Ben Carson, a candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, blamed the Holocaust on Nazi gun control in an interview on CNN Thursday.
Host Wolf Blitzer read a section from Carson's book, A More Perfect Union, in which Carson writes:
German citizens were disarmed by their government in the late 1930s, and by the mid-1940s Hitler's regime had mercilessly slaughtered six million Jews and numerous others whom they considered inferior ... Through a combination of removing guns and disseminating deceitful propaganda, the Nazis were able to carry out their evil intentions with relatively little resistance.
"I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed," Carson elaborated in the interview. "There's a reason these dictatorial people take the guns first."
The Anti-Defamation League, which monitors and responds to anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, has long opposed the use of Nazi comparisons in the U.S. gun control debate. "The idea that supporters of gun control are doing something akin to what Hitler’s Germany did to strip citizens of guns in the run-up to the Second World War is historically inaccurate and offensive, especially to Holocaust survivors and their families," Abraham Foxman, the ADL's national director at the time, said in 2013.
Conservatives have a history of comparing gun control advocates to Hitler and the Nazis. The ADL's 2013 comments were provoked by The Drudge Report's choice to use an image of Hitler to illustrate news that President Barack Obama was pursuing limited gun control measures after 20 first-graders and six school staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, were murdered by a gunman.
Many historians disagree with the idea that armed German Jews could have prevented the Holocaust. And as Alex Seitz-Wald, a journalist then writing for Salon, explained in 2013, the full story of Nazi gun regulation is more complicated than Carson and his ilk might like:
University of Chicago law professor Bernard Harcourt explored this myth in depth in a 2004 article published in the Fordham Law Review. As it turns out, the Weimar Republic, the German government that immediately preceded Hitler’s, actually had tougher gun laws than the Nazi regime. After its defeat in World War I, and agreeing to the harsh surrender terms laid out in the Treaty of Versailles, the German legislature in 1919 passed a law that effectively banned all private firearm possession, leading the government to confiscate guns already in circulation. In 1928, the Reichstag relaxed the regulation a bit, but put in place a strict registration regime that required citizens to acquire separate permits to own guns, sell them or carry them....
[Hitler's] "1938 revisions completely deregulated the acquisition and transfer of rifles and shotguns, as well as ammunition,” Harcourt wrote. Meanwhilex, many more categories of people, including Nazi party members, were exempted from gun ownership regulations altogether, while the legal age of purchase was lowered from 20 to 18, and permit lengths were extended from one year to three years.
The 1938 law did ban Jews from owning guns. But as the ADL explained in 2013, "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," which eventually conquered most of Europe.
There was some armed Jewish resistance to the power of the Nazi war machine. But it often ended in death for the Jews involved.
In January 1943, Jews in the Warsaw ghetto rose up against the Nazis. Some 13,000 Jews died in the uprising. (They killed around 20 Nazis.) The rest were deported to concentration and extermination camps, where most were murdered.
My grandfather and grandmother had escaped from the ghetto before the uprising and gone into hiding in the countryside. They survived.
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