Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., wanted to make a point for why the U.S. needs a strong military. But officials at the Auschwitz Memorial are upset with the way he used a concentration camp to do it.
A video taken by and featuring Higgins walking around the Auschwitz Memorial was posted on Saturday by a conservative podcast. In it, Higgins walks around the former concentration camp, including the gas chambers, talking about how the people there were inhumanely murdered by the Nazis and saying, “this is why homeland security must be squared away, why our military must be invincible.” The video is about five minutes long.
“A great sense of dread comes over you in this place,” Higgins said in a low voice, with a violin solo playing in the background. “Man’s inhumanity to man can be quite shocking.”
Higgins is a former law enforcement officer and now serves on the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
“It’s hard to walk away from the gas chambers and ovens without a very 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 said at the end of the video.
The Auschwitz Memorial took to Twitter to criticize the video on Tuesday, not over its message, but at Higgins’ choice of backdrop.
The Twitter account also posted a picture of a sign that everyone sees before they go into the gas chambers where Higgins was filming. It reads, “You are in a building where the SS murdered thousands of people. Please maintain silence here: remember their suffering and show respect for their memory.”
The Memorial website estimates that the facility had around 1.3 million victims between 1940 and 1945, of whom about 1.1 million were killed.
After initially not addressing the controversy, Higgins apologized in a statement Wednesday evening.
“I filmed the Auschwitz message with great humility. My intent was to offer a reverent homage to those who were murdered in Auschwitz and to remind the world that evil exists, that free nations must remember, and stand strong,” Higgins said in a statement, according to NBC News.
“My message has caused pain to some whom I love and respect. For that, my own heart feels sorrow. Out of respect to any who may feel that my video posting was wrong or caused pain, I have retracted my video ... and my sincere apology for any unintended pain is extended.”
Many posts by U.S. citizens and residents of Louisiana on social media expressed embarrassment for the congressman’s actions.
Higgins made news last month after a terror attack in London when he posted on Facebook that all “suspected” radicalized Muslims should be hunted down and killed, with no mention of a trial.
“Hunt them, identify them, and kill them. Kill them all,” Higgins wrote. “For the sake of all that is good and righteous. Kill them all.”
Higgins was unapologetic about the post to the Times-Picayune.