WASHINGTON — The Biden administration’s new special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism berates Lufthansa for “classic anti-Semitism” after learning that the German airline banned a large group of Orthodox Jews from boarding a robbery after some of them weren’t wearing masks.
Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, a renowned Holocaust historian sworn in as special envoy in March, told NBC News that her office at the State Department was “very concerned” and had been in contact with the German government over the about the May 4 incident, which involved US citizens. .
“Unbelievable,” Lipstadt said of the incident, in his first TV interview since taking office. “[When] I heard it for the first time, I said, ‘Oh, that must be wrong. Someone must have misreported this. And then, of course, it turned out to be precisely accurate – and worse than we even thought.
The incident in question happened at a Frankfurt airport, following a flight from New York in which the airline said a “limited” number of passengers refused to wear masks. When passengers attempted to board a connecting flight to Hungary, Lufthansa staff reportedly blocked all visibly Jewish passengers from boarding, including those who did not violate the mask policy and did not wear masks. not even part of the same group.
Lufthansa, Germany’s largest airline, apologized for the incident, saying the airline had “zero tolerance for racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination of any kind”.
“If an airline had done it, it would have been outrageous. But the terrible and horrible irony on the part of the German national airline was outrageous,” Lipstadt said.
German media reported that staff denied boarding to all passengers on the flight to Hungary whom they determined to be Jewish because they were wearing skull caps or had padlocks. Video of the incident showed Lufthansa staff telling passengers that “everyone has to pay” for the mistakes of a few, then defining “everyone” as “Jew from JFK.”
Lipstadt, who has published books on modern anti-Semitism, called it “classic prejudice” in which an entire ethnic, religious or cultural group is blamed for the actions of a few.
“A black teenager is in trouble. Instead of saying a teenager got in trouble, you say, “Oh, well, that’s how black people are.” A Jew does something? “That’s how Jews are,” Lipstadt said. “A small number of people do something wrong and you pretend it’s the whole group.”
In the interview, Lipstadt also drew direct comparisons between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, in the Biden administration’s most forceful comments to date, blaming Putin for invoking Nazism for justify his invasion of Ukraine.
She accused Putin of using “precise Nazi language” in remarks he made at the commemoration of Victory Day and the 77th anniversary of Germany’s defeat.
“I was flabbergasted, just overwhelmed by the degree of fabrications, distortions, lies and use of WWII and the suffering that was part of WWII and especially the Holocaust in this region, to justify this war, to justify this invading a neighboring country,” Lipstadt said. “It’s really shocking.”
Putin has insisted his invasion of Ukraine, rather than a war, is a ‘special military invasion’ meant to ‘denazify’ Ukraine, even though the country’s leader, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is Jewish . Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently sparked global outrage for dismissing this fact by baselessly claiming that Hitler himself was of Jewish origin.
Putin later apologized to Israel, which called the comments an “unforgivable” attempt to blame Jews for their own genocide during the Holocaust.
“It’s a form of Holocaust denial,” Lipstadt said. “They turn the victim into the aggressor.”
Describing Putin as an international tyrant who will keep pushing until he is stopped, Lipstadt said the Holocaust offers lessons for Russia’s current war: that the world cannot afford to wait for concentration camps and genocide take a stand.
“The Nazis didn’t start with genocide. They hadn’t planned gas chambers, but it’s step by step. How much can I get away with? What will the world accept? How far can I push? said Lipstadt. “And I think we saw the same thing here.”