Trump under fire over Holocaust Day statement

Jewish American groups criticize Trump for failing to specifically mention Jews in his statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Ben Ariel ,

Holocaust Memorial
Holocaust Memorial

U.S. President Donald Trump is facing heavy criticism over his statement marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day in which he did not mention the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis.

“It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror,” said Trump’s statement, issued on Friday.

“In the name of the perished, I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my Presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good. Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world,” he added.

The statement was met with outrage by groups such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), whose CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, said on Twitter, "White House statement on Holocaust Memorial Day misses that it was six million Jews who perished, not just 'innocent people.' Puzzling and troubling (statement) has no mention of Jews. GOP and Dem. presidents have done so in the past.”

On Sunday, Trump’s spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, explained to CNN that the White House statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day did not mention Jews or anti-Semitism because "despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered.”

Hicks provided a link to a Huffington Post story which noted that, in addition to the six million Jews killed by the Nazis, five million others were also slaughtered during World War II, including "priests, gypsies, people with mental or physical disabilities, communists, trade unionists, Jehovah's Witnesses, anarchists, Poles and other Slavic peoples, and resistance fighters."

Asked if the White House was suggesting President Donald Trump didn't mention Jews as victims of the Holocaust because he didn't want to offend the other people the Nazis targeted and killed, Hicks replied, "it was our honor to issue a statement in remembrance of this important day."

The criticism of the statement continued on Sunday, reported Politico, with Jewish Republicans joining in.

The Republican Jewish Coalition, a group that is heavily funded by Republican mega-donor and Trump supporter Sheldon Adelson, released a statement from a spokesman, Fred Brown, noting, "As supporters of President Trump, we know that he holds in his heart the memory of the six million victims of the Holocaust, and is committed not just to their memory, but ensuring it never happens again.”

"The lack of a direct statement about the suffering of the Jewish people during the Holocaust was an unfortunate omission. History unambiguously shows the purpose of the Nazi's final solution was the extermination of the Jews of Europe,” said the statement. “We hope, going forward, he conveys those feelings when speaking about the Holocaust."

Mort Klein, the national president of Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), weighed in as well and said, according to Politico, “Especially as a child of Holocaust survivors, I and ZOA are compelled to express our chagrin and deep pain at President Trump, in his Holocaust Remembrance Day Message, omitting any mention of anti-Semitism and the six million Jews who were targeted and murdered by the German Nazi regime and others.”

But appearing Sunday on NBC’s "Meet the Press", White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said he did not regret the wording of the statement.

“I mean, everyone's suffering in the Holocaust including obviously all of the Jewish people affected and the miserable genocide that occurred is something that we consider to be extraordinarily sad and something that can never be forgotten,” Priebus said, according to Politico.

Klein said his organization was “shocked” by Priebus’s decision to defend the statement – and called it “disgraceful.”

Ari Fleischer, who was press secretary in the George W. Bush White House, said that Trump officials missed an opportunity to clarify Trump’s comments during their appearances on Sunday morning news programs.

“I wish they fixed it on the shows this morning. Obviously they didn’t,” he said, according to Politico. “The omission was a mistake. I hope they learn from this and not repeat this omission in any future statements they make.”