Members of Massachusetts law enforcement at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Lappin Foundation trip to Holocaust Museum shows local law enforcement the dangers of antisemitism

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Lappin Foundation trip to Holocaust Museum shows local law enforcement the dangers of antisemitism

Members of Massachusetts law enforcement at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Seventeen Massachusetts law enforcement professionals and town leaders recently returned from a Lappin Foundation trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., where they spent a full day learning about history, antisemitism, and the relevant lessons they can apply to their jobs.

Participants were Templeton Chief of Police Michael Bennett; Gloucester Chief of Police Edward Conley; Winthrop Chief of Police Terence Delehanty; Senior Advisor for Law Enforcement at the Massachusetts Office of Public Safety and Security Jeff Farnsworth; Salisbury Chief of Police Thomas Fowler; Essex County Sheriff’s Department Special Sheriff, Chief Operating Officer William Gerke; Agawam Chief of Police Eric Gills; Natick Chief of Police James Hicks; Undersecretary of the Office of Public Safety and Security Gina Kwon; Winthrop Town Manager Anthony Marino; Fitchburg Chief of Police Ernest Martineau; Nantucket Sheriff James Perelman; Winthrop Deputy Chief of Police Ferruccio Romeo; Massachusetts chiefs of police lobbyist David Shapiro; the state’s Gov. Hate Crimes Awareness and Response Team Director Emily Todisco; Deputy Secretary of the Office of Public Safety and Security Susan Terrey; and Southbridge Chief of Police Shane Woodson.

The daylong trip on Dec. 11 was run by three members of the Lappin Foundation staff. The group toured the museum in the morning and attended two sessions in the afternoon, on the “Role of Law Enforcement During the Holocaust” and “Policing Today.”

“You could see how the role of policing changed, and it happened so slowly that the early police officers [in Germany] probably didn’t even realize it was happening,” said Conley, police chief in Gloucester. He noted that the normal activities of police were slowly and quietly shifting toward simply being “an armed enforcement agency” of the Nazi party.

The trip was funded by the Cliff and Susan Rucker Foundation in partnership with the Lappin Foundation, and was free to participants. It was the second part of a trip that Lappin ran back in April – as antisemitism was already on the rise well before Oct. 7.

“Especially for the Jewish community now, we rely on law enforcement,” said Deborah Coltin, president and executive director of the Lappin Foundation. “We want them to know us and we want to know them because of the heightened security and the alerts right now on the Jewish community. I think those connections and those relationships that we’re developing are very important.”

Prior to the trip, the group attended a session with Coltin about the state of antisemitism locally, statewide and around the country. They also watched a film produced by the Holocaust Museum called “The Path to Nazi Genocide.”

“It’s important because there’s so many lessons from the Holocaust, so many universal lessons that are not just particular to Jews,” said Coltin. “We can’t just assume everybody knows it, right? [We need to] help them identify antisemitism and what it looks like and what it sounds like today, how it’s morphed over the years.”

When asked if he is seeing any parallels of antisemitism between Nazi Germany and today, Conley thought about it for a moment.

“There seemed to be an effort, through German propaganda, to scapegoat Jewish people for a lot of different reasons, to blame them for all the ills that the German people felt,” he said. “There seems to be some similarity to what’s happening today. You certainly can be against policies of a particular government, but blaming the actual people based on their ethnicity or their religious beliefs is scapegoating. I think there’s an analogy there.”

For Conley, the biggest takeaway of the program was a recognition of his own responsibility, as an officer of the law, to be aware of his own humanity. “They were human,” he said, referring to German officers at the time. “If that could happen to them, if they could fall under this spell, then any of us could. We have to be on guard for that.”

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