“The Holocaust didn’t happen overnight”

LZ Granderson wrote a poignant piece today at CNN.com about the growing backlash against Russia over its crackdown on its gay and trans citizens.


In the piece, Granderson takes on the issue of the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany in a novel way.  He tells the story of two Jewish US Olympic athletes, Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller, who were set to compete at those Games.  At the last minute, they were pulled from the race by the US Olympic Committee.

Here’s more on what happened from JewishSightseeing.com:

The printed narrative in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s traveling exhibit on the 1936 Olympics, now on display at San Diego’s Hall of Champions, reports that the two sprinters were pulled from the team the day before the relay race. That was the same morning that he and Stoller had been scheduled to run a trial heat.

“Why did they wait till that morning, that day, to tell us that we were not going to run? Because they knew there was going to be some furor about it, some objection about it,” Glickman said. “If they did it earlier, they might be forced to make a change, but they did it that morning.”The only people on that team who didn’t get to compete were Sam and me,” Glickman added. “In the entire 100 year history of the Olympics, no other fit American athlete who was on the team — I don’t mean those who pulled muscles — has ever not competed in the games.”

I never knew any of this.

Granderson then segues into the larger issue of what it means to be holding the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia:

In talking about the 1936 Olympics, I do not equate what is happening in Russia to what happened to Jewish people during World War II. I just want to remind you that the Holocaust did not happen overnight. It was subtle.

Russian vigilantes show off a young gay boy they claim to have abducted and then doused with urine after entrapping him via a gay social media site. Reports from Russia suggest the boy may now be dead.

Russian vigilantes show off a young gay boy they claim to have abducted and then doused with urine after entrapping him via a gay social media site. Reports from Russia suggest the boy may now be dead.


In silence.

These new anti-gay laws are disturbingly similar to the anti-Semitic Nuremberg laws Hitler passed before the 1936 Olympics. And with the Pew Institute finding 84% of Russians believe society should reject gay people, perhaps some saying they object to gays for fear of arrest, the world should question how far Russia intends to go.

We should question how far Russia, our lukewarm ally, intends to go and what our participation in the 2014 Olympic Games will look like generations from now.

That’s the thing with Nazi comparisons.  They’re often made frivolously, and incorrectly.  But they’re not always wrong.  They can’t always be wrong.

After all, if the Holocaust was such a unique event in human history that nothing again can ever compare, then there’s nothing to worry about. It can’t happen again.  And I’ve always believed that one of the lessons of the Holocaust is that it can happen again.  Why?  Because of another lesson of the Holocaust: that men don’t need to be exceptional in order to do evil.  The potential for evil resides in all of us, and all societies.

MOSCOW - MAY 28: Russian police detain a gay rights activist during an attempt to hold the unauthorized gay pride parade on May 28, 2011 in Moscow, Russia. (kojoku / Shutterstock.com)

MOSCOW – MAY 28: Russian police detain a gay rights activist during an attempt to hold the unauthorized gay pride parade on May 28, 2011 in Moscow, Russia. (kojoku / Shutterstock.com)

When people say “never again” about the Holocaust, it doesn’t mean “it can’t ever happen again,” but rather, “we won’t let it happen again.”

And while most Nazi Germany analogies are flawed, one of these days we’re going to sadly get one right.  Let’s do our best to ensure that this one isn’t it.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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35 Responses to ““The Holocaust didn’t happen overnight””

  1. Sheryl Hunter says:

    Actually Hitler started with homosexuals .. and then moved on to Jewish people. It is a little known fact of history.

  2. lobo214 says:

    Likewise the Holocaust on the indigenous people of “the new world” did not happen overnight or is it even considered today by many people in the country that grew from that Holocaust.

  3. ArthurH says:

    The main problem is Putin. He seems to believe that whatever he does and whatever goes on in Russia is perfect and international opinion be damned. Look at how he is dissing the U.S. and other countries in the past year. The guy has an ego as big as outer space and a tin ear. I’ve come over to the opinion that we should organize not only our athletes but those of other nations to openly display the rainbow flag during the opening and closing ceremonies and every other venue in between. If a gold medal winner pulls out a rainbow flag on the pedestal, that will send a huge message to Putin and the anti-gay goons. Putin may not get it right away, but it is a start.

  4. karmanot says:

    very like!!!!!

