Esther Finder has seen the worst of humanity. Her parents bled as her children watched. Children killed in front of their parents.
The tales of brutality and depravity, bravery and ingenuity she hears stir the imagination. During her teenage years, Finder’s father survived 12 Nazi concentration camps, posing as a doctor, electrician, and furrier. One time he hid inside a human-sized cauldron.
Finder, a retired psychology professor, recorded the testimony of about 250 Holocaust survivors.
“I can’t stand in the shoes of the survivors, but I can stand close enough to understand what they went through,” Finder said in a recent Zoom conversation from her home outside Las Vegas. Said. “I have a lot of pain.”
But certain kinds of careless politicians and sensationalist activists have defended ex-President Trump’s diversion of highly classified documents, or defamed public health workers trying to stem a raging pandemic. He hasn’t stopped throwing out Nazi tropes and terms like brown shirts lightly in order to do so. It killed over 6 million people.
Anti-vaccine Robert F. Kennedy Jr. suggested that Anne Frank enjoyed the freedom to hide from the Nazis more than Americans facing pandemic restrictions.
Florida Senator Rick Scott and Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert likened the FBI to Adolf Hitler’s secret police, the Gestapo. Arizona Congressman Paul Gossar referred to Nazi stormtroopers and called the agent a brown shirt.
(The court-approved investigation was the result of months of fruitless negotiations between the former president’s government officials and lawyers who treated state secrets like his personal trinkets.)
The latest example of such callous insensitivity was Rep. Mike Garcia, a Trumpy Southern California Republican, who likened the Biden administration to the Third Reich in a right-wing podcast interview last week.
“The FBI is not the Gestapo,” said Finder, with a desert-dry, brusque grin that surrounded her. “The Gestapo would have come and shot everyone. Who are we kidding?
Finders, 69, lost both grandparents in the Holocaust. Her mother survived Auschwitz, as did her father. She spent her days with a dent in one of her arms from being injured in a bullock cart used by the Nazis to transport Jews to concentration camps.
Finder’s family history and background in psychology naturally led her to interview, if any, as a volunteer for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the USC Shore Foundation. and survivors.
Finders said the work was her attempt to “humanize numbers and statistics” that could never fully convey the horrors of the Holocaust. She said it was also a “fulfilling” experience.
“Survivor stories are powerful,” said Finders. That level of tone and her demeanor suggested she was back in front of the classroom again: “They demonstrate the resilience and will to live of the human spirit.”
On one level, Finder said, she understands why attention seekers cite Hitler and the Holocaust.
“They do it for shock value,” she said. You can’t get worse than that, so if you really want to insult someone, call them a Nazi.”
However, to refer to them lightly belittles the experiences of those who survived, tarnishes their honor, and tramples on the memory of their descendants left behind.
“Insulting,” said Finder. “It’s humiliating. You’re stepping on my grandparents’ graves.”
The sun was slanting through the blinds of her home office as the temperature outside rose to 101 degrees. The look on the viewfinder’s face was grim.
She has no illusions that trespassing will end. Too many people don’t realize or care about the hurt they cause. Too many people enjoy the rush of attention they get from doing or saying things that surprise or provoke.
Finder hopes that Holocaust corrupters like Garcia, Boebert and others have witnessed some of the anguish she has absorbed over the last few decades. Unfortunately, she said: Cut to the bone. “
However, it is difficult to shame people who act shamelessly.