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‘Not people but animals’ quotes misused to compare Trump to Hitler

A meme shared on Facebook in South Africa shows two quotes, one attributed to Germany’s former Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler and the other to current US president Donald Trump, alongside a photo of each man.

“Jews are not people; they are animals,” reads the quote next to the photo of Hitler. “Undocumented immigrants are not people; they are animals,” reads the quote attributed to Trump.

Did each man say the things attributed to them here? 

Quote not from Hitler

The first quote is widely credited to Hitler, but was in fact said by another prominent Nazi official.  

After visiting imprisoned Jews in the Łódź ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1939, Nazi minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels apparently wrote this about Jews in his diary: “They are not humans; they are animals.”

This is according to an analysis of Nazi propaganda by Shay Hazkani, an assistant professor of Jewish studies at the University of Maryland.

Trump quote taken out of context

Donald Trump did say: “These aren't people. These are animals.” It was during a May 2018 meeting focusing on immigration policy in the US state of California. But after Trump’s words were widely reported, several sources were quick to point out that Trump did not call all undocumented immigrants “animals”. 

During the meeting, a Californian sheriff mentioned Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, gang members. The sheriff told Trump that California laws made it difficult to share information with federal authorities about dangerous criminals such as MS-13 gang members.

Trump replied: “We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in – and we're stopping a lot of them – but we're taking people out of the country. You wouldn't believe how bad these people are. These aren't people. These are animals. And we're taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that's never happened before.”

Even though Trump didn’t mention “MS-13 gang members” in his response, he later clarified that he was referring to them.

One miscredited and one out of context

While the quote, “Jews are not people, they are animals,” was not Hitler’s but Goebbels’s, it is a fair reflection of Hitler’s views and encapsulates the Nazi concept of the Untermenschen” or “sub-humans”.

Trump’s words were taken out of context. He did not say all undocumented immigrants were animals.

Fact-checkers at PolitiFact and the Washington Examiner have also debunked this meme.– Eileen Jahn


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