Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), spoke as a guest on The View a day after Whoopi Goldberg’s controversial comments to discuss why it was important to preserve the memory of what the Holocaust represented.
Appearing on the show on Tuesday, Greenblatt explained that it was critical to combat misinformation about the Holocaust to ensure that such a devastating event could never come to happen again.
“The Holocaust happened and we need to learn from this genocide if we want to prevent future tragedies from happening,” Jonathan Greenblatt said.
The controversy on Tuesday stemmed from a story about schools banning the graphic novel Maus, a celebrated work of historical fiction that depicted the tragedy of the Holocaust through the use of anthropomorphic mice.
Talking about the book’s ban on The View daytime talk show, actress Whoopi Goldberg said that the Holocaust was “not about race,” but “man’s inhumanity to other man.”
“This is white people doing it to white people, so y’all going to fight amongst yourselves,” she continued.
Apologizing later that night, and again on Tuesday’s episode, Whoopi was suspended from the show for two weeks to reflect, according to ABC News President Kim Godwin, as backlash for the star’s comments mounted.
“My words upset so many people, which was never my intention,” she said Tuesday morning. “I understand why now and for that I am deeply, deeply grateful because the information I got was really helpful and helped me understand some different things.”
To better help understand and educate The View panel, and their audience, the show did damage control by having ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt as a guest on Tuesday, to speak about the plight of the Jewish people during World War II.
He also suggested that the show should add a Jewish host to better articulate issues of antisemitism “every single day.”
Under the Nazi’s occupation of Europe during WWII, about a third of the world’s Jewish population – roughly 6 million Jews – were killed as part of the Holocaust’s genocidal mass extermination.
Many people around the world are unaware, however, that the Nazi’s also murdered roughly 100,000 gay men and close to 25,000 Afro-Germans living in the country as Hitler’s regime came to power.
The discussion opened a can of worms for The View host, whose own perplexing history with the Jewish community has also been scrutinized over the years.
Born Caryn Elaine Johnson, Whoopi Goldberg changed her name before becoming a star in Hollywood. She once stated that she identifies with the Jewish people, and that it was part of her family heritage. According to Henry Louis Gates Jr., host of the PBS series Finding Your Roots, Whoopi’s ancestry showed no signs of German or Jewish descent.
Speaking on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, she said that in the moment, as a Black person, she thought of racism as being based on skin color, but later realized that not everyone feels that way.
“It is indeed about race because Hitler and the Nazis considered Jews to be an inferior race,” Whoopi said in her apology on Tuesday. “Now, words matter, and mine are no exception. I regret my comments, as I said, and I stand corrected. I also stand with the Jewish people, as they know and y’all know because I’ve always done that.”
Although ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt stressed the importance of remembering and correcting misinformation about the Holocaust, there were still a myriad of issues laid bare in the wake of Whoopi’s suspension.
Aside from many American Jews, who are primarily Ashkenazi in origin, most people outside the Jewish community are unaware that racism and colorism are at play within global Judaism, as well. Sephardic Jews, or Hispanic Jews from Spain and Portugal, make up roughly 15 to 20 percent of the total Jewish population (some 3.5 million people). Mizrahi Jews, the descendants of Jews from Western Africa and East Asia, also total around 4.6 million people worldwide.
“If you are a race, an ethnicity, as Jews are, that have suffered persecution over many, many centuries, principally because that happens to be who you are, happens to be who your parents are, happens to be who your ancestors are, then that is racism,” author David Baddiel once stated. “There is no other word for it.”