An open letter to Harry Hamlin and anyone else who thought portraying a Nazi, or a victim of the Holocaust, or wearing a swastika for Halloween was a good idea.
It isn’t. It never has been and it never will be. Understand that. You can apologize until the cows come home but what you are really wearing for all the world to see is not a Halloween costume, it’s your ignorance. Just ask that other Harry, the one in the UK they call “Prince.” Didn’t he demonstrate that lesson a decade ago? No matter who you happen to be, how high on the food chain you think you are, or how many years have passed since Hitler concocted his Final Solution, it’s still not okay.
It’s possible, dear Harry, that at the ripe old age of 64 (Happy Birthday, btw) you may not have known what you were doing when you chose to wear a red T-shirt with a black swastika on it. So, let me school you.
The swastika is not just a symbol of hatred and intolerance, it’s a symbol of systematic mass murder on the grandest of scale. It incarnates pure evil. Eleven million people died because of the ideology behind that symbol. The world went to war because of the fascism it represents. Entire families were either ripped apart or incinerated under flags bearing it. My grandfather was one of six million Jews who perished at the hands of monsters who wore it. Millions more, including my mother, my grandmother and great aunt, Anne Frank, and Father Maximilian Kolbe were imprisoned, starved, and tortured for the sake of it.
It’s not funny, or cute, or “authentic.” It’s morally repugnant.
It’s also hurtful, insensitive, and inciting. You shouldn’t just be “sorry” you bore that repulsive thing on your chest; you should be embarrassed, you should feel ashamed. You should put in some volunteer hours at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. You should visit Yad Vashem or the USHMM. You should learn your history. Not a Jew? Still YOUR history. READ all about WWII and LEARN how many Allied casualties we suffered because of that symbol.
Your behavior further illustrates the desperate need for mandatory Holocaust and Genocide education. A need which grows more urgent with each passing day as the last generation of survivors, liberators and eye-witnesses tells its stories for the very last time. It’s why my 94 Maidens team worked so hard last year to make Pennsylvania the 6th state in the country to enact laws requiring Holocaust and Genocide education and why we are now working with several other states do the same and why a couple of US Congressmen intend to give us a national push. Read my book. Watch my video. Have a tissue handy.
We’ll get there. One stupid Halloween costume at a time.
So, Harry, how about next year being a little more thoughtful with your getup? You’re an actor. “Act” responsibly. Take time to make sure it doesn’t offend, harm, or insult anyone. A little knowledge, planning, and creativity goes a long way. Especially when you’re old enough to know better and the world is your stage. A Hollywood-type ought to know that. And Lisa Rinna, you get no pass. I mean seriously, what self-respecting woman lets her husband leave the house looking like that?
The best advice I have is to educate yourself, teach others. I hope the world is a better, smarter, more sensitive place when I’m 64.
Rhonda Fink-Whitman is the author of “94 Maidens,” director, producer and host of “The Mandate Video” on YouTube, and an educator who worked directly with state legislators to enact Pennsylvania’s new Holocaust and Genocide education law, Act 70.