WASHINGTON (JTA) – A Louisiana congressman removed and apologized for a video he filmed at Auschwitz likening the threats posed to Jews during the Holocaust to those facing the United States today.
“I filmed the Auschwitz message with great humility,” Rep. Clay Higgins, a Republican, said Wednesday in a statement sent to JTA by his office. “My Auschwitz video has been removed, and my sincere apology for any unintended pain is extended.”
On Tuesday, three days after the lawmaker posted his five-minute video to YouTube, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum criticized Higgins for filming inside a former gas chamber.
“Everyone has the right to personal reflections,” the first tweet read. “However, inside a former gas chamber, there should be mournful silence. It’s not a stage.”
A subsequent tweet included a picture of a plaque that reads “You are in a building where the SS murdered thousands of people. Please maintain silence here: remember their suffering and show respect for their memory.”
In his statement to JTA, Higgins said “My intent was to offer a reverent homage to those who were murdered in Auschwitz and to remind the world that evil exists, that free nations must remember, and stand strong. However, my message has caused pain to some whom I love and respect. For that, my own heart feels sorrow. Out of respect to any who may feel that my video posting was wrong or caused pain, I have retracted my video.”
He also appeared to address criticism from some Jewish groups that his video failed to explicitly explain that Jews were the target of the Nazi genocide, but he did not retreat from his bid to liken the threat of genocide to unnamed threats he said the United States now faces.
“The atrocities that happened at Auschwitz were truly despicable, and we must never let history repeat itself in such a way,” he said. “I have always stood with Israel and all Jewish people, and I always will. We live in a dangerous world, and massive forces of evil do indeed yet exist. We must all stand united against those evils.”
Higgins, who was elected last year and is on the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, removed the video from his Facebook page, but it still appears on the Times-Picayune website.
“A great sense of dread comes over you in this place,” Higgins said in the video to a soundtrack of a mournful violin. “Man’s inhumanity to man can be quite shocking.”
He said it was important that the United States is “protected from the evils of the world” and added that he believes the country is more vulnerable to attack now than in the 1940s.
Higgins stirred controversy last month following terrorist attacks in London when he said in a Facebook post of Islamist terror suspects, “Kill them all.”