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October 12, 2015 28

Why the Holocaust Has No Place in the Gun Debate

By Jonathan Green­blatt
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

With the cam­paign sea­son in full swing, the debate over gun con­trol laws once again has taken cen­ter stage. As the can­di­dates reacted to the sense­less mass shoot­ing in Ore­gon two weeks ago, an old meme about guns, Hitler and the Holo­caust resurfaced.

The argu­ment goes some­thing like this: If Jews and oth­ers had had freer access to more guns in the run up to Hitler’s assum­ing power and had been able to use those guns to fight back against the Third Reich, then there wouldn’t have been a Holo­caust, or far fewer would have per­ished. This his­tor­i­cal second-guessing is deeply offen­sive to Jews, Holo­caust sur­vivors and those who valiantly fought against Hitler dur­ing World War II. It is, in fact, as many his­to­ri­ans have pre­vi­ously noted, a dis­tor­tion of his­tory itself.

Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ben Car­son was the most recent to make this out­ra­geous point last week dur­ing an inter­view with Wolf Blitzer on CNN. Since then, he’s taken a lot of heat, and for good rea­son. But he’s cer­tainly not the first per­son to make the assertion.

ADL has responded to this talk­ing point count­less times since it first sur­faced in 2013, when there were a slew of Holo­caust and Nazi analo­gies as part of the gun debate. But it was a fringe idea then — and it deserves to be rel­e­gated to the fringe now, not given the cour­tesy of a main­stream con­ver­sa­tion. These are the facts:

  • Guns or lack of them did not cause the Holo­caust. The Holo­caust was the prod­uct of anti-Semitism and the moral fail­ure and indif­fer­ence of humans.
  • It is mind-bending to sug­gest that per­sonal firearms in the hands of the small num­ber of Germany’s Jews (about 214,000 remain­ing in Ger­many in 1938) could have stopped the total­i­tar­ian onslaught of Nazi Ger­many when the armies of Poland, France, Bel­gium and numer­ous other coun­tries were over­whelmed by the Third Reich.
  • Despite the over­whelm­ing mil­i­tary force of the Nazi regime, there were thou­sands of brave civil­ians — Jew­ish and gen­tile — who indeed often resisted with every fiber of their being. Unfor­tu­nately, arm­ing every Euro­pean Jew would not have been enough to stop an evil force that was only over­come by the mil­i­tary might of the Allies.

Amer­i­cans are enti­tled to express strong opin­ions about divi­sive issues. But Dr. Car­son and oth­ers should stick to the facts. When you manip­u­late the his­tory of the Holo­caust and use it to score polit­i­cal points, its wholly inap­pro­pri­ate and offen­sive. Espe­cially for the sake of the vic­tims of the Nazi onslaught and their mem­ory, it must stop.

  • Mark A. Roberts

    Mr. Green­blatt, I believe you are mak­ing a straw man argu­ment in your pub­lic response to Dr. Car­son. I fur­ther believe your tac­ti­cal under­stand­ing of firearms is defi­cient. No one is sug­gest­ing that guns caused or sup­pressed anti-semitism in Ger­many or frankly in many parts of Europe and the United States in the 1930s. Dr. Car­son was mak­ing the his­tor­i­cally accu­rate state­ment that oppressed armed minori­ties suf­fer less loss of life and prop­erty than unarmed ones. Period. Had the Jews in Ger­many, Aus­tria and Poland been well armed with civil­ian arms I doubt if any­one would be bold enough to state that it would have had no effect. The US high com­mand believed French civil­ians with civil­ian arms made a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in the war in France in WWII. To take a sin­gle exam­ple of many, the con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous records of both Ger­man intel­li­gence offi­cers and sur­viv­ing Jew­ish fight­ers in the War­saw Ghetto upris­ing agree that far less life might have been lost and far fewer might have been sent to their deaths at con­cen­tra­tion camps had the Zydowska Orga­ni­za­cja Bojowa been bet­ter armed and had a func­tional sup­ply line.

