In that post, the Harris County GOP pledged that its members would “never forget” the Holocaust. But the post placed blame for the Holocaust on “leftism” and “socialism” ― even though historians agree that Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party was an extremist outgrowth of the radical right in post-World War I Germany.
“Leftism kills,” the Harris County Republican Party’s post read, according to the Houston Chronicle. “In memory of the 6 million Jews lost to Nazi hatred in the name of National Socialism.” The post has since been deleted.
The post was published on Jan. 27, the 74th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. The United Nations has designated Jan. 27 an annual International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The Harris County GOP’s post quickly drew heated criticism from Facebook users and Jewish leaders.
“The Holocaust was born out of hatred for Jews, pure and simple,” Jonathan Greenblatt, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told The Washington Post. “The notion that political ‘leftism’ led to millions of Jews being killed in the Holocaust is bizarre and false.”
On Monday, Harris County GOP Chair Paul Simpson said in a statement that the phrase “leftism kills” was “inartful.” But he insisted the original Facebook post “rightly sought to be a reminder of the dangers of Socialism.”
“A few accused the post of being anti-Semitic. It was nothing of the sort,” Simpson said in his statement. “All Americans should be on guard against the dangers of ideologies that demean the value of individual human lives to the collective. That includes socialism in all forms, whether 20th-century German National Socialism or today’s glossed-over socialism that is condoned and even promoted by those who should know better.”
The press release claimed that the Harris County Republican Party filed a police report on Monday after a death threat was called in to its headquarters in Houston. The group suggested the death threat was evidence of the truth of their original claim that “leftism kills.”
“Americans should not tread on the slippery slope of socialism that has always led to misery,” Simpson said.
In recent years, some conservative writers and pundits have attempted to characterize Nazis as socialists or leftists, as The Washington Post notes. Although the full name of Hitler’s party (the National-Socialist German Workers Party) had the word “socialist” in it, historians generally view it as a right-wing fascist movement, according to Case Western Reserve University history Professor John Broich.
Hitler’s political ideology was fundamentally anti-leftist, Broich wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post in 2018. Hitler used the word “socialist” in the name of his party to suggest to German workers that he was on their side, according to Broich. But the Nazi leader was notoriously opposed to the idea of unions, viewing them as a threat to his personal authority and to civil order. During Hitler’s rise to power, the Nazis arrested his political opponents, including union leaders, and murdered a number of them. Hitler eventually abolished trade unions and forced all workers to join the German Labor Front, a Nazi-controlled group.
Nazi fascism was violently opposed to some key ideas that animate the modern left, including pluralism, gay rights, women’s rights and cultural diversity, Broich said. It was also obsessively ethnonationalist, believing that Germany had to be “purified” of certain population groups ― such as its Jewish citizens.
“You can empty out or dumb down the definition of fascism until anything you dislike fits the bill, but don’t expect to hear from actual historians, even if we usually don’t care to dignify such terrible history,” Broich wrote in his op-ed.
In a response to HuffPost’s questions about the pushback from historians, Simpson insisted the Nazis’ 25-point program was “stuffed with socialist goals.” He claimed that modern-day iterations of socialism have also displayed the ideology’s failures.
“Any ideology that demeans the value of individual human lives in favor of the collective is evil. By contrast, the greatest force for freedom and betterment of every person’s life has been the American system of private enterprise, ordered liberty, and limited government,” Simpson said in an email. “We stand firm in our commitment to those American ideals.”
With a population of more than 4.7 million people, Harris County is the third most populous county in America and the largest in Texas. The county’s Republican Party took a significant hit in November’s midterm elections, with Democrats edging out every Republican county-level elected official on the ballot, according to The New York Times.