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Opinion | Whoopi Goldberg’s Comments About the Holocaust

To the Editor:

Re “ABC Suspends Goldberg for Comments About the Holocaust” (Business, Feb. 3):

I accept Whoopi Goldberg’s apology for her comments that the Holocaust was “not about race.” I forgive her. I do not believe she is an antisemite. But her failure to recognize the role of race and “racial purity” animating Nazi ideology reflects a woeful and increasing ignorance about the Holocaust among Americans.

According to a nationwide survey of millennials and Gen Z conducted in 2020 by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, more than 60 percent of respondents were unaware that six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust and nearly half could not name a single Nazi death camp. And more than 10 percent believed that Jews actually caused the Holocaust.

While we are rightly concerned about the impact of Holocaust denial, such ignorance may well lead us to the same frightening outcomes.

Remarks may not be antisemitic in intent, but they can still be antisemitic in effect. And at a frightening moment of rising antisemitism in America, manifest in recent days alone in hateful graffiti in Washington, synagogues vandalized in Chicago, and of course the attack on Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, we must call them out when we hear them.

Joshua M. Davidson
New York
The writer is the senior rabbi at Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York.

To the Editor:

ABC has suspended Whoopi Goldberg for two weeks for saying the Holocaust was “not about race.” Jews, of course, have long debated among themselves whether they should be classified as a race, a nationality or a religion, or some of each.

But it was Hitler and the Nazis who were adamant in insisting that Jews are a distinct race. They justified the mass killing of Jews as the act of their “master race” purging the world of an “inferior race.” We should not let their evil sociology infest our sense of history.

Max Frankel
New York
The writer was editorial page editor of The New York Times from 1977 to 1986, and executive editor from 1986 to 1994.

To the Editor:

Re “Engaging in a Risky War of Words” (news analysis, front page, Feb. 3):

There’s a fundamental flaw in President Biden’s strategy regarding President Vladimir Putin’s massing an estimated 100,000 Russian troops near the border with Ukraine.

Mr. Biden has had an offensive posture toward Moscow from the start. How did our president think Mr. Putin would respond to threats and near-automatic rejections of every proposal made by the Russian leader?

In a strange twist, the United States has emerged as the aggressor in this standoff, when a strategy of strong resistance mixed with a “Let’s Make a Deal” mind-set would have been a wiser and a more effective path to follow.

As history tells us, Russians fear the West based on many years of hostile relations with Western Europe, followed by more than 40 years of the Cold War with Western democracies, including our country. It is incumbent upon Mr. Biden to employ a strategy that is driven by diplomatic negotiations in an honest and all-out effort to avert war and arrive at a peaceful end to this scenario.

Alan Safron
Woodcliff Lake, N.J.

To the Editor:

Re “Despite a Shift Toward Diplomacy, a Chasm With Russia Remains” (news article, Feb. 3):

The question arises again about what President Vladimir Putin of Russia is seeking as he threatens Ukraine with an invasion. Reportedly Mr. Putin wants a guarantee that Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO, presumably because he does not want a Russian border with a NATO country.

But if he were to be successful in taking control of Ukraine, he would then have Russian-controlled territory bordering Poland and Romania, both NATO members — exactly what he is seeking to avoid. What happens then — he invades Poland and Romania?

Victoria Kelly
West Caldwell, N.J.

To the Editor:

Re “Quantifying the Pain of Slavery,” by Jamelle Bouie (column, Sunday Review, Jan. 30):

Mr. Bouie is right to remind us in his eloquent piece how quantification can dehumanize those whose experiences we hope to retrieve from the past, especially when the records are produced, as in the case of data on the slave trade, by those who have stolen millions of lives.

But we should not forget that records gathered by slave traders and enslavers may reveal truths they did not intend to record.

When James Henry Hammond, a South Carolina planter and politician, moved Sam Jones, an enslaved 8-year-old boy, from field to house labor in 1833, he changed the boy’s name to Wesley, with no last name noted. Nearly three decades later, the plantation census of births and deaths lists a son born to Wesley. The baby is named Sam Jones.

Between the lines of the ledger we can glimpse a person asserting a sustained identity and cherished family ties in an act of long memory and resistance. By that time, Hammond was nearing death, but Sam Jones lived on. Hammond’s records unwittingly show us a human being insistent on saying and preserving his name.

Drew Faust
Cambridge, Mass.
The writer is a former president of Harvard and the author of “James Henry Hammond and the Old South: A Design for Mastery.”

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