    I find it puz­zling how dif­fer­ent the view of per­sonal firearms are between my Jew­ish friends here in the United States and my Israeli friends in Israel. As some of the elderly fight­ers of the 1948 war in Israel have pointed out in their rec­ol­lec­tions and biogra­phies, a sin­gle skilled rifle­man in an urban set­ting can hold off a com­pany of trained sol­diers for quite awhile. As an Israeli part­ner Daniel says, “I will always be armed, legal or not, as long as there are a bil­lion peo­ple who want me dead. I will not be lead like a sheep.” I find his logic hard to argue with. Actu­ally, I find him gen­er­ally hard to argue with but I digress.
    Thank you for your con­sid­er­a­tion of my view.
    With Regards,

    • Sam Green­blatt

      Dr Car­son said the mag­ni­tude of the Holo­caust would have been less had at least some Jews been armed in many of those towns, he is cor­rect. When it dawned on the Ger­mans that there was risk to the life’s of Nazi sol­diers they would have thought twice. They would have had to tie up more troops and lost men going after a non strate­gic tar­get. True the holo­caust would have occurred the Jews had NO chance against the Ger­man war machine but it would have slowed and saved many lives. Per­haps 400,000 Hun­gar­ian Jew­ish lives.

      • Tony Jiang

        hitler wasnt dri­ven by prag­ma­tism, he would was ordered the nazis to kill them no mat­ter the risk. also if the jews fought back it would have prob­a­bly increased sup­port for the nazis as jews already were extremely hated through­out europe at this time

        • Quhyung Park

          Excel­lent point. A good exam­ple would be if the U.S. gov­ern­ment frames Neo-Nazis for the country’s prob­lems and the Amer­i­can peo­ple believe it and despise the Neo-Nazis far more than they already do. Let’s say the Neo-Nazis are armed, and they fight back with guns when the U.S. gov­ern­ment goes after them. Sce­nario 1: the U.S. mil­i­tary over­whelms the Nazis and they are destroyed. Sce­nario 2: the Nazis fight back pretty well and many Nazi lives are saved. How­ever, the Amer­i­can peo­ple see this as a despi­ca­ble act of trea­son and a dan­ger­ous armed insur­rec­tion, so they sup­port the U.S. government’s mas­sacre of the Nazis even more. At the end of the day, the gov­ern­ment beats the hated minori­ties regard­less of gun rights. In fact, I would imag­ine that it would be bet­ter if the Nazis didn’t have guns to begin with, as the Amer­i­can peo­ple would likely sym­pa­thize more with help­less, unarmed, inno­cent vic­tims than with Nazis going around fir­ing guns at Amer­i­can soldiers.

          • Quhyung Park

            And if every­one was armed as some hard­line pro-gun advo­cates desire, we would more likely see armed Amer­i­can civil­ians par­tic­i­pat­ing in the mas­sacre of Neo-Nazis than not. At least if no one was armed, the anti-Nazi Amer­i­cans would just attack Neo-Nazis with blades and other less effec­tive tools. And the Neo-Nazis wouldn’t be able to kill any­one as eas­ily either if they didn’t have guns.

            The ADL said it well: it was the anti-Semitism deeply rooted in the Ger­man pop­u­lace, not gun rights or gun bans, that led to the Holo­caust. And if such a geno­cide occurs in Amer­ica, it would most likely be due to sim­i­lar prej­u­dices of the Amer­i­can peo­ple. Native Amer­i­cans had good access to guns, but that didn’t stop the over­whelm­ingly more pow­er­ful Amer­i­can Army and peo­ple from mas­sacring them. The Con­fed­er­ates were hard­core on gun rights, but they were utterly destroyed by the U.S. mil­i­tary (This case wasn’t a geno­cide of course. It’s just a case of the 2nd Amend­ment fail­ing to pro­tect civil­ians from the U.S. government).

        • Quhyung Park

          You are also cor­rect by Hitler’s lack of prag­ma­tism. He declared war on the U.S. after an event that Ger­many had noth­ing to do with occurred. He invaded the Soviet Union out of some fan­tasy of “liv­ing space”.

    • Tony Jiang

      um yeah a sin­gle SKILLED rifleman.…..

  • Jeff Dunetz

    The real issue is if Ben Car­son was a Demo­c­rat would you have writ­ten this. The answer of course is no! Because its been too long since the ADL cared about Jew­ish issues instead of wor­ship­ing the golden calf of lib­eral demo­c­ra­tic party politics

    • Jen­nifer R

      Yes, he would have. We are Jews–we have rel­a­tives who died. Repub­li­can or Demo­c­rat, stop com­par­ing crap to the Holo­caust. It just so hap­pens that the issue most com­pared to the Holo­caust are guns and abor­tion. Those talk­ing points are the Repub­li­can agenda, and to try to gain sup­port­ers, they use the Holo­caust as an example.

