Students React To Holocaust Anti-Vax Imagery

Sam Shepard, Staff Writer

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Despite the number of measles cases reaching 695 across 22 states, the movement against vaccines has continued, “anti-vaxxers” upping their tactics to what some have seen as crossing the line with the use of Holocaust imagery.

“I think that is disgusting,” Emily DeNote, a Central Connecticut business management junior, said. “I personally don’t believe in anti-vax because it is extremely dangerous to children and has no real medical proof behind it, but to go even further and have pins that resemble the Holocaust is extremely disturbing.”

Measles was considered eradicated in the United States in 2000. But now the vaccine-preventable disease is back, and as New York’s New York City and Rockland County issues states of emergencies in response to the measles outbreak, the response of the anti-vaxxers to social media platforms cracking down on their pages is to liken themselves to persecuted minorities, adopting the yellow Star of David patch made infamous by the Schutzstaffel, a Nazi parliamentary organization, during WWII.

More than 6 million Jews were persecuted and exterminated during the Holocaust, and the Auschwitz Holocaust Museum was quick to respond to the use of the Star of David by anti-vaxxers.

“Instrumentalizing the fate of Jews who were persecuted by hateful antisemitic ideology and murdered in extermination camps like #Auschwitz with poisonous gas in order to argue against vaccination that saves human lives is a symptom of intellectual and moral degeneration,” the museum wrote on Twitter.

Spencer Tarhini, a junior and history major, shared the same sentiment, calling the use of the Star of David in an anti-vax context “obscene.”

“[It’s] an obscene comparison. There is a mountain of evidence that supports vaccines while the anti-vaxxers one report that has been thoroughly discredited,” Tarhini said.

Steven Dean, also a junior and history major, agreed with Tarhini, saying that the imagery took advantage of a group of people that suffered.

“It’s a gross perversion of a people being persecuted, hunted down, and killed,” Dean said. “It’s not right.  It’s disgusting.”

Additionally, there is concern over anti-vaccine activists hosting “measles parties,” where anti-vax parents deliberately expose their children to measles. Vaccines like the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine, or MMR, use inactive strains of the virus to trigger the immune system to create antibodies in the body. The difference between the MMR vaccine and the parties is that the vaccines are benign while the actual virus is lethal.

“I think that in our current socio-political climate, people rely very heavily on whatever extreme will drive their point home. It’s all the more imperative that we recognize what is and isn’t hyperbolic speech,” James Robinson, a sophomore, said.

This kind of behavior has led New York to issue orders of mandatory vaccinations and to banning unvaccinated children from schools and public places.

And the epidemic is seeping into Connecticut, with three cases already confirmed in the state, according to the Connecticut Department of Public Health. The latest case was contracted from an infected individual in Brooklyn crossing over to New Haven County, making students in New Haven at an elevated risk due to their proximity to NYC and boroughs.

Furthermore, Connecticut has an exemption from vaccination on religious grounds, the form found online on the DPH’s site, which ups the possibility of an outbreak.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children get two doses of the MMR vaccine and that adults get at least one.