By Jonathan Greenblatt, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League
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.
For more K-12 lessons and activities related to this topic, explore Share My Lesson’s Student Gun Violence Summit collection.