Kris Kittell, who is running to unseat an incumbent in a Mequon-Thiensville School Board recall election, says the Holocaust references he posted to social media were not intended maliciously.
“I don’t have an antisemitic bone in my body,” he said.
Scarlett Johnson, Charlie Lorenz, Cheryle Rebholz and Kittell are all running to recall current school board members to “restore educational excellence back to the district,” according to promotional materials. Kittell is running against incumbent Akram Khan. The vote is set for Nov. 2.
Kittell recently reshared a social media post that said, in all caps, “It didn’t start with the gas chambers …. It started when good people turned a blind eye and let it happen.”
Another post from Kittell urges “all my lovely mask nazis” to realize that they are “following a religion not science.” (Facemasks help slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, according to the Mayo Clinic and the Centers for Disease Control.)
Another shared post features a picture of a man in a mask and a reference to Nazi Germany, with the question, “How could people let it get to that point?”
Milwaukee Jewish Federation has repeatedly expressed strong opposition to comparisons in political discourse that invoke the Holocaust.
For example, in July 2020, when a Milwaukee pastor indicated mask wearing was an incremental step toward Nazism, the Federation issued a statement: “Blurring the lines between a mandate to wear masks and stripping people of their rights and identity is profoundly dangerous. Unlike infringements that lead to genocide, wearing a mask supports the health and safety of every member of society.”
“Furthermore, invoking the Holocaust in this manner trivializes the systematic murder of Jews and millions of others who were targeted for extinction because they were different.”
Kittell, however, does not see it that way.
“I stand behind the fact that we can’t forget the past,” he said, noting that identification cards were used for evil in Nazi Germany. “It was part of the persecution of the Jews.”
The Holocaust didn’t just start with the camps, he said. Kittell indicated that he believes that small steps can lead to tyranny.
One of his several social media posts obtained by the Chronicle includes the letters, “WWG1WGA,” which is sometimes shared by QAnon followers and is typically read to mean, “Where we go one, we go all.”
But Kittell said he has nothing to do with QAnon and was just resharing someone else’s post about not turning a blind eye.
He also said he has support from within the Jewish community.
“We’re not a group of radicals,” said Kittell, a home remodeler. “It’s anti-government control.”
“If some of those pictures had something that offended somebody, I didn’t make these memes up. I don’t even know how to do that. It was probably just something that came across my Facebook and I shared it back to my friends … in an argument about masks.”
Kittell said his top issue is that he wants to see math education improved in schools. His opponent, Khan, is director of instruction for Kumon Math & Reading Center of Mequon.