“I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed,” Dr. Ben Carson said in an interview last week.
The Republican candidate has been adamant on his stance regarding gun control, and he has made his view even more public following the tragic pattern of mass shootings around the country. He has also made a habit out of comparing the United States to Nazi Germany.
He recently published a book,A More Perfect Union, in which he states, “[T]hrough a combination of removing guns and disseminating propaganda the Nazis were able to carry out their evil intentions with relatively little assistance.”
Support for Carson
Fox News came to Carson’s defense following his remarks. In anop-edentitled “Why Ben Carson is right about Jews, the Holocaust and guns,” Dr. Keith Ablow expressed his agreement with Carson (not before acknowledging that he once hosted a fundraiser on Carson’s behalf). According to Ablow, “If the Jews in Germany had more actively resisted the Nazi party or the Nazi regime” they would not have been captured and exterminated.
After admitting, “Granted, I was not there. Granted, hindsight is 20/20,” Ablow goes on to list several “bad idea[s]” from the Holocaust:
But it turns out it was a bad idea for any Jew to have turned over a gun. It was a bad idea for any Jew to have boarded a train. It was a bad idea for any Jew to have passed through a gate into a camp. It was a bad idea for any Jew to do any work at any such camp. It was a bad idea for any Jew to not attempt to crush the skull or scratch out the eyes of any Nazi who turned his back for one moment. And every bullet that would have been fired into a Nazi coming to a doorway to confiscate a gun from a Jew would have been a sacred bullet.
Interestingly, the only bad ideas Ablow and Carson see from the Holocaust blame the Jewish people for their own deaths never once blaming Hitler himself or the Nazis who killed them. Ablow and Carson also both neglect to mention the other millions of victims from the Holocaust, including Polish Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Gypsies, Catholic priests, Christian pastors, gays and lesbians and the disabled.
Carson’s own campaign manager, Barry Bennett, weighed in on the debate, admitting that Carson should stop making the comparison.
“It’s an example [Carson] has been using for years,” Bennett said, “and to be honest with you he needs to find a better example because the problem is as soon as you say Hitler, nobody hears anything else you say.”
Bennett wasn’t the only one who had this suggestion. The Anti-Defamation League is an organization comprised mostly of Jewish people and fights against anti-semitic statements. The group’s national director, Jonathan Greenblatt, responded to Carson’s comments, saying that his views have no factual basis: “Ben Carson has a right to his views on gun control, but the notion that Hitler’s gun-control policy contributed to the Holocaust is historically inaccurate. The small number of personal firearms available to Germany’s Jews in 1938 could in no way have stopped the totalitarian power of the Nazi German state.”
Both Carson and Ablow fired back at Greenblatt.
Carson disregarded Greenblatt’s response entirely in an ABC News interview: “You know, that’s total foolishness. I’d be happy to discuss that in depth with anybody. But it is well known that in many places where tyranny has taken over, they first disarm people.”
Meanwhile, according to Ablow, Greenblatt’s explanation is irrelevant because the cowardice came not from physically surrendering guns but rather what the action represented. “Those material items would not have been sufficient to defend against the Third Reich’s military,” he said. “The mindset that Jews surrendered with their guns is far more important than the hardware they turned over: They surrendered the demonstrated intention, at all costs, to resist being deprived of liberty.”
Essentially, according to Carson and Ablow, had the Jews simply said “no” when asked to turn over their guns, their bravery would have been enough to spare their lives.
Analysis of Resistance
What both Carson and Ablow fail to mention, though, are the instances of resistance that did occur, with theWarsaw Ghetto Uprisingconsidered one of the most notable. In 1942, a group of about 750 Jews rose up and attempted to resist the Nazis. They acquired several weapons and made bunkers to hide out in. Although the group managed to delay the deportation of some of the ghetto’s residents and also killed and injured some of the Germans, those who participated in the resistance were eventually sent to other camps. Many were sent to the gas chambers and killed as soon as they were moved. Others were sent to labor camps, but most of them were eventually murdered as well.
Jews also attempted to revolt at another concentration camp,Sobibor, in 1943. Following the news that the camp was to be liquidated, they decided to rise up in any effort to survive. They managed to kill about a dozen prison guards, and around 300 people escaped. Although numbers vary on how many people successfully ran away, the majority of those who got out were recaptured and ultimately murdered.
Michael Moynihan, a writer for an online magazine of Jewish culture called the Tablet, explained in a column that to say gun control would have changed the outcome of the Holocaust “vastly overstates the effectiveness of a tiny minority of a genocidal machine.”
“The heroism of those who resisted the Nazis in Warsaw and Sobibor is undeniable and should be honored,” he said. “But these actions were taken after it became undeniably clear that the incarcerated Jews were soon to be murdered; clearly, against-all-odds resistance is likely when desperation demands it.”
According to Moynihan, to compare America to Nazi Germany “cheapens the experience of Holocaust victims.”
The Anti-Defamation League has always agreed. According to their civil rights director, Deborah Lauter, “We believe [that comparison is] historically inaccurate and incredibly insensitive, particularly to Holocaust survivors and their families.”
In addition to being insensitive, Lauter also agrees that it’s historically inaccurate: “In no way could armed people have stopped the totalitarian power of the Nazi state. There could be symbolic resistance, as we saw in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but it would not have stopped the Nazis.”