At the Culver City Democratic Club candidate forum on June, 29, 2022, candidates were asked the following question: “How will you address the housing and homelessness crisis?” Among other statements, Councilmember Alex Fisch, who is running for re-election made the following comment:
“Marching people off to concentration camps in Palmdale is not a solution. It’s not moral and it’s not the Democratic Party way of doing things.” Source: CCDemClub Candidate forum around 17.33, comment at 18:10 time mark. https://www.c-c-d-c.com/city-council-candidate-forum/
Along with others in our community, I find this comment offensive, divisive, insensitive, and disparaging. Conflating services that help people experiencing homelessness with Nazi death marches must not go unchallenged. Mr. Fisch owes all a real, full apology.
Mr. Fisch had an opportunity at the July 11th City Council meeting but did not make any remark or expression of regret after it was raised by people during public comment. In an email, Mr. Fisch wrote that he was referring to other people talking about moving the unhoused from their current locations to other area facilities such as, Palmdale where it might be less expensive to build. Mr. Fisch responded in another written note that he was talking about law-enforcement actions to move the unhoused to other places. However, no other candidate for office mentioned “marching people off to Palmdale” or anywhere else for that matter.
On social media, Alex Fisch’ssupporters argue that there is no harm. They have opined that “concentration camps” do not always refer to Nazi killing centers, but any “concentration” of people such as the Japanese internment camps in the United States. Others claim that people are deliberately misconstruing Mr. Fisch’s remarks for political reasons. These are outright deflections meant to put an end to the outrage.
“Marching people off to concentration camps in Palmdale,” is a clear reference to Nazi atrocities.
No one, city councilmember, candidate or not, should have said this unless they meant to be offensive. Any attempt to soft-peddle this inexcusable statement minimizes the death and suffering of the Nazi’s victims: The Holocaust’s over 6 million Jews, along with millions of Russians, Poles, Roma, disabled, LGBTQ, Jehovah’s witnesses, and others who were targeted for their race, religion, ethnicity, identity, or political ideas.
Mr. Fisch’s statement clearly appropriates horrifying historical events to make his point. Even if it was supposed to be a “clever” phrase, this shows a distinct lack of sensitivity.
Words matter. History matters. The insidious rise of antisemitism and racism in this country is appalling. We must understand history and choose our words carefully. We must respond when a public figure uses a false and offensive analogy.
Nazi concentration camps were designed to extract labor and to deliberately murder people because of their race, religion, ethnicity, identity or political beliefs. Shelters, pallet homes, transitional housing, out-reach programs and permanent housing all have issues, but their purpose and intention is to provide services to people who are unhoused. Alex Fisch’s statement is a false equivalency of the worst kind. It shows a distinct lack of empathy and understanding which is shocking in a city council member and candidate.