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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.

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January 17, 2014 6

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 8

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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