Published Date Written by Rabbi Akiva Herzfeld(Gov. Paul LePage said Thursday the Internal Revenue Service might not be as bad as the Gestapo, but the federal tax collection agency is headed in that direction, The Bangor Daily News reports.)
The Governor of Maine's latest remarks have caused me great sadness. I am disappointed that the Governor fails to understand the great significance in meaning of the word "Gestapo" to the Jewish community and to those who suffered through the terrors of the Nazi brutality. I am saddened for myself and also for the Governor, who obviously does not realize how hurtful and distressing his words can be to others.
Everyone in society must be careful with our language. As an elected official and as someone in a position of power, the Governor of Maine has an even greater responsibility to exercise care with his language so as not to offend or hurt others. His latest remarks about the Nazis and the IRS not only offend people in the Jewish community but also offend IRS government workers. His reckless comparisons of the Nazis to the American government of today should offend any American citizen with a knowledge of history. His repeated comparison to the Nazis should offend anyone who wishes to live peacefully in a shared society based on values of respectful behavior to others.
The issue of Obamacare is a political issue that divides Democrats and Republicans. In contrast, the issue of American freedoms and the difference between America and the evil fascists of Nazi Germany is one that should unite all Americans behind the great liberties of our nation, and the freedoms that our constitution has preserved for us as people. By comparing our government to the Nazi fascists, who sought to murder Jews, Romani, and the mentally and physically disabled, the Governor of Maine has diminished the greatness of America.
The Gestapo did not only arrange for the torture and murder of those whom they labeled as subhuman or enemies of the Nazi regime. They also attacked German citizens who tried to help the minorities whom the Nazis attacked. Any German citizen who tried to help the Jews was subject to penalty by the Nazis. He or she could lose his job and his or her family could suffer terribly.
Earlier this week, the Republican Secretary of State Charlie Summers recognized how offensive the word "GESTAPO" was and he ordered that it not be used on Maine license plates. However, the Governor has continued to draw comparisons between the IRS and the Nazis.
It is time for every Maine citizen, Republicans and Democrats, to stand up to the Governor. In Nazi Germany, good German citizens were not able to help those who were being harmed. In America, we have the right to speak out. Everyone should tell the Governor that his language is causing harm and hurt to others.
(Akiva Herzfeld is rabbi at Congregation Shaarey Tphiloh Synagogue in Portland.)