      • Jeff Dunetz

        I have rel­a­tives who died also (and thank­fully ones that sur­vived) I am a writer who bashes any­one who brings up the Shoah inap­pro­pri­ately in either party MOST of the peo­ple who bring it up are on the Demo­c­ra­tic party side. And as far as the ADL goes, they often ignore their mis­sion to push pro­gres­sive pol­i­tics, if you con­tact me off list I will send you examples

        • Jen­nifer R

          It is true that us Jew­ish peo­ple have a tougher place than most within party pol­i­tics in Amer­ica. Our issues def­i­nitely tran­scend party pol­i­tics, more so than any other group besides African Amer­i­cans. You and I can both point to things within each admin­is­tra­tion that hurt Israel and the Jew­ish peo­ple. When it comes down to it, Rea­gan and GW Bush both did things that really hurt Israel. I pre­dicted what would hap­pen with Iran as soon as I real­ized that Bush was going to go into Iraq instead of doing any­thing about Iran. Remem­ber, Bush had been receiv­ing brief­ings about Iran and their threats and plans since 2001. I do know what you mean about many main­stream Lib­er­als, it dis­mays me to see the anti-Israel bias. I have seen the ADL con­demn the left, too, though, when obvi­ous anti-Israel and anti-Jewish libels are thrown at us. Lib­eral Jews, for the most part, are lib­eral because of the social issues that affect us and oth­ers in this coun­try. We have dual con­cern. There are aspects of both par­ties that do not coin­cide with Jew­ish beliefs. The ADL does an amaz­ing job on the stud­ies and sta­tis­tics. They’re in a tough place. The lay pub­lic knows lit­tle about the Jew­ish expe­ri­ence. We’re auto­mat­i­cally judged more harshly. When deal­ing with issue con­cern­ing the pub­lic, we have to be dou­bly con­cerned about how the non-Jewish world per­ceives us, if we hope for them to pay atten­tion. In the end, I’ve heard lib­eral Jews com­plain the ADL is too con­ser­v­a­tive, and con­versely, con­ser­v­a­tive Jews com­plain the ADL is too lib­eral. I, myself, am proud of the ADL. Many times I quote the ADL when speak­ing of anti-semitism, when few believe the hatred that Jew­ish peo­ple are up against. We have to stick together. After all, lib­eral or con­ser­v­a­tive, born Jew­ish or a con­vert, we all would have been killed by the Third Reich just the same.

          • Jeff Dunetz

            Jennifer…You must have drank the Kool-aid. Bush #43 was the first pres­i­dent who rec­og­nized Ter­ror­ism in Israel was as bad as ter­ror­ism any­where else (Sur­pris­ing because his father was one of the most anti-Israel Pres­i­dent). The ADL gets involved in issues they shouldn’t Like late term abor­tion (they approve of it). Whether you are pro life or pro abor­tion, you have to rec­og­nize that it isn’t ADL’s job. Despite an anti-Israel first term as the 2012 elec­tion neared, The Anti-ADL and the Amer­i­can Jew­ish Com­mit­tee in a joint state­ment asked their fel­low Jews to pledge not to
            crit­i­cize Obama’s anti-Israel pol­icy The ADL wrote a report about the tea party in 2011 that was total lies. .
            Accord­ing to Michael Oren At the very begin­ning of his admin­is­tra­tion Obama told Jew­ish lead­er­ship (includ­ing Fox­man) that one of his goals was to drive a wedge between the US and Israel. “When there is no day­light,” the pres­i­dent told Amer­i­can Jew­ish
            lead­ers in 2009, “Israel just sits on the side­lines and that erodes our cred­i­bil­ity with the Arabs.” The ADL Was silent …The ADL Said noth­ing when the Democ­rats removed four pro-Israel planks from their party plat­form in 2012, when they tried to add one (Jerusalem as cap­i­tal of Israel) back, the con­ven­tion voted no but the lead­er­ship lied and said it was passed. The planks about not return­ing to the 1949 armistice lines, not nego­ti­at­ing with Hamas, and Pales­tin­ian refugees will return to Pales­tin­ian ter­ri­tory as opposed to Israel were never put back… By vot­ing Demo­c­ra­tic and openly sup­port­ing demo­c­ra­tic party can­di­dates (like Hillary-remember when she can­celled on an Iran rally in 2008 so they forced orga­niz­ers to dis­in­vite Sarah Palin?) despite the anti-Israel poli­cies of the pro­gres­sive left, our sup­posed lead­ers like those in the ADL con­tinue to blindly sup­port the Demo­c­ra­tic
            Party we taught the Democ­rats that they could do any­thing they want to the Jews, or on Jew­ish issues and we will sup­port them in the next elec­tion, we will give them our cam­paign dona­tions and we will give them our votes.

