For Holocaust Remembrance Day, I Watched a Friend Fall for QAnon and into Anti-Semitism

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the anniversary of when Auschwitz was liberated and the horror of the Holocaust began to truly reveal itself to the world.

Instead of sharing the usual photos of emaciated bodies behind barbed wire and spouting #NeverForget hashtags, I want to offer a personal story—one that’s much more recent and might hit some nerves. However, I think this is a better way to truly honor the meaning of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The story is about a conspiracy theory that became an international superstar in 2020: QAnon. What does QAnon have to do with Holocaust Remembrance, you might wonder? I’ll tell you: I’m Jewish, and I watched an old high school friend get sucked into the spiral of QAnon until she began spouting anti-Semitic propaganda on Facebook, all in the name of Q.

QAnon and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion

Have you ever heard of Genocide Watch? It’s an international non-profit that seeks “to predict, prevent, stop, and punish genocide and other forms of mass murder.” Genocide Watch was founded in 1999 by Dr. Gregory H. Stanton, former research professor in genocide studies and prevention at George Mason University. He also served in the U.S. State Department and drafted the United Nations Security Council resolutions to prosecute genocide in Rwanda.

Dr. Stanton wrote an article on Genocide Watch called, “QAnon is a Nazi cult, rebranded.” In the article, he compares the conspiracy theories of QAnon—a secret, Satanic cabal is taking over the world that kidnaps and smuggles children, controls the media, and has infiltrated high governmental positions of power—to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The similarities are strikingly and eerily similar.

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is the most notorious and widely distributed antisemitic publication of modern times. Its lies about Jews, which have been repeatedly discredited, continue to circulate today, especially on the internet.”

Essentially, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion postures (falsely, of course) that Jews “made plans to disrupt Christian civilization and erect a world state under their joint rule,” according to Encyclopedia Britannica. “Liberalism and socialism were to be the means of subverting Christendom; if subversion failed, all the capitals of Europe were to be sabotaged.”

The Protocols go on to explain, in detail, how Jews kidnap Christian children and use their blood to make Matzo that they eat during Passover. They claim that Jews forged a deep-state-like cabal to take over and control the world.

The Nazi regime revived and used many of the conspiracy theories purported by the Protocols to spread anti-Semitic propaganda throughout Germany, leading many Germans to believe they needed to rid their country of Jews to protect themselves and their way of life.

My Old High School Friend and QAnon

I first learned about QAnon by accident, around the time of the 2020 Superbowl. Do you remember that awesome halftime show performance by Jennifer Lopez and Shakira? I was dancing all over my living room watching them.

But soon after, I started seeing odd comments pop up on news threads about how disgusting their performance was, and how their dancing was Satanic. I even saw people calling them pedophiles.

Then, my former friend—let’s call her Jane (this is not her real name)—shared a similar sentiment on her Facebook page, followed by a cryptic acronym, “WWG1WWA.” Curious, I Googled this acronym and the QAnon conspiracy popped up, with the saying, “Where We Go One, We Go All.”

I later learned this was the saying of Q followers, and I began researching more about these weird conspiracy theories. I found them fantastical and wrote them off as fringe. “If someone wants to believe that, let them believe it,” I thought to myself.

Jane and I used to hang out with some of the same people in high school. She dated a close male friend of mine. When I was going to college in Flagstaff, my male friend and Jane would drive up to visit me, especially while I was going through a breakup.

I knew Jane had a rough childhood and struggled with some mental health issues, and so as I watched her begin posting more and more memes from QAnon, I passed them over without a thought. The Q-labeled memes talked about how Bill Gates was trying to control the world through vaccines, or how “sources” confirmed Tom Hanks and Oprah Winfrey were pedophiles trafficking children in secret, underground rings. Sometimes, she would post angry memes against the mainstream media, which bothered me because I used to be a journalist.

However, as the COVID pandemic spread and lockdowns became rampant, I watched her escalate. She began sharing QAnon memes about how COVID was a hoax, how it was an excuse for the socialist deep-state to seize control of its people, or how it was a cover led by then-President Donald Trump to rescue trafficked children from the Satan-worshipping cabal of Democrats and Hollywood elites.

And then one day, she shared a QAnon-labeled post from Instagram claiming that McDonalds collaborated with Jews who kidnap Christian children to drain their blood and use it in the Matzo of their Passover bread. She wrote how she was glad she no longer ate at the evil McDonalds.

My heart dropped, and then, the rage followed. Jane had known me since high school. I had offered to help her through some difficult times in life, and all the while, she’d always known I was Jewish. I immediately commented on her post and called out the anti-Semitism. I told her if she didn’t correct that action, we could no longer be friends.

I gave her a week, but Jane never responded to me. No comments. No apologies. No outreach. And the post remained up. I unfriended her and we have not spoken since.

The Fear of Losing Others to QAnon

A friend of mine is Muslim and a survivor of the Bosnian War. She told me that when the genocide happened, it was her childhood friends and their families who turned the guns on her.

For the first time in my life, I can understand the psychology of how hatred against Jews spread in Nazi Germany. People didn’t hate Jews from one day to the next. They slowly turned against them after years and years of hateful conspiracy theories that convinced the German people how Jews, communists, and other “enemies of the state” were plotting against them and their way of life. I now see how even old friends can be convinced to turn against me, by no fault of my own.

Replace “Jews” with any other scapegoated group: undocumented immigrants, asylum seekers, Native Americans, black people, Muslims, the mainstream media—and you can see how the QAnon conspiracies stoke fear in any minority group.

I don’t want to see other friends or connections fall prey to this ideology. It leads to radicalization, as we can see from the insurrection at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

For International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I want to call out modern-day hatred when I see it. I want to label it plainly and directly, leaving no excuse to enable it. Yes, from my research, I do agree with Dr. Stanton and Genocide Watch that QAnon is Nazi ideology, revived and re-branded. I sternly denounce it. Will you join me?

On a final note, did you know that Genocide Watch listed the United States on its watch page for North America? Mexico is also listed, but not Canada. Yet the United States of America made it to Genocide Watch’s list.

Think about that.