As President Trump visits Poland Wednesday, a U.S. congressman is stirring up controversy with a video recorded at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum.
In a macabre YouTube post, Louisiana Republican Clay Higgins, at times donning dark glasses, takes viewers on a tour of the former Nazi concentration camp where more than 1 million people were killed during World War II in German-occupied Poland. Higgins is a member of the House Homeland Security Committee and appears to be using the Auschwitz video to make the case for a stronger military and homeland resolve.
“A great sense of dread comes over you in this place,” he says in what appears to be a shaky selfie video from inside the gas chamber. Somber music — a violin dirge — is heard in the background as he narrates.
“It’s hard to walk away from gas chambers and ovens without a sober feeling of commitment — unwavering commitment — to make damn sure that the United States of America is protected from the evils of the world,” Higgins says.
The Auschwitz Memorial official twitter account responded by posting a photo of a plaque that asks people to maintain silence there in respect.
“Everyone has the right to personal reflections,” the post said. “However, inside a former gas chamber there should be mournful silence. It’s not a stage.”
Higgins’ office has not responded to NPR’s request for comment.
“The United States is more accessible to terror like this,” he says in the post. “This is why homeland security must be squared away, why our military must be invincible.”
The five-minute video was originally posted Saturday to the You Tube channel for Lee Johnson Media, described as a “conservative podcast looking at America of today.”
The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect called the video “disgusting beyond description.”
“[Higgins] must get sensitivity training or get a new job,” Executive Director Steve Goldstein said in a statement.
Higgins is a political newcomer who took office in January after a winning a runoff to represent Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes Lafayette and St. Charles.
He is a former law enforcement officer known as the “Cajun John Wayne” for making viral anti-crime videos that called out suspected gang members by name and said they were “thugs” and “animals” who would be hunted.