            Here’s a lit­tle secret, issues their vot­ers care about influ­ence can­di­dates posi­tions. Pro­gres­sives are not pro-Israel and the Jews don’t act like they care so why should the Democ­rats sup­port Israel? On the Repub­li­cans side the rea­son many GOP can­di­dates are pro-Israel is the evan­gel­i­cal vote that is a major part of their base. But if the very pro-Israel
            evan­gel­i­cals ever lose their influ­ence in the party, only then will Jew­ish issue be truly bi-partisan…. both par­ties wont care about them.

            The only way we will ever get it back is first, to start vot­ing for the other party–not blindly, but look at Repub­li­can can­di­dates with an open mind. The other thing the Jew­ish com­mu­nity has to do is stop finan­cially sup­port­ing groups whose lead­er­ship blindly sup­ports pro­gres­sive pol­i­tics and par­ties. Like the ADL. There are plenty of Jew­ish char­i­ties to give money to…I strongly urge my fel­low Jews to donate to those groups instead of the bla­tantly polit­i­cal ones like the ADL, The Jew­ish Fed­er­a­tion, The Amer­i­can Jew­ish
            Con­gress, The Amer­i­can Jew­ish Com­mit­tee and any orga­ni­za­tion that sup­port the Con­fer­ence of Pres­i­dents of Major Jew­ish Orga­ni­za­tions. Only by shift­ing
            the Jew­ish vote and mov­ing our money away from Demo­c­ra­tic orga­ni­za­tions mas­querad­ing as Jew­ish ones will we be able to make BOTH par­ties fight for our sup­port by back­ing those issues impor­tant to the Jew­ish community

        • As a first gen­er­a­tion sur­vivor, I demand that the Shoah remain in everyone’s con­scious­ness and that it acts as THE exem­plar extra­or­di­naire of geno­ci­dal total­i­tar­i­an­ism. As such, point­ing out the dis­arm­ing of the Jews by pre-war Nazis is an impor­tant fact that does indeed have rel­e­vance to 2nd amend­ment rights today.

  • Jen­nifer R

    Thank you, Jonathan Green­blatt. You are a fair and hon­est per­son. I whole­heart­edly agree with you. If Jew­ish peo­ple tell some­one that some­thing is offen­sive to us, there should be no argu­ment. Nobody should want to hurt Jew­ish peo­ple, or the inno­cent vic­tims that were killed. If someone’s argu­ment doesn’t hold water using facts on that issue with sta­tis­ti­cal data, than it isn’t a very strong argument.

  • I am not a Jew but I find it mind-bending to even imply that the small num­ber of Germany’s Jews, should not have the right to carry per­sonal firearms, to do what­ever they needed or wanted to do, no mat­ter how use­less, no mat­ter with BB-guns and being lousy shots, in order to defend them­selves against the total­i­tar­ian onslaught of Nazi Germany.

    • Tony Jiang

      that would have prob­a­bly made it worse for the jews in Ger­many as the Nazis could openly jus­tify geo­cide using it as “proof” that the jews were out to get them

      • Worse???

        • Tony Jiang

          it would make it eas­ier for Nazis to kill jews by giv­ing “proof” of them as vio­lent and dangerous

          • Eas­ier???

