In his new book, A More Perfect Union, Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson makes the argument that had the Jews been armed during the Holocaust, the tragedy could have been lessened:
“I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed.” Carson writes.
Over the past week, Carson has been hammered for his remarks.
The Anti-Defamation League's Jonathan Greenblatt released a statement condemning Carson:
“...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.”
Greenblatt's assertion has been echoed by numerous others, including Hanna Kozlowska and Paul Smalera of Quartz, who write:
“Right before the war erupted, Jews in Germany were indeed forbidden to have guns...But as the Anti-Defamation League emphasizes, the small number of firearms held in the hands of the few German Jews left in the country in 1938 would be a grossly inadequate match for the massive Nazi war operation.”
Kozlowska and Smalera further argue that gun confiscation had nothing to with the failed uprising in Warsaw:
“Gun control laws had zero to do with the failed–but heroic–uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943. It was not Europe’s legal prohibitions that prevented a handful of young people from liberating the Ghetto from Nazi hands–it was a profound mismatch of manpower, [and] the difficulties of smuggling weapons into the confines of the Ghetto...”
The basic arguments being made by Carson's opponents are that a) Guns would have been no match for the Nazi war machine, and b) Gun control in Germany under Hitler wasn't a relevant contributing factor to the Holocaust.
Ben Shapiro, Harvard Law School graduate and Editor-at-Large of Breitbart, disagrees:
“Gun control had a long history in Germany long before the Holocaust. In 1920, Germany essentially seized all firearms. In 1928, they liberalized their gun laws but still required licenses to purchase weapons...until 1938, the law would be used as an excuse to confiscate weapons from Jews.”
Shapiro notes a 1938 order issued by the Nazis, which stated:
“Persons who, according to the Nürnberg law, are regarded as Jews, are forbidden to possess any weapon. Violators will be condemned to a concentration camp and imprisoned for a period of up to 20 years.”
Stephen P. Halbrook, legal scholar and author of numerous books, including Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and “Enemies of the State,” writes that the Nazis used the gun registration laws put into place by the previous Weimar regime:
“In 1933, the ultimate extremist group, led by Adolf Hitler, seized power and used the records to identify, disarm, and attack political opponents and Jews.”
Shapiro and Halbrook argue that this confiscation led to the Jews becoming easier prey for the Nazi machine, which Kozlowska and Smalera note was formidable.
Regarding the “mismatch of manpower” during the Warsaw uprising, Shapiro writes:
“...those who had guns certainly made it harder for the Nazis. The Warsaw Ghetto uprising not only delayed the Nazi war machine for a month, it forced the Nazis to redirect military resources into a territory they had already conquered. The Warsaw Ghetto uprising also led directly to the Polish uprising against the Nazi regime, which forced massive redeployment of Nazi military resources.”
Carson has truly opened a can of worms, inciting a great deal of angst.
However, there is more than one side to this argument, as proven by Shapiro's staunch defense of Carson, and Halbrook's historical case regarding Nazi disarmament of the Jews.
And it should also be noted that Carson is not backing down.