U.S. Republican presidential primary candidate Ben Carson sparked renewed controversy after telling CNN on Thursday that "the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed." The remark is the latest example of politicians who have made allusions to the Holocaust, with varied degrees of appropriateness, as JNS.org previously summarized.
Carson was making an argument against gun control laws in the wake of the shooting at Umpqua Community College in southern Oregon on Oct. 1, in which a 26-year-old gunman killed 10 people.
In the CNN interview, Carson discussed his new book, "A More Perfect Union," in which he wrote that "through a combination of removing guns and disseminating propaganda, the Nazis were able to carry out their evil intentions with relatively little resistance".
Host Wolf Blitzer then followed up with a question, "Just clarify, if there had been no gun control laws in Europe at that time, would six million Jews have been slaughtered?"
Carson responded with his comment about the Holocaust, adding, "I'm telling you that there is a reason that these dictatorial people take the guns first."
In an editorial for JNS.org, Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of Cincinnati and Senior Fellow with the Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought Abraham H. Miller wrote that Carson's remarks have been misconstrued.
"Contrary to the way Carson’s remarks are being reconstructed, he never said that if Jews owned guns, there would not have been a Holocaust. He said that if Jews owned guns, the Holocaust would have been different. Is there any doubt it would have been?" Miller wrote.
However, Anti-Defamation League has previously expressed concern over "the proliferation of remarks comparing gun control legislation in the United States to policies upheld by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust."
“We know that the national debate over gun control is one of the most divisive issues in the land, and while Americans are entitled to have strong opinions, there is also language that is inappropriate and offensive in any such discussion,” said Abraham H. Foxman, former ADL national director and a Holocaust survivor, in 2013.
According to ADL, the limited number of firearms that were in the hands of just a small number of Jews remaining in Germany in 1938—about 214,000—could not have stopped the Nazi state from exercising its Final Solution.
"When they had weapons, Jews could symbolically resist, as they did in the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and elsewhere, but could not stop the Nazi genocide machine. Gun control did not cause the Holocaust; Nazism and anti-Semitism did," ADL wrote.
“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," Foxman said.