Ocasio-Cortez Declines Auschwitz Tour Invite Amid Backlash for ‘Concentration Camp’ Comparison

June 24, 2019 Updated: June 25, 2019

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has refused an invitation to tour the Auschwitz concentration camp with a survivor after a Jewish group invited her to visit the camp to educate herself about the Holocaust.

Ocasio-Cortez received widespread condemnation after she compared U.S. border facilities to “concentration camps” in an Instagram video last week while adding the phrase “never again,” a term synonymous with crimes committed by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany during World War II. Despite the backlash, the freshman congresswoman has refused to apologize for her remarks and instead doubled down on her comments as she hit back at her critics.

The progressive lawmaker’s comments also sparked a debate as to whether the immigration facilities are in fact “concentration camps,” with academics and media personalities openly arguing their understanding of the term.

In response to Ocasio-Cortez’s comments, Holocaust commemoration group From the Depths wrote an open letter on June 21, inviting the congresswoman to participate in an educational tour at the Mauthausen, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Majdanek Concentration Camps. They added that the group’s president Edward Mosberg, a 93-year-old Holocaust survivor, will travel with her on the tour, which is designed for legislators.

“Congresswoman, the comparison you made recently to the migrant detainment camps on the southern United States border to the German Nazi Concentration Camps, brought a great deal of backlash, we firmly believe that this was not your intention, this was not done out of spite or ill faith, rather a misguided comment, due to a lack of proper education on the Holocaust, a significant issue of our generation,” the letter read.

“The opportunity you will have of visiting the German Nazi Concentration Camps along with Mr. Mosberg, a 93-year-old survivor of history’s most brutal genocidal regime, will enable you to become a witness of a witness, something that our generation will sadly be the last to do, as result of the fact that the survivors are passing away at an ever-increasing rate.”

The group posted a photo of a previous tour with U.S. lawmakers in order to convince the Democratic lawmaker to accept their invite.

‪”Dear Congresswoman [AOC] we pride ourself on educating EVERYONE on the Holocaust. This picture was taken with me 5 years ago on our first event in Auschwitz-Birkenau with a bi-partisan delegation led by then-Speaker [EricCantor], Congresswoman [RepMaloney], Congressman [DarrellIssa] & Israeli Minister Yariv Levin‬,” the post read.

The invitation garnered extensive attention in the media and among politicians. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) posted a tweet calling on Ocasio-Cortez to accept the group’s offer on June 22.

“[AOC] I went to Auschwitz & Birkenau with Eddie Mausberg & Jonny Daniels with In the Depths. I went with a deep understanding of the Shoah and had a profound personal experience. Please accept their offer,” King wrote in his tweet.

Responding to King’s post, Ocasio-Cortez subsequently refused the group’s offer before taking the opportunity to criticize the Republican congressman.

“The last time you went on this trip it was reported that you also met w/ fringe Austrian neo-Nazi groups to talk shop. So I’m going to have to decline your invite. But thank you for revealing to all how transparently the far-right manipulates these moments for political gain,” she wrote.

During an Instagram live video on June 17, the radical politician used the term linked to the Nazi camps holding Jews during World War II to describe the holding facilities at the southern border. She also made a direct comparison to the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were killed by the Nazis.

“The United States is running concentration camps on our southern border and that is exactly what they are,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “They are concentration camps. And, um, if that doesn’t bother you, I don’t, I don’t know, I like, we can have, okay whatever.”

“I want to talk to the people that are concerned enough with humanity to say that we should not… that ‘Never Again’ means something and that the fact that concentration camps are now an institutionalized practice in the home of the free is extraordinarily disturbing and we need to do something about it,” she continued.

Her comments attracted criticism from media personalities, politicians, and more recently the head of Border Patrol Carla Provost.

“I personally find them offensive,” Provost said during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on June 20. “I’m calling agents who are bringing toys in for children and buying them with their personal money. Agents are bringing in clothes, they’re feeding babies, they’re going above and beyond, day in and day out, to try to care for these individuals.”

A member of the Polish Parliament also reacted to her comments, saying that the comments had caused “distress,” and incited Ocasio-Cortez to see the concentration camps herself.

“I write to you out of distress in having learned of your recent statements regarding concentration camps,” wrote Dominik Tarczynski, a member of the Polish parliament, in a letter he posted online on June 20.

“As you should be aware, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi) who led Germany, were responsible for the darkest period in my country’s and our whole continent’s history by devising a chain of concentration camps in order to exterminate those who they believed were subhuman, or a threat to their imperialistic machinations—this included both Jewish Poles and non-Jewish Poles and as a result we lost six million of our citizens,” he added.

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan
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