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U.S. Labor Board's Holocaust Commemoration Goes AwryBy
NLRB tells staff that it was ‘mistake’ to mention NY group
Center has harshly criticized Trump for alleged bigotry
To acknowledge Holocaust Days of Remembrance this week, the National Labor Relations Board sent a mass email to its employees noting the date "to honor and remember" the victims.
It also highlighted the work of several related nonprofits, including Washington’s Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, and the Anne Frank Center in New York.
Two days later, the agency backtracked, saying the inclusion of the New York center had been a “mistake.”
Turns out the center, a small non-profit organization that’s independent of the Amsterdam museum and the Swiss group that has rights to the teenage Holocaust victim’s letters, photographs and famous diary, has drawn national attention for its criticism of President Donald Trump.
In 2017, Steven Goldstein, at the time the center’s executive director, said the Trump administration was “infected” with “the cancer of anti-Semitism,” and accused then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer of denying that Hitler had gassed Jews. (Spicer later apologized.)
On social media this year, the center has broadened its criticisms of the president. It called the Trump administration’s decision to end Temporary Protected Status for Salvadorans “abhorrent”; termed Trump’s alleged comments about “shithole” nations “bigotry”; and shared a Salon.com article about “Trump’s anti-Muslim agenda.”
Reference a ‘Mistake’
The April 10 memo to agency employees that referenced the Anne Frank Center was signed by NLRB Chairman Marvin Kaplan and General Counsel Peter Robb. “It is important not only to honor and remember the lives of the 6 million victims who perished, but also to exemplify how acts of discrimination can evolve into death and destruction,” they wrote.
In an internal email dated April 12, Brenda Harris, the NLRB’s equal employment opportunity office director, informed employees that the reference to the Anne Frank Center had been “a mistake,” and shouldn’t be “regarded as an endorsement by the National Labor Relations Board, Chairman Kaplan, or General Counsel Robb of partisan views expressed by that group.”
The NLRB didn’t comment in response to an inquiry for this article.
Some people previously involved in the center have disputed the extent of the Frank family’s historical involvement in the group, the Atlantic reported in 2017. The organization has been denounced by Trump defenders like Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and Breitbart News, which in a headline last year called it a “fraudulent Holocaust organization.”
A spokeswoman for the Anne Frank Center declined to comment on the NLRB emails, saying it seemed to be an internal matter. She said that the center has “long-established roots and a universal message,” that Anne Frank’s father, Otto Frank, who died in 1980, was the first president of its predecessor organization, and that the center has partnered for decades with the Anne Frank House and the group that has the rights to the diary, "with joint projects and shared resources such as traveling exhibits."
The email distancing itself from the Anne Frank Center “would have been considered highly unusual during my tenure at the NLRB,” said University of Wyoming law professor Michael Duff, an attorney at the agency under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
Messages like the NLRB’s initial one from April 10 are generally vetted before being sent, to ensure their propriety, Duff said. “The million-dollar question,” Duff said in an email, “is whether the countermanding came from inside or outside the agency.”