            • Quhyung Park

              If every­one hates some­one and that some­one starts shoot­ing every­one, every­one will want that per­son dead. Since the gen­eral Ger­man pop­u­lace hated, or at least had no love, for the Jews, and was okay with expelling the Jews from Ger­man soci­ety, the Ger­mans would have become even more anti-Semitic if the Jews started shoot­ing Ger­man troops en masse. The result would have a Ger­man pop­u­lace not indif­fer­ent to, but sup­port­ive of, the Holo­caust. Peo­ple crit­i­cize the Ger­mans for being indif­fer­ent, but with Jews being armed and killing many Ger­mans, the Ger­mans would have sup­ported the Holocaust.

              • So your argu­ment is the if Jews had defended them­selves against those who wanted to slaugh­ter them, then the “indif­fer­ent Ger­mans” would have sup­ported to slaugh­ter the Jews?

                Could it not be that would have made it harder for the “indif­fer­ent Ger­mans” to remain indifferent?

                • Quhyung Park

                  Well, the Jews would have defended them­selves with guns which would pos­si­bly lead to the deaths of a decent num­ber of Ger­mans, albeit in the War­saw ghetto upris­ing armed Jews lost thou­sands while the Ger­man mil­i­tary lost a few dozen IIRC. The gen­eral Ger­man pub­lic was inclined to believe in Hitler’s pro­pa­ganda crap about Jews, so once the Jews start actu­ally killing Ger­mans, the pub­lic would prob­a­bly believe in the pro­pa­ganda in its entirety. Also, the SS started its elim­i­na­tion of Jews by first send­ing them to ghet­tos, which most Ger­mans saw as rea­son­able and thus most Ger­mans would likely see armed resis­tance towards that as ridicu­lous and treasonous.

  • Jonathan Green­blatt’s ter­ri­bly mis­placed out­rage demon­strates a self-destructive igno­rance of the fre­quency of firearm con­fis­ca­tion as a pre­lude to total­i­tar­ian rule. From early on in the ascen­sion of the Nazis to total power, pri­vate gun own­er­ship by Jews was pro­hib­ited and exist­ing weapons were con­fis­cated. As you can read at the link below, gun reg­istries were used to iden­tify Jew­ish gun own­ers and con­fis­cate their weapons. Mr Green­blatt, your hyper­bolic rhetoric should now turn to cor­rectly report­ing this issue. The Nazis con­sid­ered it cru­cial to dis­arm the Jews. Why? Because armed cit­i­zens rep­re­sent a much more dif­fi­cult tar­get to sup­press or exter­mi­nate. Switzerland’s armed neu­tral­ity, where every cit­i­zen per­forms National Ser­vice and is issued their own per­sonal rifle, updated reg­u­larly as tech­nol­ogy allows, has led to many a tyrant hav­ing sec­ond thoughts about attack­ing it. Make no mis­take, attack­ing Ben Car­son for mus­ing about what would have hap­pened if Jews had seen the writ­ing on the wall and armed them­selves, is absurd and unfair. I wish that my extended fam­ily, all of whom were mur­dered by the Nazis, had lived in a state of armed readi­ness instead of total defencelessness.

    Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/365103/how-nazis-used-gun-control-stephen-p-halbrook

    • Tony Jiang

      no one wants to attack Switzer­land because they don’t care enough about it! it has NOTHING to do with swiss militias

      • Quhyung Park

        that’s why no one attacks Swe­den either despite its lack of guns lmao. no one invaded Britain in cen­turies either despite its lack of guns.

  • Eisen­berg

    My par­ents lived in Nazi Ger­many and expe­ri­enced the atroc­i­ties. When they came to the U.S. they were in awe of the Sec­ond Amend­ment. They told me that World War 2 would have been a civil war and not a world war if the Ger­man peo­ple as a whole had gun rights like Amer­i­cans. If my mother were alive she would have slapped you for your out­ra­geous posi­tion. In the future please make it clear that you do not rep­re­sent all holo­caust vic­tims and you owe Ben Car­son an apol­ogy. I am a proud mem­ber of Jews for the Preser­va­tion of Firearms Own­er­ship and would invite every­one to view their doc­u­men­tary “inno­cence Betrayed” on YouTube. You might learn some­thing. ADL have proven them­selves to be an embar­rass­ment to holo­caust sur­vivor com­mu­nity and to freedom

    • Tony Jiang

      well accord­ing to your logic then there should be no dic­ta­tor­ships in africa