Were Jews in Nazi death camps victims of critical race theory? No, that's not true: Critical race theory is an academic framework developed -- 30 years after the death camps closed -- to study how racism is embedded in institutions, including racism against Jews. It's a way to study racism in educational settings without focusing on just individuals.
It is not a philosophy of separating people or targeting hate toward a specific race nor is it a theory that all white people are racist and must be hated and therefore punished. It is an academic theory that is not a basis for inciting genocide, like the mass murder carried out by Nazi Germany from 1941-45.
The claim appeared as a Facebook post (archived here) on July 7, 2021. It opened:
THEY WERE VICTIMS OF CRITICAL RACE THEORY
This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Fri Jul 16 18:59:55 2021 UTC)
The meme is a black and white picture from 1945. The caption for the original photograph, available on the agency website Alamy, says:
AUSCHWITZ 1945 CHILDREN PRISONERS LIBERATION Child prisoners wearing striped uniforms stare out to their liberators from behind a barbed wire fence in notorious WW2 Nazi death-camp Auschwitz Southern Poland. World War II Second World War - Image ID: TWWDAJ.
A commenter on the Facebook post details how he understands the meme:
This is nothing more than simple racism towards white people. This was exactly how the hatred for the Jews was started in Germany. They said the Jews were no good. That the Jews were guilty of this and that and everything else. The next thing you know they were being banned from certain things and then more and more things. They weren't put in concentration camps overnight. It was a process. One that the antichrists on the left have already begun here against white Americans in an effort to get rid of us true American conservatives so they can usher in their radical Marxist ideology. This was exactly how things were started against the Jews in Germany. Try reading a book and learn something besides the lies from the left.
The Brookings Institute published an article explaining what critical race theory is in an article titled, "Why are states banning critical race theory?," published in July 2021:
Simply put, critical race theory states that U.S. social institutions (e.g., the criminal justice system, education system, labor market, housing market, and healthcare system) are laced with racism embedded in laws, regulations, rules, and procedures that lead to differential outcomes by race.
Jonathan Judaken, Spence L. Wilson Chair in the Humanities at Rhodes College, told Lead Stories via email on July 16, 2021, "The FB post is nonsensical and even offensive for its abuse of the Holocaust imagery to promote a political goal." He wrote the magazine article, "Why Jews Should Embrace Critical Race Theory," in July 2021.
The claim that critical race theory poses such a danger that it warrants sounding alarm bells for whites in general or Jews in particular that they may become victims of genocide or victimized like Jews were in Nazi Germany makes no sense unless you decode it. On its surface it is patently absurd. How can tools and resources developed to understand and combat racism be used to victimize an ostensible racial group (i.e. whites)? What would make sense is to apply the tools of critical race theory, like the concepts of systemic racism and the critique of white supremacy to Nazi Germany, which clearly systemically targeted Jews in the name of Aryan/white supremacy, akin to the racial state in Jim Crow America targeting blacks (at least in the phases of the Nazi regime before 1938). These links are developed in James Whitman's research, summarized here: 'Why the Nazis studied American race laws forinspiration.'
But the claim has to be decoded: it is a version of the replacement conspiracy theory, which argues that Jews are masterminding the replacement of whites in America with people of color. This is behind the chants at the Unite the Right rally that 'Jews will not replace us.' This is supposed to be at the root of claims about a white genocide. This is a classic case of projection found in many forms of racism. Those who racially victimize claim that they are victims and their aggression is only defensive; the claims for self-protection are really incitements to aggression. The threats of 'true conservatives' as the author of the post claims about them self has to be decoded in this way for it to make any sense whatsoever.
Judaken told Lead Stories why he believed Jews were not a victim of critical race theory.
Critical approaches to racism as they have developed in the academy (i.e. at colleges and university) are sophisticated analyses of racism. There are simplistic reductions of these approaches that can pigeonhole Jews as the embodiment of white privilege (as I discuss in the article). Those who make such claims distort history, engaging in what we might call 'the socialism of fools.' But this is based on misunderstanding the history of Jews and whiteness, which is complicated and filled with tensions. Ultimately, any approach to racism and any commitment to antiracism worthy of the name has to understand and account for the history of anti-Semitism, which has reared its head in America and globally resulting in terror attacks against Jews, assaults, burning of synagogues, and the desecration of Jewish institutions, not to mention rhetorical abuse. What critical race theory does is to provide conceptual tools for analyzing this kind of racist abuse. Jews are not its victims--instead they should embrace it (for the reasons I articulate in my article).