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Home » Anti-vaccine activists use Holocaust tropes to discredit mandates

Anti-vaccine activists use Holocaust tropes to discredit mandates

Since the anti-vaccine activists find themselves on the wrong side of vaccine mandates, they’ve decided to go a Holocaust trope to describe vaccine mandates. But they just don’t understand what they’re doing again.

Recently, as more measles outbreaks occur across the world, there is consternation in governments, schools, and public health organizations about the dropping of measles vaccination rates in some areas. As a result, states like California are trying to clamp down on medical exemption abuse, and other jurisdictions, like Rockland County, NY, have banned unvaccinated children from public spaces.

And of course, during this COVID-19 pandemic, the anti-vaccine organizations are utilizing the same false equivalencies between vaccine mandates and the Holocaust. What are they thinking?

Public officials implemented these actions to stop the spread of measles, a dangerous, and frequently, deadly disease. As you can imagine, the anti-vaccine religion has been whining and screaming about everything from their individual rights to some cynical conspiracy theory about something or another ever since “mandatory” vaccines became important to public health officials to reduce the spread of the disease.

Photo posted on Facebook of Del Bigtree, notorious pseudoscientific anti-vaxxer, with his yellow Magen David pinned to his jacket.

The worst of this anti-vaccine nonsense is that many are comparing vaccinations that protect everyone from measles to Nazis murdering Jews. And science-denying pro-disease people, like Del Bigtree, an Andrew Wakefield sycophant and producer of the laughably vapid fraudumentary Vaxxed, are sporting the infamous yellow Star of David, called yellow badges or Judenstern (literally Jew’s star, in German) that German Nazis forced Jews to wear before and during WWII.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, another science-denying loudmouth and about whom I’ve written plenty, has also gone with the anti-vaccine Holocaust garbage.

Anti-vaxxers believe that they are being marked and targeted for not vaccinating their children (and themselves), just like Jews who were forced to wear the yellow stars.

Now, let us take a deep breath before I write another word.

This is a foul and despicable attempt to compare vaccination, which is intended to save the lives of millions of children, to the Holocaust (see the Notes section, before starting any arguments), which is the systematic murder of six million European Jews. Despite how much anti-vaxxers push this ridiculous trope in memes and posts across the internet, they are not the same.

The yellow star had one purpose in Nazi Germany – it made it easy to identify Jews for discrimination and murder. Jews were not trying to get Germans vaccinated for some horrific purpose (although the anti-vaxxers have often claimed that Jews control vaccines for nefarious motives). 

Of course, this comparison falls apart with just the smallest amount of common sense and rational thinking:

  1. There is no evidence that anyone has died from vaccination over the past 20 years. Compare this to the murder of six million Jews. 
  2. In states like California, West Virginia, and Mississippi, vaccines are required before attending school, and there are no exemptions (except medical ones) for children. No one is being forced to be vaccinated, parents who are anti-vax can simply not send their children to school. Public health officials are attempting to protect everyone from diseases, not kill anyone.
  3. No one is being forced to wear some sort of symbol that shows that they are vaccinated or not. 
  4. During this COVID-19 pandemic, many companies and governments are requiring vaccination OR testing before entering a business or working. They are not standing over anyone to get the vaccine, they’re allowing you to work if you have either a vaccine card or you show testing. This is to protect everyone, and it is not a fascist dictatorship. It’s not even close.

The only people who might be causing a holocaust are the anti-vaxxers – if they get their way, and all indications show that they only have an effect in small areas, it could lead to old diseases returning to our children. That’s scary.

anti-vaccine holocaust
Auschwitz concentration camp in German-occupied Poland where over 1.1 million Jews, Roma, and others were murdered by Nazis, not by vaccines.Photo by Erica Magugliani on Unsplash

Anti-vaccine holocaust denial?

Yes, I wrote that in the headline. The whole argument that vaccinations are part of a new Holocaust is, at its essence, anti-vaccine Holocaust denial. Even though these people think that wearing a yellow star shows that they are being brave against the nasty pro-vaccine scientists and public health authorities, it just shows off their nascent anti-Semitism.

Vaccines have probably not killed anyone in decades (at least a thorough investigation of CDC and published journal articles don’t show any mortality from vaccines), let alone anywhere close to the millions in the Holocaust. So the anti-vaccine holocaust deniers either:

  1. Don’t realize that the Holocaust was the systematic murder of six million Jews,
  2. Don’t realize that Nazis targeted Jews specifically for murder,
  3. Believe that the Holocaust wasn’t “that bad,” so the comparison is legitimate, or
  4. Simply don’t believe that six million Jews were murdered, so the yellow star strawman works for them.

If you were a Jew in Nazi Germany, you were targeted for enslavement and murder. If you don’t want to have your child vaccinated in the United States or many other countries, you don’t. But you should forgo the privilege of sending your child to public schools (and most private schools) or college. Yes, most colleges these days require full vaccinations.

No one is being sent to a concentration camp to be murdered if they don’t vaccinate. Of course, unvaccinated kids are much more at risk for death from these diseases, so there’s that.

Del Bigtree and others are trying to create something that doesn’t exist. The Holocaust was a heinous crime against Jews. Getting children vaccinated isn’t even in the same universe like that.

So keep going with the anti-vaccine Holocaust denial – it’s not working, because we see through your antics. Vaccines save lives. The Holocaust caused the deaths of six million Jews. Your comparison is disgusting and without merit. 

As the Auschwitz Museum wrote in a Twitter post:

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

The intellectual and moral degeneration of the anti-vaxxers is clear.


A broad consensus of WWII historians (see here, here, here, here, and here) defines the Holocaust as the systematic murder of approximately six million European Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators during World War II. Although homosexuals, Roma, the mentally disabled, Slavs, and other groups were murdered by Nazis, implementation was uneven and was not systematic. 

For example, homosexual men were considered “curable” by Nazis (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). That wasn’t a consideration afforded to Jews since they were a “race” in Nazi dogma.

I know that many argue that the “holocaust” includes all of the Nazi genocide, but for academic historians, “The Holocaust” is about the murder of Jews, while the broader genocide has a lot of different terms like “holocaust” (lower case h), holocaust era, Nazi genocide, and other terms. 

This differentiation is technical, but it is because of how Nazis viewed Jews – they didn’t consider them human, nothing more than they considered sheep or cattle not human. Nazis called it the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question,” something that did not happen with any other group, despite the horrific crimes committed against those groups by the Nazis.

The Hebrew term,  shoahis often used instead of “The Holocaust” to reduce confusion. 

If you want to discuss WWII history terminology, please take it to a blog that discusses WWII history terminology, I am a scientist who doesn’t pretend to be a historian.


Michael Simpson

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