Holocaust Survivor: Trump Jr.'s Skittles Comment Brings Back Dark Images of Children Murdered in WWII

September 21, 2016


Manfred Lindenbaum

a Holocaust survivor and advocate for refugees.

Mohammed Badran

co-founder of Syrian Volunteers in the Netherlands, who spoke at the summit.

Raymond Offenheiser

president of the international humanitarian and development organization Oxfam America.

We get response from a Holocaust survivor to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr.'s comparison of Syrian refugees to poisoned Skittles. On Monday, he tweeted a graphic reading, "If I had a bowl of Skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That's our Syrian refugee problem." The parent company of Skittles responded, saying, "Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don’t feel it’s an appropriate analogy." "It brings back the dark images of children being murdered," says Manfred Lindenbaum, a Holocaust survivor and advocate for refugees. In 1939, he and his brother fled from Poland to England on the famous Kindertransport just days before the Nazis invaded. In 1946, the Jewish refugee organization HIAS reunited Manfred with an aunt and an uncle in New Jersey. He has been in the U.S. ever since.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I also want to bring in Manfred Lindenbaum. You bring, certainly, a long historical perspective to all of this. Can you explain how you, as a child, became a refugee?

MANFRED LINDENBAUM: Well, when I heard about this conference at the United Nations, my mind immediately went back to the Évian Conference in France in 1938, at which the countries got together, in effect, decided no matter what happens, we are not taking in any children refugees, we are taking in no refugees. Led by the United States, one country after another said that. And three weeks later, 17,000 of us Jews in Germany were actually rounded up and taken to the border and chased across the border, actually physically chased across the border, into Poland. And my fear was: Is this going to be one of these conferences where everybody says nice things and, in effect, says it’s going to continue as before? I didn’t feel quite that pessimistic. I think that it’s brought it back on the front page.

AMY GOODMAN: But explain what happened when you got to Poland. What was this Kindertransport?

MANFRED LINDENBAUM: Well, when I got to Poland, we actually—by the way, when we got to Poland, within 36 hours, there were two relief organizations which came. One was HIAS, and one was the Joint Distribution Committee. And they brought us things like—and I think refugees today can relate to that—they brought us things like bags to put straw in so we didn’t sleep on the ground. And—

AMY GOODMAN: How old were you?

MANFRED LINDENBAUM: I was six. Some of the people slept in the stables. We got in the fourth story of a burnt-out building with no facilities in it. We were there for 10 months.

AMY GOODMAN: And then, what was the Kindertransport?

MANFRED LINDENBAUM: The Kinderstransport was when the Germany army was on the border. The Kindertransport was over, because the United States at that point said that we’re not taking in any Jewish children. And they couldn’t get their bill out of committee. England had decided, under great pressure, to take in 10,000. They were already there. And at the last minute, as the German army was coming over, they got us—they got a few hundred of us onto a Polish warship. And that was—took me and my brother to England. And they wouldn’t let my sister on. She was 14. So she was murdered with the rest of my family.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Raymond Offenheiser, this issue of the children and the United States back then saying it would not take any more Jewish children, part of the problem in terms of coming together in agreement this year was that the United States was objecting to calls for no detention for children who were refugees, and concerned about its policies toward Central American refugees on its Southern border.

RAYMOND OFFENHEISER: Yes. The United States actually objected to the final draft of the declaration in the middle of the summer and held up the final conclusion and vote for two days over this particular issue. And what they wanted to do was put in language that would allow the possibility of detention for the—particularly in reference to the Central American border cases, where there is active detention going on. And this was a very specific move by the United States that really would require the entire process to stop and new language to be put in to allow for that.

AMY GOODMAN: And we’re going to talk about that in our next segment. But I wanted to ask—I wanted to ask our guest Manfred Lindenbaum about the comments of the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who compared Syrian refugees to poisoned Skittles. He tweeted a graphic that said, "If I had a bowl of Skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem." The company that makes Skittles then went on to tweet back, saying, "Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don’t feel it’s an appropriate analogy." Your response when you heard Donald Trump Jr.?

MANFRED LINDENBAUM: I think it’s absolutely horrible. It like brings back the dark images of children being murdered. I can only feel horrible for him that he has such a twisted mentality that he’s able to come out with that. He’s a very poor individual.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Mohammed Badran, he was talking about Syrian refugees. Your response?

MOHAMMED BADRAN: Well, you know, like, we—I mean, like, firstly, like when I talk, I talk not only about Syrian refugees. I talk about all refugees. And I talk about how we also are contributing to the society where we are living, and how we want to—like, eager to be part of the society. So, I think, like, this is like, you know, a good response for what he said.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Mohammed, I’d like to ask you about your experiences, because you’ve been co-founding the Syrian Volunteers in the Netherlands. How has the Netherlands responded, compared to other European countries, to the refugee crisis?

MOHAMMED BADRAN: Well, in the Netherlands, like, is quite—you feel welcome. So, there is, at the moment, actually, really great initiatives coming from the citizens, coming from the Dutch locals, to help refugees with integration. You know, but there’s still like, you know, sometimes challenges that you have to challenge in like a new community and a new society. So—but, like, we are working on this. So, like, you know—but I think the Netherlands, like I feel—I feel like really grateful to be in such a country.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you all for being with us. We’ve been speaking with Manfred Lindenbaum, who is a survivor of the Holocaust. He and his brother made it over on the Kindertransport from Poland to England. The U.S. would not take any more Jewish children. Raymond Offenheiser is the head of Oxfam America. And Mohammed Badran, speaking to us from Washington, a refugee from Damascus, Syria, organized Syrian Volunteers in the Netherlands. They’re all gathered here in New York for this refugee summit at the United Nations.

On the issue of the U.S. changing the language of children in detention, we’re going to talk about that next. Stay with us.

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