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Holocaust museum responds to white nationalist alt-right conference

Chairman of the National Policy Institute Richard Spencer navigates media requests at an alt-right conference in Washington, D.C. (Getty Images/Linda Davidson)

The U.S. Holocaust Museum said it is "alarmed" by the "hateful" discussions had at a white nationalist conference held near the museum over the weekend.

The National Policy Institute, an alt-right, white nationalist think tank, held its annual conference Saturday at the Ronald Reagan building just a few blocks from the museum. Richard Spencer, leader of the group, greeted the more than 200 attendees with a Nazi salute and chants of, "Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!"

Spencer reportedly contended that the salutes were "clearly done in a spirit of irony and exuberance."

"The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words," the Holocaust museum said in a statement issued Monday.

It said of the NPI meeting:

According to press reports, Richard Spencer, the leader of the National Policy Institute  a white nationalist think tank  that sponsored the conference, made several direct and indirect references to Jews and other minorities, often alluding to Nazism. He spoke in German to quote Nazi propaganda and refer to the mainstream media. He implied that the media was protecting Jewish interests and said, “One wonders if these people are people at all?” He said that America belongs to white people. His statement that white people face a choice of “conquer or die” closely echoes Adolf Hitler’s view of Jews and that history is a racial struggle for survival.

The targeting of Jews was central to Nazi racist ideology. The Germans attempted to kill every Jewish man, woman and child they could find.  Nazi racism extended to other groups. By the end of World War II, the Germans and their collaborators had murdered six million Jews and millions of other innocent civilians, many of whom were targeted for racial reasons.

"The Museum calls on all American citizens, our religious and civic leaders, and the leadership of all branches of the government to confront racist thinking and divisive hateful speech," the museum said.

A Washington, D.C., restaurant apologized this week after people affiliated with the white nationalist conference attended a dinner in its facility.

The dinner featured television personality Tila Tequila, who tweeted a photo of herself with two men making the Nazi salute with the caption "Seig Heil."

A screen grab of television personality Tila Tequila's tweet before her account was suspended.

"This expression of support of Hitler is extremely offensive to us, as our restaurant is home to Teammates and Guests of every race, religion and cultural background," Maggiano's, a small Italian chain, said in a statement. "We want to sincerely apologize to the community of Friendship Heights for inadvertently hosting this meeting, which resulted in hateful sentiment."

The restaurant promised to donate Friday night's proceeds to the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Anti-Defamation League.

Maggiano's full statement:

On Friday night, Maggiano’s in Friendship Heights was the inadvertent site of a protest that caused us to close our restaurant to protect the safety of our Teammates and Guests.

The protesters were upset because of a banquet we were hosting for a group called the National Policy Institute (NPI). This was a last minute booking made Friday afternoon, and the reservation was made under a different name, therefore we were not aware that NPI was dining with us or what the group represents. After the event, an attendee sent a tweet in which she made a “Sieg Heil salute” in support of Hitler and white supremacy. This expression of support of Hitler is extremely offensive to us, as our restaurant is home to Teammates and Guests of every race, religion and cultural background.

We want to sincerely apologize to the community of Friendship Heights for inadvertently hosting this meeting, which resulted in hateful sentiment. We want you to know that at the suggestion of one of our Guests, we are donating the profits from our restaurant sales on Friday, $10,000, to the DC office of the Anti-Defamation League, which for decades has been working to bring people together in peace and understanding.

One last thing…
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