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Majority Leader's Astorino-Nazi Comparison Sparks Strong Reaction

Catherine Borgia
Catherine Borgia Photo Credit: File

This story has been updated.

The White Plains-based Holocaust and Human Rights Center was among organizations and officials to condemn an email by Westchester County Board of Legislators Majority Leader Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining) that it said trivializes the Holocaust.

Borgia sent an email last week where she compared County Executive Rob Astorino to Nazis following his veto of the Immigrant Protection Act, which Borgia supported. Astorino said the act would make Westchester a "sanctuary county," and it could lose federal funding.

"It's the classic 'Big Lie' technique," Borgia wrote. "All clever Nazis use it."

Borgia said she regretted the remark. 

Millie Jasper, executive director of the Holocaust and Human Rights Center, said they do not condone the use of the word Nazi with any subject other than talking about the Nazi Party and its ideology. 

"We are very careful when we use the word Nazi," Jasper said. "Six million Jews and an additional 5 million other men, women and children were murdered at the hands of the Nazis. To associate County Executive Rob Astorino with the word Nazi trivializes the horrors of the Holocaust." 

"The Big Lie" was a phrase coined by Adolf Hitler in "Mein Kampf.' In the book, he said the technique was used by Jews to blame Germany's loss in World War I on an anti-Semitic German general. 

"Let us unite in our goal to teach the lessons learned from the Holocaust and that includes using proper and respectful language when entering a debate," Jasper said.  "We must demand this of ourselves, and of our elected officials so that we can be proud of the footsteps we leave for our children to follow."

Board of Legislators Chairman Michael Kaplowitz said Borgia's use of the word "Nazi" was "wrong and inexcusable."

"She has appropriately apologized to the County Executive and to the people of Westchester," Kaplowitz said. "We as public officials need to hold ourselves to the highest moral standards. Although we may disagree on issues, we must do so in a respectful fashion."

Astorino attended a rally Wednesday outside the Westchester County Office Building protesting Borgia's remarks.

"I'm really disappointed in this kind of discourse in Westchester," Astorino said. 

State Sen. George Latimer, who is running for the Democratic nomination for county executive, said it was a "poor choice of words."

There are better ways to talk about how Rob Astorino's policies do not match up with the average resident of Westchester," Latimer said.

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