Kansas labor leader compares Biden’s vaccination mandates to the Holocaust

TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) – A Kansas union leader on Friday compared U.S. President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates to the Holocaust that killed millions of Jews, and a top Republican lawmaker appeared to agree with the comparison. .

Comments from Kansas House Health Committee Chair Brenda Landwehr of Wichita and Cornell Beard, Wichita District Chair of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers came as a legislative committee launched an effort to find ways for the state to fight Biden. policies.

Biden’s mandates could affect up to 100 million people, including healthcare workers, employees of government contractors and employees of companies with more than 100 workers.

Beard, who is black, gave the committee a written statement accusing people who do not want to work with other people who are not vaccinated of “preserving and perpetuating the ideology of a modern racist.”

“We are basically saying that you are the modern Jew,” Beard told the committee in person. “You’re going to wear that star … and we don’t give a damn if you complain or not.”

Beard referred to the yellow star that the Nazi government in Germany forced Jews to wear before and during World War II. Landwehr thanked him for his comments and then said that comments made during the committee hearing reminded him of comments in a documentary on the Holocaust that suggested the Nazis told the Germans: “We will lead you all down one path.”

“Now I think that’s what we are trying to do? I hope not. Because this is the United States and I don’t want to lose hope, “he said.

In this file photo from Saturday, July 24, 2021, people hold a protest against the “green pass” in Milan, Italy. Protesters in Italy and France have been wearing yellow Stars of David, like the ones the Nazis required Jews to use to identify themselves during the Holocaust. Some carry signs comparing vaccine passes to dictatorships. (AP Photo / Antonio Calanni, file)

No one on the committee objected to the analogy during the committee meeting. Democratic Rep. Vic Miller of Topeka later said he did not “get the reference.”

Rabbi Moti Rieber, executive director of Kansas Interfaith Action, called the comparison between the Holocaust and vaccine mandates “hateful and historically ignorant and offensive.”

“It’s absurd to even say it,” he said. “No one is going to be jailed. No one is going to be sent to concentration camps. “

The Kansas City Area Office of Jewish Community Relations posted a statement on its Facebook page calling those comparisons “disgusting displays of ignorance and anti-Semitism.”

“This is a distortion of the Holocaust and has no place in the legislature,” the statement said.

The legislative panel, the Joint Committee on Government Overreach and the Impact of COVID-19 Mandates, heard a day of testimony, mostly from critics of the mandates. Republican lawmakers have already concluded that Biden’s terms violate people’s freedoms and will damage the economy. His goal is to find ways for Kansas to resist effectively.

Kansas State Representative Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, speaks to staff as Sen. Renee Erickson, left, also R-Wichita, observes, following a legislative committee meeting on federal government vaccine mandates, the Friday, October 29, 2021, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Landwehr and a Wichita union leader compared vaccine mandates to the Holocaust that killed millions of Jews during World War II. (AP Photo / Andy Tsubasa Field)

The committee plans to have another day-long hearing on Saturday and finish its work by Thanksgiving.

During Friday’s hearing, Beard described himself as a conservative Democrat and has criticized Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly for not making public statements about the mandates. His office has said that Kansas has yet to see all the details of the Biden administration.

Senate President Ty Masterson, a Wichita-area Republican on the committee, said the comparison to the Holocaust shows that critics of the vaccine mandate “feel it is life and death.”

The Republican Speaker of the West Virginia Senate, a Republican member of the Maine House of Representatives, and the Oklahoma Republican Party in recent months compared vaccine mandates to Nazi Germany, an infamous Nazi doctor who did experiments on Jews, and the persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazis.

Last year, a chairman of the Kansas County Republican Party, owner of a weekly newspaper, apologized for a cartoon posted on the newspaper’s Facebook page that equated an order by Kelly to wear masks in public with the Holocaust.

After the committee meeting on Friday, Landwehr denied reporters comparing the vaccine mandates to the Holocaust and mentioned the documentary again.

“I was offended because we should all follow a path,” he said. “And after reviewing a documentary about the entire Holocaust, I thought again about the Jews who went to the incinerators.”

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