KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City, Missouri City Council extended its current mask mandate during its meeting Thursday. But while opposition to the measure was expected, it was a woman wearing a yellow star that caught people’s attention.
“I don’t care your view, wearing a yellow badge into a City Council meeting symbolizing Holocaust victim hood because you hate masks is despicable,” tweeted Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas.
Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe were forced to wear the yellow star to identify themselves, making it easier for the Nazis to find Jews and deport them to concentration camps.
The use of the yellow star has seen a resurgence in the past couple of years, used by anti-vaccine and anti-mask protesters to vent their frustrations at public health measures.
No matter the intention, using the yellow star to make a political statement is anti-Semitic, according to Gavriela Geller, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Bureau of Greater Kansas City.
“Even if one may not intend to perpetuate racism or anti-Semitism, that doesn’t mean that they’re not doing it. So just because you don’t realize that you’re being anti-Semitic, that doesn’t mean that you’re not perpetuating anti-Semitism and it doesn’t mean that what you’re saying and what you’re doing is not ultimately dangerous to the Jewish community.”
Geller said using the symbol in this manner is a form of anti-Semitism called Holocaust distortion.
“Holocaust distortion is an attempt to negate the facts of the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people or a belief that the Holocaust did not happen or was greatly exaggerated,” she said. “When you equate a mask mandate with the yellow star that Jews were forced to wear during and prior to the mass murder of 6 million Jews, that fits the bill of Holocaust distortion.”
People wanting to educate themselves should visit the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education and the exhibit at Union Station Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.
As for the people wearing the stars? Geller said they need to seek forgiveness from the Jewish community.
“People who have engaged in this kind of language and rhetoric and imagery, quite frankly, have something to atone for and so it’s not just a case of them educating themselves,” she said. “They really need to take this up further and say, ‘What can I do honestly to apologize to the Jewish community for disrespecting and exploiting their community for my own political gain in such an egregious way?'”