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October 12, 2015

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.

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January 17, 2014

Gun Advocates Continue To Misappropriate The Holocaust

The heated political debate over gun control continues to be tainted by the inappropriate use of Holocaust imagery by some gun advocates.nugent-weinstein-gun-control-hitler-nazi

One such analogy suggests that those who support stronger gun control are akin to Hitler or other Nazi figures. Most recently, rock musician and gun advocate Ted Nugent compared film producer Harvey Weinstein to a Nazi propagandist, stating that those who watch Weinstein’s planned film about the National Rifle Association (NRA) “will see that Joseph Goebbels and Saul Alinsky is [sic] alive in the form of a fat punk named Harvey Weinstein, and as he tries to destroy the NRA, it will backfire on him.” He also said that “you have to be brain-dead to believe that the gun-free zones of Chicago and Nuremberg in 1938 are a desirable condition.”

Another historically inaccurate analogy suggests that if those who perished under the Nazis had better access to guns, the regime would not have been able to systematically murder so many Jews and others. For example, in response to Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop’s efforts to improve gun safety in December 2013, NRA board member Scott Bach said, “…if you’re going to be a Jersey City mayor you have to by default be anti-gun…His grandparents were Holocaust survivors according to Wikipedia. So you’ve got to wonder why he is not getting it.”

It must be noted that the small num­ber of per­sonal firearms in the hands of the small num­ber of Germany’s Jews (about 214,000) remain­ing in Ger­many in 1938 could in no way have stopped the total­i­tar­ian power of the Nazi Ger­man state. When they had weapons, Jews could sym­bol­i­cally resist, as they did in the 1943 War­saw Upris­ing and else­where, but could not stop the Nazi geno­cide machine. Gun con­trol did not cause the Holo­caust; Nazism and anti-Semitism did.

Invoking offen­sive Holo­caust analo­gies in discussions of controversial issues is nothing new. Such comparisons have been used by both Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans on a num­ber of issues, and by numerous pub­lic fig­ures when dis­cussing top­ics rang­ing from abor­tion to ani­mal rights to the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict to LGBT rights. A spike in offensive Holocaust analogies also followed the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

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January 24, 2013

Holocaust Imagery Taints Gun Control Debate

Update 1/17/14: The polit­i­cal debate over gun con­trol con­tin­ues to be marked by the inap­pro­pri­ate use of Holo­caust imagery by some gun advocates. Musi­cian and gun advo­cate Ted Nugent com­pared film pro­ducer Har­vey Wein­stein to a Nazi pro­pa­gan­dist.

Update 3/5/12: The list of inappropriate Holocaust analogies regarding gun control continues to grow. NRA President David Keene defended the depiction of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as Hitler at a rally in Albany protesting new state gun regulations. In an interview on March 1, Keene said, “Folks that are cognizant of the history, not just in Germany but elsewhere, look back to the history, and say we can’t let that sort of thing happen here.”

The charged political debate over gun control in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting continues to be tainted by inappropriate invocations of Hitler, Nazis, and general Holocaust imagery.

These comparisons, made by political pundits on national news programs as well by others outside politics, are not only misplaced and offensive, relying on factually incorrect premises and exaggerations, but also deflect attention away from an important national discussion.

One analogy suggests that President Barack Obama is somehow reminiscent of Hitler because of his gun control proposals. For example, on January 9, the homepage of The Drudge Report featured an image of Hitler and Stalin with the caption “WHITE HOUSE THREATENS ‘EXECUTIVE ORDERS’ ON GUNS.”

A similar comparison was made by Ohio State Board of Education President Debe Tehrar, who posted a number of pro-gun and anti-Obama messages on her Facebook page, including a photo of Hitler with the caption: “Never forget what this tyrant said: ‘To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.’ — Adolf Hitler.”

Another common theme that has emerged in recent weeks is that if only the victims of the Holocaust had better access to guns, the Nazi regime would not have been able to systematically murder so many people.

For example, Fox News’ Andrew Napolitano made this argument in a January 10 column on FoxNews.com. Napolitano wrote that, “If the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto had had the firepower and ammunition that the Nazis did, some of Poland might have stayed free and more persons would have survived the Holocaust.”

Individuals on the fringes of the political debate also have weighed in with this narrative. In a January 15 column for the website WorldNetDaily, disgraced former Major League Baseball pitcher John Rocker wrote that “the Holocaust would have never taken place had the Jewish citizenry of Hitler’s Germany had the right to bear arms and defended themselves with those arms.”

It should be noted that the small number of personal firearms in the hands of the small number of Germany’s Jews (about 214,000) remaining in Germany in 1938 could in no way have stopped the totalitarian power of the Nazi German state. When they had weapons, Jews could symbolically resist, as they did in the 1943 Warsaw Uprising and elsewhere, but could not stop the Nazi genocide machine. Gun control did not cause the Holocaust; Nazism and anti-Semitism did.

Invoking the Holocaust in discussions of controversial issues is nothing new. Conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche, leader of a fringe political cult that defies categorization, and his supporters have contributed to the divisiveness surrounding the public debate on health care reform by producing and disseminating materials comparing President Barack Obama and other government officials to Hitler, Nazis and fascists.

Offensive Holocaust analogies have also been used by Democrats and Republicans alike on a number of issues, and by public figures from various sectors of society when discussing topics ranging from abortion to animal rights to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to LGBT rights.

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