  5. tawwaba says:

    this is what i have been saying to all my friends, gay and straight and in-between. I am the daughter of a jewish refugee from munich who told me how insidious the build-up was to Kristalnacht. He and his parents and siblings escaped because they caught the drift early. Others could not believe that they, as assimilated Jews, not involved in Jewish practices or even self-identified as Jewish, would eventually be taken to the camps and annihilated there. This first stage, of bullying and violence without any consequences, was carried out against my father in his public school. I completely understand the hesitation of any reasonable thinking person to compare anything whatsoever to the Holocaust. But this is exactly the same beginning. What can’t be assumed is that it will lead to genocide. But it can be highlighted. I feel so strongly that in these circumstances there should be a boycott of the entire Olympics by every single country that has the capacity to understand what is happening. IE – every single country.

  6. FLL says:

    (1) Is a governmental policy of kidnapping children and removing them from their parents a rare historical aberration? I claim it is.
    (2) In order to accomplish this, a government would have to convince hundreds or thousands of government workers to cooperate in the effort. The government would also have to convince countless citizens who received these children (in homes or orphanages) not to ask obvious questions about where all these “orphaned” children came from. I claim that this would be an example of mass psychosis.

    I think that Aboriginal children in Australia and Native American children would agree with my claims, not disagree with them. So I guess you and I disagree.

  7. nicho says:

    Concern noted

  8. Hue-Man says:

    The lives of the gay men in Bent (1997) change almost overnight from being full members of an open permissive society to murder and abuse in the concentration camps. I have the DVD somewhere but have not been eager to revisit the pain and suffering that resulted from the first viewing (the local theater production of Bent that I saw before the film was shot is not as relentlessly depressing).

    Cast: Lothaire Bluteau (Jesus de Montréal), Ian McKellan, Mick Jagger, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Jude Law, Clive Owen. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118698/

  9. caphillprof says:

    This is evil pure and simple. History tells us that this leads to an absolute abomination. This is one nation using an international event to extort evil from the rest of the world. What if the United States held the Olympics and promised to arrest and imprison any Slav who dared to participate?

  10. cole3244 says:

    fascism never happens overnight or quickly as america should be aware of as it travels through todays disturbing times and focuses on things not political.

  11. That’s interesting, I may use that, thank you

  12. It’s kidnapping too.

  13. ” Because of another lesson of the Holocaust: that men don’t need to be exceptional in order to do evil. The potential for evil resides in all of us, and all societies.” , pretty much says it all. The public reaction to media reports in the present day United States to the horrific behavior of the Olympic host city probably mirrors the public reaction of the news from Nazi Germany in 1936. For those who wonder to this day, how Hitler pulled off his rise to power, look around.

  14. Indigo says:

    This is profoundly worrisome.

  15. Indigo says:

    And in the United States as well.

  16. Nisa Taft says:

    Why can’t they just respect the lgbt community?

    sign letters

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    Thank you, John – could not agree
    more. I’ve been waiting for one of the right-wingers to get “offended”
    that people were beginning to compare this to the Holocaust. Frankly,
    they’d be offended if the Holocaust were compared to the Holocaust.

  18. frizbeesf says:

    The issue of whether or not the International Community allows Russia to scapegoat an entire minority for nothing more than political expedience is one that truly does affect us all. If Vladimir Putin’s Russia is allowed to stand upon the world stage, basking in the glow of the Olympic Flame, unchallenged for the horrific acts of state-sanctioned hatred it is inflicting on its own people; Then we truly do not deserve the safety and freedoms that those of us lucky enough to live in the WeHo’s, the Soho’s the Boystowns, the Castros and Chelsea’s of the world enjoy, and so often take for granted.

    If we cannot stand up and defend those who are under attack for no reason other than who they are, then frankly we deserve no better than what they are living with now.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I honestly don’t know who to believe regarding the victims. The Livejournal says the police covered up a murder. But the newspaper says they “proved” at least one victim is alive.

  20. Mighty says:

    I don’t trust they are actually doing anything about this. Russia is notorious for propaganda. I trust them as far as I can throw a Siberian Tiger. FYI I’d be running away from the Tiger.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Hopefully those pics of weapons will stop the cries of “these photos are staged.”
    Also worth noting: “The branch in Kamensk-Uralsk made no secret that they see no difference between child molesters and gay people, and presume that non-Slavs are likely to be gays or criminals.”

