(Trends Wide) — At a rally against vaccine mandates in Washington, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Sunday compared US vaccine policies to the actions of a totalitarian state, even suggesting that Anne Frank was better off hiding from the Nazis.
“Even in Hitler’s (sic) Germany, you could, you could cross the Alps into Switzerland. You could hide in an attic, like Anne Frank did,” Kennedy, a prominent anti-vaccine, said in a speech at the Lincoln Memorial. “I visited East Germany with my father in 1962 and I met people who had scaled the wall and escaped, so it was possible. Many died, true, but it was possible.”
Kennedy’s historically inaccurate anti-Semitic comment ignores the fact that Frank and 6 million other Jews were murdered by the Nazis. Anne Frank, who was a teenager at the time, hid in an attic in the Netherlands, not Germany, before she was caught and sent to a concentration camp, where she died.
The Auschwitz Memorial answered to Kennedy in a statement on Twitter, saying: “Exploitation of the tragedy of people who suffered, were humiliated, tortured and murdered by the totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany, including children like Anne Frank, in a debate on vaccines and limitations during the global pandemic is a sad symptom of moral and intellectual decay”.
Kennedy’s Protest Against Vaccine Mandates
The son of former Attorney General and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy has a long history of spreading misinformation about vaccines.
While there is no national vaccination mandate that covers all Americans, several cities across the country, including Washington, have required proof of vaccination to access many restaurants, bars, gyms and other private businesses. The federal government has ordered vaccinations for federal workers, but a federal judge in Texas blocked the administration from giving them on Friday.
The administration’s attempt to require vaccines for large companies was blocked by the US Supreme Court earlier this month, though it allowed a vaccine mandate for certain health care workers to take effect across the country. Some companies have voluntary mandatory vaccinations.
This Sunday’s event, billed as a protest against vaccine mandates, featured speakers who repeatedly spread misinformation about vaccines and showcased various bigoted comparisons to the Holocaust. At least one man was seen displaying a yellow Star of David, which Jews were required by law to wear as an identifier in Nazi Germany.
While language referencing totalitarianism was common throughout the speeches, references to the Holocaust were largely found on banners, one of which read: “Make the Nuremberg Code Great Again!” and another read: “Bring back the Nuremberg trials.” The Nuremberg Code outlined “permissible medical experiments” on human subjects and stated that such experiments must be for the good of society and satisfy moral, ethical, and legal concepts. The code was established during the prosecution of German doctors who subjected Jews to tortuous medical experiments.
Another sign with clear anti-Semitic sentiments read: “Corrupt, NIH, Big Pharma Mafia, Big CDC Cartel; Big Fraud Media: Your circumcision is dividing America!”
Other attendees dressed up and held signs promoting former President Donald Trump or attacking President Joe Biden. Many also wore T-shirts with “Defeat the Mandate”, the name of the event. Organizers obtained a permit from the National Park Service for up to 20,000 people for the event. Protesters began at the Washington Monument and marched to the Lincoln Memorial, where speakers addressed the crowd.
Trends Wide’s Joe Johns spoke with three women, Kim Cogswell, Christina Patterson and Erin Nichols, who traveled from Pennsylvania and Maryland to Washington for what two of them said was their first large-scale protest. They said that lack of freedom is their biggest frustration with vaccination mandates, though none said confidently that they thought vaccines were safe.
Cogswell said she is a healthcare worker, “that has brought me here because of issues I’ve had with my job and my current vaccination status.” When asked what kind of issues, Cogswell said, “Multiple issues with human and medical resources treating me differently and discriminating against me because of my choices.”
Patterson said she works in the school system, but says she hasn’t faced a personal backlash at work for not being vaccinated.
Vaccines licensed in the US
All three vaccines available in the United States are safe and effective in preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19. They were studied in large clinical trials that included thousands of people, and more than 210 million people in the United States have been fully vaccinated since the US Food and Drug Administration authorized the vaccines for emergency use.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks and continue to monitor potential safety issues. Some people experience brief, mild side effects such as headache, muscle pain and swelling at the injection site after vaccination, the CDC says, but serious complications are rare.
In November, the CDC reported that unvaccinated adults had a 13-fold increased risk of testing positive for COVID-19 and a 68-fold increased risk of dying from COVID-19 compared to adults who were fully vaccinated and boosted.
Jamie Gumbrecht contributed to this report.