Holding Antisemites Accountable.

Close this search box.

Wichita Lawmaker Invokes Holocaust During Hearing on COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements

A Kansas lawmaker twice compared COVID-19 masking and vaccine requirements to the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany during a Friday hearing devoted to challenging President Joe Biden’s federal vaccination effort. The comments drew swift condemnation. A rabbi who often lobbies legislators, and the American Jewish Committee of Kansas City called the remarks antisemitic.

The lawmaker, Rep. Brenda Landwehr of Wichita, said biases against non-vaccinated Kansans and insistence that those individuals wear masks amounted to “modern day racism.”

“This is racism against the modern day Jew,” Landwehr said, repeating a phrase used earlier in the hearing by a union president. “Which is anyone who disagrees.” Landwehr, a Republican, returned to the point minutes later, noting that the use of the phrase “go down a path” by a Democratic state senator evoked memories of a documentary about Nazi Germany she said she had watched. She didn’t identify the documentary.

“Do I believe that’s what we’re trying to do? I hope not,” Landwehr said. Her comments came midway through the first day of the Legislature’s Interim Committee on Government Overreach and COVID-19 Mandates. They were in response to testimony from Cornell Beard, president of the Wichita Machinist and Aerospace Workers union, who told committee members that forcing non-vaccinated people to wear masks would be tantamount to the yellow stars that marked Jews in Nazi Germany. During the six-and-a-half-hour hearing, none of the committee’s other 10 members, including Senate President Ty Masterson, condemned or disputed Landwehr or Beard’s statements. Speaking to reporters afterward, Masterson said the comments were simply indicative of how “extremely serious” the issue was to Landwehr and Beard. Gavi Gellar, executive director of the American Jewish Committee of Greater Kansas City, said the comments reflect a disturbing recent theme of “Holocaust distortion” triggered by COVID-19.