In the wake of measles outbreaks in recent months, some public health officials have created strict rules concerning unvaccinated children in public spaces, such as schools and houses of worship. In some places, the spread of the disease has even led officials to declare a state of emergency. In response, anti-vaccination protesters have begun wearing yellow stars, claiming that rules based on vaccination status are analogous to the inhumane treatment of Jews during the Holocaust.
It is not the first time the anti-vaccination movement has appropriated the Holocaust. Anti-vaccination advocates have called the side effects of vaccinations a modern-day Holocaust. They compare the criticism directed toward parents who choose not to vaccinate their children to the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust and label those who advocate for stringent laws around vaccines as Nazis. But this misuse of history distorts and undermines the actual horrors of the Holocaust. It also ignores that so many Holocaust victims died of infectious diseases -- the same ones that vaccines could prevent today.
The mass killing of Jews during World War II did not happen only in gas chambers. Starvation and disease ravaged incarcerated Jews, who lacked adequate food and medical care. Perhaps the most well-known Holocaust victim, Anne Frank, died at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp — not in a gas chamber, but of typhus.