Louisiana Rep. Clay Higgins is facing sharp criticism for appearing to use a visit to the Auschwitz Holocaust memorial for political gain, The Times-Picayune reported.
Higgins recorded himself, adding commentary, while visiting the memorial and the railroads by which prisoners were transported to Nazi concentration camps during World War II.
At one point in the video, while he was inside a former gas chamber at Auschwitz, Higgins described how prisoners were ushered into the facility and murdered in large groups. After he showed viewers the ovens in which bodies were incinerated after prisoners had been killed, Higgins said, “This is why homeland security must be squared away, why our military must be invincible.”
Later, Higgins described “the suffocation cell” in concentration camps where Nazis “would squeeze as many as 40 at a time men in here. … Then they’d close the door … until they ran out of air and died, suffocated in that manner.”
“Man’s inhumanity to maim can be quite shocking,” Higgins said. Right after, the clip cut to Higgins standing outside the gas chamber, where he began talking about terrorism in the US.
“The world is a smaller place now than it was in World War II,” Higgins said. “The United States is more accessible to terror like this, horror like this. It’s hard to walk away from gas chambers and ovens without a very sober feeling of commitment, unwavering commitment, to make damn sure that the United States of America is protected from the evils of the world.”
Higgins’ video drew criticism from the Auschwitz memorial.
“Everyone has the right to personal reflections,” the memorial said on Twitter. “However, inside a former gas chamber, there should be mournful silence. It’s not a stage.”
The memorial’s Twitter account followed up to the initial tweet with a photo describing what visitors see when they enter the museum.
Higgins’ video also prompted an outcry from Twitter users, some of whom were from the congressman’s home state.
“This is humiliating to my state,” tweeted one user. “He’s not my representative, but I stand ashamed of what we have wrought.”
“I apologise for this American,” tweeted another. “He’s an embarrassment to us. Most of us know better than to behave like this on sacred ground.”
The Times-Picayune said Higgins’ spokesperson had not returned a request for comment.
This is what all visitors see at the entrance to the building where first homicidal gas chambers of Auschwitz was created by the SS. pic.twitter.com/6Mm5gTkfSl
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) July 4, 2017