of language, do history a disservice and unfairly ascribe to democratic European countries an essentially Hitlerian approach to the issue.

Surely, the richness of language is adequate to find the right words to describe the current tragedy without drawing false analogies to a period in which millions were killed in an unprecedented paroxysm of industrialized murder and destruction.

DAVID HARRIS, NEW YORK

The writer is chief executive of the American Jewish Committee.

Related Content

  • Why Poland?
  • David Harris in Rzeczpospolita, The Huffington Post and The Times of Israel