U.S. Holocaust Museum Responds To Refugee Crisis

After a photo of an especially timely gift shop item went viral, the museum issued a statement

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Feb 01, 2017 at 3:07 PM ET

It was a busy week for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, where a photo taken at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum gift shop of a poster entitled “Early Warning Signs of Fascism” went viral on Twitter over the weekend. On Tuesday, museum staff to issued a second statement on the refugee crisis in Syria and Trump’s plans to deny those seeking relocation within the United States.

“American policy should fully address national security concerns while protecting legitimate refugees whatever their national or religious identity,” the statement reads.

The controversial poster, originally inspired by the work of the elusive Laurence W. Britt, lists indicators of fascism, which struck a chord with Twitter user “Sarah Rose,” who posted it on Monday — along with the 265,000 others that liked her post and 185,000 others who retweeted it. According to a communications officer at the museum, the poster has been carried since June 2016, though this is the first time it has garnered such widespread attention.

“I was shook to the core,” she told Vocativ in a Twitter message. “Apparently I wasn’t alone. Never did I imagine this would go viral the way that it did. But boy am I glad because it initiated open dialogue on neutral ground and that is what truly brings unity and change. Seeing people I admire such as Ricky Gervais respond to the post was inspiring and moving.”

The tweet was posted just days after Holocaust Remembrance Day, the same day that President Donald Trump signed an executive order that temporarily restricts the immigration of residents of seven Muslim-majority countries and halts the entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely. In the brief statement in regard to the Holocaust made that day, Trump neglected to use the word anti-Semitism or even mention Jews, the core group targeted by the Nazis, by name. Just as Sarah Rose’s tweet went viral, a thematically-related Twitter account launched on Friday called the St. Louis Manifest gained tens of thousands of followers around the same time for posting brief bios of Holocaust victims killed after they were turned away from entering the United States.

“The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is acutely aware of the consequences to the millions of Jews who were unable to flee Nazism, as noted in our November 2015 statement on the Syrian refugee crisis,” museum officials said in a Monday press release. “The Museum continues to have grave concern about the global refugee crisis and our response to it. During the 1930s and 1940s, the United States, along with the rest of the world, generally refused to admit Jewish refugees from Nazism due to antisemitic and xenophobic attitudes, harsh economic conditions, and national security fears.”

The museum, which is located in Washington D.C. and funded by both federal sources and private donations, has been working to educate visitors of the atrocities of the Holocaust since its creation in 1993. In its first statement regarding Syrian refugees, published in November 2015, the museum called on public figures and citizens to “avoid condemning today’s refugees as a group,” after reports that one of the Paris attackers had posed as a Syrian refugee in order to travel to France.

Correction: An earlier version of the story implied that the Museum’s statement came in response to the viral tweet. According to the Museum, the statement is “completely unrelated” to the image of the poster.