This 92-year-old Holocaust survivor has a warning for America about Donald Trump | Opinion – The News Journal

Posted By on October 25, 2020

Alan Garfield, Special to the USA TODAY NETWORK Published 5:00 a.m. ET Oct. 25, 2020

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Its not as if there arent already enough reasons to vote against President Donald Trump. But let me give you one more. It would help a 92-year-old Holocaust survivor to sleep at night.

Erika Jacoby was a child when virulent anti-Semitism swept through Hungary in the 1930s and 1940s. She remembers her brother being beaten. She remembers thugs grabbing her grandfather and shaving off his beard. She recalls how she was not allowed to go to the park on Sundays. Simply being there and being Jewish was a provocation.

A young child at the time, she was incapable of understanding what was happening. She tells how her father tried to explain anti-Semitism, but she couldnt comprehend why anyone would hate her when she had done nothing to them.

After the Nazis invaded Hungary in 1944, Erika was sent to Auschwitz. She was lucky to have survived. Before the war,Hungarys Jewish population was 725,000. By wars end,565,000 had been murdered.

After the war, Erika longed to be in the United States, where her fianc, a Czech Jew who had fought for the resistance, was already living. But a visa was not forthcoming. She lived in Cuba for two years before arriving in her promised land.

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On the day Erika earned her American citizenship, she thought she had reached heaven. She felt safe in America. She could sleep soundly at night.

Until Trump was elected, she says.

Its not that Erika is equating America in 2020 with Europe in 1940. She is neither fearing for her personal safety nor comparing Trump to Hitler.

But she knows what it feels like when there is a rising tide of ugliness. She knows what its like when the leader of a country fans the flames of bigotry and openly incites violence. She has witnessed what happens when hateful words turn into hateful acts.

When the marchers in Charlottesville chanted Jews will not replace us, Erika says she was physically shivering. When Trump, the president of the United States, described these marchers asvery fine people,she felt betrayed and fearful. Why didnt the president denounce these racists? she asks. She says it felt like a scream coming at you without anyone stopping it.

People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally Aug. 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Va.(Photo: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

When the Trump administration authorized the use ofsmoke cannisters and flash-bang grenadesto disperse peaceful protesters so Trump could pose with a Bible in front of a church, Erika was aghast. She is a religious woman. For her, the Bible should be everything relaxing and loving. But Erika says Trump wielded the Bible like a warrior flaunting his weapon.

Protesters confront a row of police officers at Lafayette square, in front of the White House, in Washington, DC on June 22, 2020.(Photo: ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images)

Erika similarly recoiled when Trumpdeployed camouflaged federal officers in unmarked carsto crack down on American citizens in Portland. She knows what can happen when the military is used against its own people. She was also frightened when Trump adherents, encouraged by the president, threateningly brandished weapons in state capitals. The public display of guns terrifies Erika. She has experienced what its like to have a gun pointed at you. In Auschwitz, she witnessed people being shot to death.

Erika holds Trump responsible for this poisonous and combustible brew. She describes the words that come out of his mouth as ugly and venomous. She says they make her physically ill.

Thats why Erika is not sleeping. For the first time since she immigrated to this great country, she no longer feels safe.

Rather than remaining passive, this 92-year-old Holocaust survivor feels compelled to speak out. She wants to warn her fellow Americans of the danger theyre facing. She wants them to know that this is what it feels like when a society begins to lose its decency and humanity.

Alan Garfield is a professor at Widener University Delaware Law School.(Photo: Courtesy of Widener University)

When I asked her why she needs to do this, she responded with the Hebrew proverb, If I am only for myself, what am I? When I asked why she chose to speak out now, she responded with the ending of the same proverb, If not now, when?

Alan Garfield is a professor at Widener University Delaware Law School. Erika Jacoby was his Hebrew school teacher when he was 8 years old.

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This 92-year-old Holocaust survivor has a warning for America about Donald Trump | Opinion - The News Journal

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