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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.