I'm generally averse to comparing things to the Holocaust or Nazism.
There are a variety of reasons for my reluctance, but one major component is that these comparisons often serve as a soft form of Holocaust denial -- minimizing the scope of the tragedy by analogizing it to events that, although perhaps also wrong, pale in comparison to systematic mass murder.
Yet a recent debate over a Jewish Democrats ad which explicitly draws a comparison between Trumpist America and 1930s Germany -- not, it must be said, the actual Final Solution -- has gotten me to thinking (JTA's headline suggests that this ad represents a turning point in the acceptability of Holocaust comparisons -- previously viewed as "off limits". But of course, right-wing Jews have been cavalierly tossing out Nazi comparisons for years now -- if anything has changed, it's that some liberal groups are playing too).
The ad was condemned by several prominent Jewish organizations, such as the ADL and AJC. But it also had some high-profile defenders, including ex-ADL chief Abe Foxman and prominent Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt. The latter often drew an important distinction between comparing what Trump is doing to Nazi extermination, on the one hand, versus the earlier stages of European fascism (anti-minority propaganda, railing against the lugenpresse, ripping down internal checks within the government, and so on). Certainly, the case for the legitimacy of the advertisement was significantly buttressed when President Trump instructed a violent far-right hate group to "stand back and stand by" -- raising the specter of his own group of stormtroopers standing at the ready to overturn the will of the electorate.
The thing is, the Jewish community has invested a lot of time, money, and resources into Holocaust education (both for Jews and non-Jews alike). One would think that the point of this education is to give us the tools to nip incipient fascism in the bud; not to more effectively bemoan a genocide after it has occurred. After all, much of our Holocaust education focuses on what occurred in the run-up to the Holocaust, that is, before the machinery of mass death began to move in earnest. What's the point of it all if those who have been taught aren't allowed to apply their insights?
Of course, even most cases of incipient fascism do not end up reaching the point of Auschwitz. But it is plenty bad to even travel part way down the path. My strong gut instincts cut against using Holocaust comparisons even in these cases -- there are other metaphors at our disposal. But I do want to know exactly what the ADL and AJC and like groups think the purpose of Holocaust education is, if not to use it in moments like this.