By Abraham H. Miller/JNS.org
The explosive controversy over Ben Carson’s remarks about Jews, guns, and the Holocaust illustrates a new low in media spin. Carson is a Republican presidential nomination frontrunner, and the legacy press needs to undermine his credibility. Therefore, the controversy is not remotely about what Carson actually said, but about what the media says he said.
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?
Predictably, the most vicious attack on Carson comes from The Jewish Daily Forward, where Carson is depicted as some sort of dangerous crazy whose remarks are offensive beyond measure to Jews.
The Forward goes so far as to reinterpret the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, one of the most courageous of the Jewish struggles against the Nazis, as an act of futility: “In the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, for example, armed Jews killed roughly two dozen Nazis. The Nazis, during the same uprising, killed 13,000 Jews.”
Seldom has an act of courage been so viciously corrupted as insignificant and meaningless. Worse, it is a false and incomplete characterization. The Warsaw Ghetto uprising had only about 750 active fighters. They were poorly armed. They held out for nearly a month against one of the world’s best-trained and best-equipped fighting forces. It is utterly irrelevant to argue that the Nazis killed 13,000 Jews during this period. They would have killed them anyway and at a faster rate.
The Forward grabs a number that far exceeds the number of those who took up arms just to underscore its argument that the Warsaw Ghetto uprising was insignificant. So, what is more offensive, Ben Carson’s characterization of the importance of resistance or The Forward’s diminution of one of the few triumphs of Jews against the Nazis? What is more insane and dangerous?
The Forward cannot comprehend the triumph of the human spirit, the hope and dignity that come from resistance. Their policy appears to be, better go quietly to the gas chamber and not make trouble.
Even when resistance is futile, it is worthwhile. It is better to die fighting like a lion than go to the slaughter like a sheep. The Forward believes that, faced with overwhelming military superiority, it is better to surrender, even when surrender means death.
Carson is also right about gun confiscation. The Weimar Republic had gun regulations that were oppressive. When the Nazis took power, they used the Weimar gun lists to confiscate the guns of all those they saw as their enemies, starting with the Jews. And while they did make the acquisition of guns easier, this only applied to party members, not to all Germans as The Forward mistakenly claims.
How the Nazis used the gun registration rolls to implement their tyranny is precisely detailed in Stephen Halbrook’s “Gun Control in the Third Reich,” published by the Independent Institute. Liberals have dismissed Halbrook’s work as irrelevant to the gun control debate in America, claiming that guns would have made no difference in Hitler's consolidation of power. If that were true, the Nazis would not have not pursued their policies of confiscation as vigorously as they did.
Jewish history tells us that if anyone should support gun ownership, it is Jews. Jewish liberals conveniently forget that through guns and organization, Ze’ev Jabotinsky prevented pogroms in Russia. In contrast to the Jews who were incapable of defending themselves at Kishinev, and whose cowardice became a blight on Jewish history, Jabotinsky’s armed Jews taught Russian peasants not to bring a farm implement to a gun fight.
If every 10 Jews who went to the slaughter killed one Nazi, there would have been 600,000 fewer soldiers to man Hitler’s ranks. So, yes, armed resistance would have changed the contours of the Holocaust.
As Solzhenitsyn wrote, if every Soviet citizen bought the equivalent of a baseball bat and formed groups that set upon the state police when they came to arrest their neighbors, fewer people would have volunteered for the Organs (secret police); the Gulag would still have existed, but with a smaller population.
Carson reminds of us the human value of resistance. The Forward reminds us that the cowardly mentality that Chaim Bialik characterized as belonging to the Kishinev pogrom is still with us.
Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a senior fellow with the Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought.
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