Right after U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) concluded a six-day trip in Poland sponsored by a Holocaust education organization, he traveled to Austria and gave an interview to an anti-Semitic publication in which he espoused classic anti-Semitic and white nationalist ideas.
According to a travel report filed with the House Clerk’s Office last month, the From the Depths Foundation paid for King and his wife, Marilyn, to travel to Warsaw to “learn more about the Holocaust and issues relating to the Holocaust” and to “further talk and debate on issues pertaining to the Holocaust.” Poland was home to some of the biggest Nazi concentration camps including Auschwitz-Birkenau, which King visited.
From the Depths paid a total of $8,310 for King and his wife for travel, lodging, meals and other expenses from Aug. 18 to Aug. 23. Then from the evening of Aug. 23 through Aug. 26 King reportedly paid his and his wife’s own travel expenses.
King’s trip included a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, one of the most brutal Nazi concentration camps. Auschwitz was a primary site for the Nazis’ “Final Solution” plan; they exterminated over one million Jews, many in gas chambers. King also attended events featuring Holocaust survivor Edward Mosberg, watched a film about the Holocaust, and attended an award ceremony for non-Jews who saved the lives of Jews during the Holocaust.
It was on Aug. 24, the day after the events in Poland concluded, that King visited Austria and gave a lengthy interview to Caroline Sommerfeld, editor of the far-right website unzensuriert, which Austrian intelligence services reportedly concluded “promoted anti-Semitism and extreme xenophobia.” The publication is tied to the Austrian far-right Freedom Party, which was founded by a former Nazi officer and is currently run by a man who was previously affiliated with neo-Nazis.
In the interview, King espoused white nationalist talking points—including fears that Western people are being replaced by “other people’s babies”—and accused Jewish billionaire and Holocaust survivor George Soros of funding women’s rights protests in the U.S. King asked, “how do we produce the antidote to what George Soros is doing?”
‘Longstanding Anti-Semitic Myths’
Soros is a billionaire who donates to liberal politics in the U.S. and to democracy programs around the world, and he’s become a bogeyman for the right. The idea that wealthy radical Jewish outsiders are bent on transforming a culture is a classic anti-Semitic strategy to turn the public against Jews. The Nazis used this discriminatory idea to “create an atmosphere tolerant of violence against Jews,” according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
In Nazi propagandists’ false portrayal, Jews were “an ‘alien race’ that fed off the host nation, poisoned its culture, seized its economy, and enslaved its workers and farmers,” according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. “The Nazis claimed that ‘race mixing’ through marriage weakened Germany.”
In a 1939 speech, Adolph Hitler claimed, “If international Jewish financiers inside and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the…victory of Jewry but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.
The Anti-Defamation League, a nonprofit with a mission “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment to all,” states that Soros conspiracy theories “employ longstanding anti-Semitic myths, particularly the notion that rich and powerful Jews work behind the scenes, plotting to control countries and manipulate global events.”
From the Depths is an international foundation run by millenials dealing with Holocaust education, memory and memorial. Its founder and executive director is Israeli Jonny Daniels, who told Sludge they work to educate people across the political spectrum.
“We as a foundation bring strong Republicans and strong Democrats alike to our events,” Daniels said. “The schedule and the work that we do is purely connected to Holocaust education, memory and memorial. It’s important for everyone, regardless of political affiliation to understand what racism and fascism can lead to…When a group of people is viewed as less than others, it does lead to Auschwitz, it leads to Birkenau, it leads to these places we visited.”
Daniels declined to comment on King’s beliefs or his trip to Austria, a nation King has visited several times in the past few years.
Following a HuffPost article about King’s interview in Austria, corporate political action committees were silent about their campaign donations to the Iowa congressman. Sludge reached out to 23 PACs, and only one responded directly to questions about King.
King has aligned himself with white nationalist ideas for years, but recent events have put his extremism in the spotlight. The representative went out of his way on Oct. 16 to endorse a white nationalist for mayor of Toronto, and he has retweeted neo-Nazi Twitter accounts in the past.
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt called King’s retweeting of white supremacists “shameful.”