St. Croix County School Board member compares masks, vaccinations to the Holocaust

    Cherie Link vaccines
    Cherie Link, second from left, compared vaccine and mask requirements to the Holocaust at the May 24 meeting of the Somerset School Board. (Screenshot)

    A member of the Somerset School Board in St. Croix County compared wearing masks and requiring vaccinations to the Holocaust at a meeting Monday evening. 

    Cherie Link, who serves as the board’s treasurer, made the comparison as the board was debating its mask and vaccination policies for summer school and the fall as more teachers get immunized and vaccines become available to younger groups of children. 

    “If they have confirmed vaccination records, once they’ve proven to the building that they’ve been vaccinated,” Link said. “This sounds like Nazi Germany to me, ‘show me your papers.’”

    Last year, Link ran for the Wisconsin State Senate, losing the Republican primary to Rob Stafsholt in the 10th District. She’s also made a number of donations to local chapters of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, campaign finance records show.

    In the meeting, Link also questioned the motives of the CDC in providing public health guidance and claimed, falsely, that masks are ineffective at preventing the spread of COVID-19. 

    “I’m hearing all this about the CDC and wondering what is their agenda, who are they representing, and why?” Link said. “If the masks are so effective in stopping the spread, why are the numbers virtually the same in North Dakota and South Dakota?”

    Public health officials overwhelmingly agree that masks are an effective tool for stopping the spread of the virus. State-by-state comparisons like the one Link made do not account for all the other variables involved in the prevalence of the virus in a given state. 

    Of the seven-member board, only one pushed back on Link’s comparison to the Holocaust — Patricia Jo Forsberg. 

    “I’m sorry but you cannot compare the Holocaust, where they killed 6 million people, with putting on a mask,” Forsberg said. “But you’re comparing the genocide, you’re comparing a genocide, human genocide, to wearing masks.” 

    Forsberg noted that the district already requires vaccinations for all students. Under state law, students are required to be vaccinated against a number of diseases, including Mumps, Hepatitis B and Polio. Wisconsin state law does allow parents to receive exemptions for their children on medical, religious or personal grounds. 

    But Link continued to push back, saying the COVID-19 vaccines aren’t yet fully authorized by the FDA and refused to let go of her comparison to the Holocaust. 

    “‘Show me your papers,’ was how it started, right?” Link said. 

    On Tuesday, Forsberg again condemned Link’s comments and said that the district has always required vaccinations. She also said that her education in Somerset and the education of current students includes accurate Holocaust history.

    “I was appalled by this comparison,” Forsberg says. “According to Ms. Link’s logic, and the public school system as a whole, our district has been operating as Nazi’s for years since we’ve essentially always asked for ‘papers.'”

    “The statement was ignorant at best,” she continues. “I was educated in the Somerset School District and learned proper Holocaust history. I fully understand there is absolutely no comparison to the Kennkarte required during the Third Reich and public school policy requiring immunization records. I think the majority of students will also feel it is a ridiculous statement, as Somerset School District teaches the correct history of World War II and the genocide that occurred.”

    Comparison between measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 have been common throughout the pandemic, recently gaining national attention when Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said rules requiring unvaccinated members of the U.S. House of Representatives continue to wear masks on the floor were similar to discrimination against Jews in Nazi Germany. 

    Greene has since been condemned by other Republican members of Congress

    Eventually, the discussion of the Somerset School Board moved to other topics, but Link wouldn’t budge, saying Forsberg wasn’t understanding her argument. 

    “You’re missing the point but we’ll just move on,” Link said. 

    Link did not respond to a request for comment.

    Henry Redman
    Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.