  22. FLL says:

    Your comparison to the Southern states in the 1950s is dead on target. The difference is in authority, prestige and resources. The Southern states in the U.S. never controlled a national government. The oppressive government in this case is a world power with a nuclear arsenal. I’m very glad the American South was never a world power with a nuclear arsenal.
    I sure wouldn’t have wanted to see Governor Wallace with his finger on the nuclear button.

  23. FLL says:

    Rape, assault… and kidnapping. Are they even considering the physical injuries of the victim? They might get their sentence knocked down to a couple weeks with either a sympathetic judge or “good behavior.”

  24. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    Sorry, here’s the link to the RT article. http://rt.com/news/vigilante-nazi-busted-russia-219/

  25. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    Russia Today is now reporting that authorities are investigating the Occupy Pedophilia Group. Authorities say that, while no one has been arrested yet, that if convicted, the perpetrators could face the penalty of THREE FRIGGIN MONTHS for their crime. Three Months? For RAPE and ASSAULT? Russia still doesn’t get it.
    The article claims that the victim of the crime is alive. Although we really can’t take them on their word.

  26. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    I think the comparison to 1933 or 1934 Germany is valid. But Russia today reminds me more of Birmingham Alabama in 1957 or so. You have roving bands of thugs running riot all over the place beating up minorities senseless, with little or no jail for the perpetrators (the Moscow Gay Pride Parade where the ‘citizens’ who beat the stuffing out of the peaceful protesters appeared to have been bused in on police buses – seemed a LOT like the Birmingham Bus Station riot on Mothers Day 1961). Just like in Birmingham in the 50s, You also have in Russia, like Birmingham in the 50’s, the response of the authorities is to ban any group advocating for the rights of the minorities. Like in Birmingham in the 1950’s, Russia has passed a law that basically gives the authorities the ‘right’ to arrest any Gay person for any reason (Birmingham called them ‘vagrancy laws’).
    But since Russia is holding the Olympics, the comparison to Berlin is going to gain more traction. People should be careful with the comparison, but I think to compare Moscow in 2013 to Berlin in 1934 is probably valid.

  27. FLL says:

    Then that policy would have to qualify as psychotic. If this happens in Russia, I can’t think of anything else that would galvanize the international community more quickly, can you?

  28. Jim Olson says:

    Hmm. I think there are Aboriginal children in Australia and First People children in Canada that might have a different take on that.

  29. FLL says:

    In the absence of clear child abuse, no society, almost without exception, has ever contemplated removing children from their parents, both adoptive and biological. The only rare historical instances of this have been societies in the grip of mass psychosis.

  30. devlzadvocate says:

    Funny thing about history . . .

  31. BeccaM says:

    I don’t equate what’s happening to gay, lesbian, and trans people in Russia with what happened to Jews in German-controlled territories during World War II.

    I equate it with what happened during the decade leading up to WWII. And also not coincidentally, to gay people in Germany during that same period.

    Make no mistake, Russia has launched an anti-gay pogrom. And for those unfamiliar with the term, a pogrom refers to violent repression — by both the state and private citizens — of an ethnic, religious, or other minority group. This violent repression can include murders and massacres.

    Right now, Russia is now in the ‘violent repression and murders’ stage. Massacres and concentration camps usually start happening a bit later. I’m guessing that’ll start around the time the Russian government starts kidnapping the children living in families headed by or including gay and lesbian members.

  32. FLL says:

    It would be worth the effort to keep an eye on the well-being of gay organizations, magazines, newspapers and clubs in Russia. Efforts on the part of the authorities to close any of these down would signal a higher level of danger. I’m hoping that a communication network is developing between LGBT Russia and the West. Scandinavia is in a unique position to communicate with folks in St. Petersburg easily and cheaply via cell phone. If Russia slides toward dictatorship, these will be dangerous times for anyone living in Russia, gay or otherwise.

  33. MichaelS says:

    Thank you, John – could not agree more. I’ve been waiting for one of the right-wingers to get “offended” that people were beginning to compare this to the Holocaust. Frankly, they’d be offended if the Holocaust were compared to the Holocaust.

  34. Hue-Man says:

    I know what you’re saying about the Holocaust but you don’t have to go very far to read about the exact situation developing in Russia:

    “Beginning in 1933, gay organizations were banned, scholarly books about homosexuality, and sexuality in general, were burned, and homosexuals within the Nazi Party itself were murdered. The Gestapo compiled lists of homosexuals, who were compelled to sexually conform to the “German norm.”” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_homosexuals_in_Nazi_Germany_and_the_Holocaust

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