German propaganda: Whoever bears this sign is an enemy of our people. Photo credit: Holocaust Center Online
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German propaganda: Whoever bears this sign is an enemy of our people.
Photo credit: Holocaust Center Online

Reading Time 1 min 51 secs

Publisher’s note: Today is Holocaust Rememberence Day. We at the Black Wall St. Times affirm our support of Jewish people. We honor the memory of the 6 million Jews who were murdered during the genocide.

While some people grumble about masks causing foggy eyeglasses and ear-loops breaking, one citizen at the January Broken Arrow City Council meeting took her concerns to the extreme. Broken Arrow resident Lori Gracey compared mask mandates to Jewish citizens in Nazi Germany who were required by law to wear yellow stars on their clothing— or face death by shooting.
At the meeting, Ms. Gracey had a full presentation, including a PowerPoint, comparing a rarely-enforced public health precaution proven to reduce the spread of a virus that has killed over half a million Americans to the subjugation and oppression faced by Jews across Europe.

The presentation, which included pictures of Anne Frank and mass graves with closeups on dead bodies, was met with applause by some of the attendees. A Jewish role model known across the world for her strength and compassion amid the genocide, Anne Frank and her family hid in an attic for over two years to keep themselves safe during the Holocaust. Discovered in 1944, and Anne died at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945.

Anne Frank
Photo courtesy of The Anne Frank Museum

Comparing mask mandates with the subjugation of Jews during the Holocaust has become alarmingly common across the nation. Last July, the Wabash County Minnesota GOP Facebook page posted a picture of a man with a gold star on his chest, as an SS officer tells him to “just put on the star and quit complaining.” Underneath the picture reads, “just put on the mask and stop complaining.” At the time, Minnesota had a statewide mask mandate.

Screenshot captured by Jewish Community Action of Minnesota

Here in Oklahoma, Lori Gracey is not the first citizen to publicly link masking with racism and hate groups. In Norman, a Police Officer charged with enforcing mask mandates sent a mass-email that included a picture of KKK members wearing masks as they burned a cross.

The Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce denounced Lori Gracey’s presentation. President and CEO Jennifer Conway immediately provided a press release: “The Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors must state that it is abhorrent to compare the concerns of wearing a mask with the atrocities experienced by the Jewish people during the Holocaust.”

Broken Arrow resident Lori Gracey gives a presentation comparing a mask mandate to Jews being forced to wear yellow stars on their clothes.
Photo from Broken Arrow City Council meeting livestream on January 21, 2021.

The Broken Arrow City Council, on the other hand, has refused to condemn Lori Gracey’s presentation. “To deny someone their right to express an opinion or the information they chose to share on an important public matter would be inappropriate,” said Broken Arrow City Manager Michael Spurgeon after the meeting.

Johnnie Parks, the lone Broken Arrow City Councilor who has voted for a mask mandate, was also the only City Councilor to forcefully denounce Lori Gracey’s presentation. Reached by email, Ms. Parks wrote, “it was a tasteless, insensitive use of the Jewish victims of Nazism that reflected a total lack of empathy by using their plight to further a personal agenda.”

Photo of Adele Kuschinsky, the author’s great-great-grandmother, in Germany in 1903. Ms. Kuschinsky escaped Nazi Germany with several family members in 1939. Ten of her adult children and their families were killed.

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...

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