Her comments came during a segment of the ABC talk show on Monday that focused in part on a Tennessee school district’s decision to ban “Maus,” a graphic novel that depicts the horrors of the Holocaust. Earlier this month, McMinn County, Tennessee, Board of Education removed the book from its eighth-grade English language arts curriculum, citing “rough, objectionable language” and a drawing of a nude woman.
During the roundtable discussion, Goldberg said she was surprised that the nudity in “Maus” — and not the Holocaust itself — is what appeared to concern the school board, while co-host Joy Behar replied that the nudity concerns were likely “a canard to throw you off from the fact that they don’t like history that makes White people look bad.”
“Well, this is White people doing it to White people, so y’all gonna fight amongst yourselves,” Goldberg said, referring to the Holocaust.
While none of the co-hosts pushed back after that statement, the conversation then turned to how some are attempting to ban problematic parts of the nation’s history, particularly history dealing with race and racism, from being taught in schools.
Goldberg responded: “If you’re going to do this, then let’s be truthful about it because the Holocaust isn’t about race.” She added that the Holocaust, which saw an estimated 6 million Jews and 5 million others killed as a result of the Nazis’ racist ideology, was about “man’s inhumanity to man” and said it involved “two White groups of people.”
In a statement late Monday, Goldberg said she made an error with her comment.
“On today’s show, I said the Holocaust “is not about race but about man’s inhumanity to man.” I should have said it is about both,” she wrote on Twitter.
“As Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League shared, “The Holocaust was about the Nazi’s systematic annihilation of the Jewish people — who they deemed to be an inferior race.” I stand corrected.”
She added: “The Jewish people around the world have always had my support and that will never waiver. I’m sorry for the hurt I have caused.”
While many Jewish people today are seen as White because of their skin tone, whether they should be characterized this way remains a subject of debate given that Jews across the world continue to face blatant anti-Semitism. In Nazi Germany, Jewish people were considered a “race” — the Nazis attributed many negative stereotypes about Jews to “an unchanging biologically determined heritage,” according to the US Holocaust Museum.
During the show, when Goldberg again insisted that the Holocaust wasn’t about race, some of her co-hosts began challenging her statements.
Behar responded that the Nazis considered Jews to be a different race, while Ana Navarro noted that the Holocaust was “about White supremacy” with the Nazis killing both Jewish and Roma people. Sara Haines added that the Nazis did not view Jews as White.
Still, Goldberg continued to insist that the underlying issue was one of “how people treat each other” and the segment concluded shortly after.
The segment captured the attention of the internet, with many Jewish leaders and institutions refuting Goldberg’s statements.
“Racism was central to Nazi ideology,” the US Holocaust Museum
wrote in a tweet shortly after Goldberg’s comments began circulating. “Jews were not defined by religion, but by race. Nazi racist beliefs fueled genocide and mass murder.”
Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, also condemned
Goldberg’s remarks and she used part of his comment in her statement of apology.
“No @WhoopiGoldberg, the #Holocaust was about the Nazi’s systematic annihilation of the Jewish people — who they deemed to be an inferior race,” he said. “They dehumanized them and used this racist propaganda to justify slaughtering 6 million Jews. Holocaust distortion is dangerous.”