Republican Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana posted a video (below) on July 1 of his trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland.
As he walked through the infamous Nazi concentration camp, Higgins recalled the atrocities committed. He stepped inside a gas chamber where he segued from history to present-day politics, notes Mediaite.com:
Cyanide pellets activated when they hit oxygen. After about 20 minutes, everyone was dead, and then slave labor would go into the room, and drag the bodies of those poor souls out, and bring them, and incinerate them in these ovens. There were three sets of ovens like that. This is why homeland security must be squared away, why our military must be invincible.
Later, in his selfie-like video, Higgins returned to present-day policy: "It’s hard to walk away from gas chambers and ovens without a very sober feeling of commitment, unwavering commitment, to make damn sure that the United States of America is protected from the evils of the world."
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The Auschwitz Memorial scolded Higgins in a tweet on July 4: "Everyone has the right to personal reflections. However, inside a former gas chamber, there should be mournful silence. It's not a stage."
Alana Abramson, a journalist for Time magazine and Fortune, tweeted on July 5: "Statement from Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt about Higgins' Auschwitz video - urges removal from circulation."
The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect described Higgins' video as being "disgusting beyond description," and the organization's executive director Steve Goldstein said, "[Higgins] must get sensitivity training or get a new job," notes NPR.
After leaving the video online for five days, Higgins announced in a statement on July 5 that he was taking it down, notes The Times-Picayune:
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I filmed the Auschwitz message with great humility. 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.
The atrocities that happened at Auschwitz were truly despicable, and we must never let history repeat itself in such a way. 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. My Auschwitz video has been removed, and my sincere apology for any unintended pain is extended.
After Higgins issued his apology, Goldstein said he would not accept it, reports NPR: "Though forgiveness is a cherished value in both public and everyday life, Congressman Clay Higgins created his own astounding circumstances that make it impossible to accept his apology for his Auschwitz video -- an apology that has come, by the way, only after a day of worldwide criticism."
Sources: Mediaite.com, Auschwitz Memorial/Twitter, Alana Abramson/Twitter, NPR, The Times-Picayune / Photo credit: Official House Photographer, Dana Barciniak via Wikimedia Commons, Reytan/Wikimedia Commons, Neil/Wikimedia Commons