A recent statement by the SU Services Officer, Nat Thwaites McGowan, has caused outrage among Jewish students at the University. The statement, which implied that the people persecuted by the Nazi regime were “stupid,” has been described as “disgusting” by a representative for the University of York Jewish Society.
In response to a comment on the web facility “Ask YUSU” which likened him to a Nazi over his handling of the constitution, the Services Officer wrote: “You should be glad I’m not a Nazi, because I believe Nazis killed the stupid people.” This comment has since been removed from the web-page.
Speaking on Sunday, Rabbi Treblow of the University of York Jewish Society said: “I am offended on behalf of all humanity. I’m utterly shocked and disgusted. He’s really bitterly hurt a large segment of the student population.”
“One should really remember and keep in mind that what happened [in Nazi Germany] was a tragedy beyond all comprehension and a perversion of society and culture, not something to be used lightly as an insult. Whether he was referring to Jews or to the mentally ill, it’s violent language to use and tars all the victims of the holocaust.”
The Rabbi also expressed his disapproval at the comparison of Thwaites McGowan with a Nazi, saying: “That was offensive as well. I would be offended by anyone who called anyone else a Nazi, because it weakens the term. Nothing short of genocide deserves that title.”
Thwaites McGowan was keen to assure students that he meant no offence by the comment. In an interview on Friday, he said: “To anyone who was offended I will apologise, and I’ve removed the comment so that no-one else can be offended.”
“It wasn’t intended at all in that way – it was meant as a quick get-back at the person who asked the question, because obviously I was livid when I read it.”
He refused to comment on which group the term “stupid people” was meant to refer to, saying “I don’t want to get into who the Nazis did and didn’t kill. It’s not my business. I’ll say something that will offend more people, and I think we should just let things lie.”
The Services Officer added: “If we’re going to concentrate on anything, it should be the fact that the Students’ Union, as a result of making a decision about abstentions, was compared to the regimes of Hitler, Mugabe and Mussolini, which I think is absolutely and completely out of order, and really highlights the downside of student politics.”
Emails have been sent to all the SU Sabbatical Officers threatening to pass a vote of no confidence against the Services Officer following the comment.
Micky Armstrong, the SU President, expressed his support for Thwaites McGowan, despite acknowledging the offensive nature of the comment.
Grace Fletcher Hall, an SU Women’s Officer, said “It was an incredibly stupid thing to say. I wouldn’t defend it, and I doubt Nat would either.”
She added “I don’t think he was making a racist comment: he was just generally making a stupid comment.”