Among the many different factions of white supremacist groups — from the Proud Boys to to Confederate flag-wavers to QAnon — who stormed the Capitol this week, there were also Nazis. Carrying swastika flags and wearing shirts that said things like “Camp Auschwitz STAFF, work brings freedom” and “6MWE” (which stands for “six million weren’t enough,” a reference to the number of Jewish people killed in the Holocaust), the Nazis made themselves right at home in the Capitol, sporting paraphernalia meant to stoke fear and send a clear message about what they represent: hate and violence.
Much of the media has failed to correctly report on what hate groups were present at the insurrection — mistakenly calling them anarchists, for example, a direct implication those present at the Capitol were connected with the anarchists present at Black Lives Matter protests over the summer. But being explicit is essential in a situation like this, and incorrectly naming or failing to name them as Nazis and fascists in the first place is dangerous, because it allows the real threat to stay hidden.
Trump supporters' sense of entitlement is rooted in hundreds of years of white supremacy and white power — stemming from the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), Nazi Germany, and other fascist movements that have sought to eradicate marginalized people, including Black, Jewish, disabled, and queer people. And, this isn't their first time assembling in a way that ended in violence and death.
The siege on the Capitol has been compared to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA in 2017, which ended in the murder of anti-fascist activist Heather Heyer. This rally was one of the first times that Nazis and fascists were galvanized by Trump, who called the Nazis and fascists in Charlottesville “very fine people,” but it wasn't the last: During the presidential debates in 2020, Trump called for the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” Subsequently, Nazis attended the Million MAGA March in November, which "was a preview of the collaboration between GOP politicians, conservative groups, and neo-Nazis" that we saw again this week, explained Sophie Ellman-Golan, progressive Jewish strategist and researcher for How to Fight Antisemitism, a project of Bend the Arc.
"To me, the thing that is noteworthy is not only that these are Nazis but that there are ties between the elected officials and members of the Republican party and these Nazis," Ellman-Golan tells Refinery29. "And so I think it’s understandable that a lot of people don’t want to call them Nazis because they don’t want to acknowledge that there are members of Congress openly colluding with Nazis, and we have to state that."
The raiding of the Capitol also coincided with Congresswoman Mary Miller quoting Hitler in a speech this week — and praising how the Nazi leader built his political movement by indoctrinating youth. Journalist Mark Maxwell posted a video of it on Twitter and noted that Miller didn't slip up or improvise her praise of Hitler, but instead read from prepared remarks. That's a tell that this was no accident, and in fact, she wholeheartedly stands by that statement.
“It’s just interesting to see the journey of shielding Nazis during this era of fascism," Jason Rosenberg, a Jewish organizer, tells Refinery29. "We’ve seen the ‘both sides’ statement not only from Trump but a lot of his colleagues from the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting to Charlottesville to even now, when a Jew, Ivanka Trump, has a deleted tweet that calls them ‘great Patriots.’ I think even from the progressive end, which also means the Democratic party, it’s vital and imperative that we all say exactly what they are — which is Nazis.”
Rosenberg points out that the current intracommunity dialogue in the Jewish community about the presence of Nazis at the riot is some of the only conversation explicitly calling them Nazis. Some of this, he says, is fueled by Jewish institutions and Jewish institutional leaders from AJC and ADL who have been shielding the Trump administration for years. “We haven’t had our Democratic party even call them Nazis explicitly because they’re afraid to have Holocaust comparisons, because our Jewish institutions haven’t even done it. And that’s the trouble we’re facing. But leaders need to speak out. We’re seeing exactly how dangerous not doing so is right now. We don’t need this both-sidesism saying that there are Nazis on the left, too. We need someone to say explicitly that it is Nazis who stormed the Capitol,” says Rosenberg.
“The faster establishment Dems realize that no one is being hyperbolic about the Republican Party breakdown being driven by literal nazis the better. Y’all want civil discussion and they want a white ethnostate. You are absolutely not playing the same game,” tweeted Marc Dones, executive director of the National Innovation Service.
As Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize-winning author of Night said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”