Holocaust comparisons, yellow stars: How controversial forms of protest reached Kansas vaccine mandate hearings


TOPEKA, (KSNT) — Symbols and comments comparing vaccine mandates to the Holocaust, where millions of Jewish people were killed, have reached the state’s capitol in recent weeks. And according to leaders in the Jewish community, it shows major gaps in how people understand history.

“The tragedy of the Holocaust is not in any way the same in being asked to comply with certain restrictions for the health and safety of everyone,” said Rabbi Samuel Stern from Temple Beth Shalom in Topeka.

Stern told Kansas Capitol Bureau that people in his congregation were upset over comments that were made, many calling it anti-semitism.

The comparisons were made during a series of public hearings at the state capitol over coronavirus vaccine mandates. The latest dispute occurring at a hearing Friday, involving a former mayoral candidate from Kansas City, Daran Duffy, who wore the “Star of David” while giving testimony. He compared the mandate to oppression Jewish people received during the Holocaust, and said, “We are definitely headed in that direction.”

Democratic Senator Pat Pettey from Kansas City tells Daran Duffy, a KCK man wearing a yellow “Star of David” and comparing mandate to the Holocaust, to “sit down” during hearing. (KSNT/ Rebekah Chung)

Democratic Senator Pat Pettey, who called for Duffy to explain his stance, was quick to cut off and condemn his comments, before Sen. Renee Erickson, (R) Wichita, who chairs the committee, called it back into order.

“We’re not talking about millions of people being killed here, so I think you need to be more respectful of Jewish people,” Pettey said.

Up until last week’s dispute, Republican leaders were silent on the issue, but have since slammed the comparisons in posts on social media, “strongly condemning” the comments.

“Senate Republicans reject, in the strongest possible terms, any analogies to the Holocaust,” Sen. President Ty Masterson, R-Andover wrote in a post on Twitter. “Such comparisons are inappropriate and bear no resemblance to the issues we are debating today.”

In one of the first hearings in October, Republican representative Brenda Landwehr from Wichita, also agreed with comments made by a union worker who called the mandates “reminiscent of Nazi Germany.” But this isn’t the first time these references to the Holocaust and Nazi persecution have been used. According to political analyst Dr. Bob Beatty, it seems to be a trend among certain groups protesting mandates, especially with the state having a smaller Jewish population.

“One of the reasons we see anti-semitism is because we’re talking about a minority community,” Beatty said. “For some people, it’s much easier to discriminate against people who are a relatively small number.”

Rabbi Stern said he and his congregation are hoping conversations about the Holocaust and politics are kept separate.

“I think that they’d like representatives not to bring the Holocaust into these modern political discussions, because they have nothing to do with each other.”

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December 31 2021 11:59 pm