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An N-Word: ‘Nazi’

A Uyghur demonstrator wears a mask at a protest in front of the Chinese consulate in Istanbul, October 1, 2019. (Huseyin Aldemir / Reuters)

The rule is, you’re never supposed to say “Nazi” — except when referring to the Third Reich — and you’re never supposed to compare anything to the Nazis. And, of course, Nazi references are all too promiscuous. But damn it, some things are like the Nazis, because is anything truly incomparable in this world, old as it is?

Earlier this month, Fred Hiatt had a piece in the Washington Post titled “In China, every day is Kristallnacht.” Oops, he broke the rule. In his piece, he said, “Workers in the world of human rights tend to be highly reticent when it comes to Nazi analogies. The Holocaust was a unique event.” And yet the Holocaust keeps coming up as “the only adequate point of comparison.”

It does.

Did you see this extraordinary report in the New York Times? The Times splashed it across its front page. A leaker gave the paper more than 400 pages of Chinese Communist Party documents — internal documents that relate to the Party’s oppression of the Uyghur people and other minorities in northwestern China.

No one can say, in the future, “We didn’t know.”

In early 2018, Jerome A. Cohen told me about what was happening to the Uyghurs. He is the dean of China scholars in the United States, born in 1930. He said that the situation reminded him of Germany and Austria, where his relatives were murdered.

That got my attention — because Jerry Cohen is a very, very careful man, who would not use the N-word — who would not raise the specter of the Nazis — lightly.

Fred Hiatt is the editorial-page editor of the Washington Post. He writes a great deal about the Chinese government and its abuses, and he writes a great deal about human rights in general. I have done a podcast — a Q&A — with him here. We talk about China and several other subjects. We talk about journalism, for example, and the Post in particular.

But really, everything seems pale compared with the emergency in northwestern China.

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