“All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwald, the Auschwitzes—all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers.”— Rod Serling, Deaths-Head Revisited
In the politically charged, polarizing tug-of-war that is the debate over COVID-19, we find ourselves buffeted by fear over a viral pandemic that continues to wreak havoc with lives and the economy, threats of vaccine mandates and financial penalties for noncompliance, and discord over how to legislate the public good without sacrificing individual liberty.
The discord is getting more discordant by the day.
Just recently, for instance, the Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board suggested that government officials should mandate mass vaccinations and deploy the National Guard “to ensure that people without proof of vaccination would not be allowed, well, anywhere.”
In other words, lock up the unvaccinated and use the military to determine who gets to be “free.”
These tactics have been used before.
This is why significant numbers of people are worried: because this is the slippery slope that starts with well-meaning intentions for the greater good and ends with tyrannical abuses no one should tolerate.
For a glimpse at what the future might look like if such a policy were to be enforced, look beyond America’s borders.
In Italy, the unvaccinated are banned from restaurants, bars and public transportation, and could face suspensions from work and monthly fines. Similarly, France will ban the unvaccinated from most public venues.
In Austria, anyone who has not complied with the vaccine mandate could face fines up to $4100. Police will be authorized to carry out routine checks and demand proof of vaccination, with penalties of as much as $685 for failure to do so.
In China, which has adopted a zero tolerance, “zero COVID” strategy, whole cities—some with populations in the tens of millions—are being forced into home lockdowns for weeks on end, resulting in mass shortages of food and household supplies. Reports have surfaced of residents “trading cigarettes for cabbage, dishwashing liquid for apples and sanitary pads for a small pile of vegetables. One resident traded a Nintendo Switch console for a packet of instant noodles and two steamed buns.”
For those unfortunate enough to contract COVID-19, China has constructed “quarantine camps” throughout the country: massive complexes boasting thousands of small, metal boxes containing little more than a bed and a toilet. Detainees—including children, pregnant women and the elderly— were reportedly ordered to leave their homes in the middle of the night, transported to the quarantine camps in buses and held in isolation.
If this last scenario sounds chillingly familiar, it should.
Eighty years ago, another authoritarian regime established more than 44,000 quarantine camps for those perceived as “enemies of the state”: racially inferior, politically unacceptable or simply noncompliant.
While the majority of those imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camps, forced labor camps, incarceration sites and ghettos were Jews, there were also Polish nationals, gypsies, Russians, political dissidents, resistance fighters, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals.
Culturally, we have become so fixated on the mass murders of Jewish prisoners by the Nazis that we overlook the fact that the purpose of these concentration camps were initially intended to “incarcerate and intimidate the leaders of political, social, and cultural movements that the Nazis perceived to be a threat to the survival of the regime.”
As the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum explains:
“Most prisoners in the early concentration camps were political prisoners—German Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats—as well as Roma (Gypsies), Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and persons accused of ‘asocial’ or socially deviant behavior. Many of these sites were called concentration camps. The term concentration camp refers to a camp in which people are detained or confined, usually under harsh conditions and without regard to legal norms of arrest and imprisonment that are acceptable in a constitutional democracy.”