There has been a great deal of ridiculous outrage over some perfectly defensible comments Ben Carson made last week. During an interview with Wolf Blitzer, Carson was asked to clarify something he’d written in his book, “A More Perfect Union”:
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.
With Blitzer, Carson added: “[T]he likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed.”
For even the most amateur of historians, Carson’s statements are obviously, objectively true: Germany in the late 1930s did indeed have a strict gun-control regime, and by the mid-1940s the German death camp machine had vaporized millions upon millions of defenseless victims, all with very little resistance from the civilian population.
History Is Even Stronger Than Ben Carson’s Telling
But Carson is only telling half of the anti-Semitic Nazi gun-control story. In addition to the disarmament that took place in the late 1930s, for about five years in the early-to-mid-1930s the Nazi Party had engaged in a massive nationwide seizure of weapons from political opponents. The Jews were predictably among the targeted groups.
In Breslau in 1933, Jews were ordered to “surrender [their] weapons forthwith to the police authorities” on the basis that “Jewish citizens have allegedly used their weapons for unlawful attacks on members of the Nazi organization and the police.” This was a regular occurrence all over Germany until the Waffengesetz of 1938, which effectively banned Jewish firearm ownership in all of Germany (though this had been something of a reality for a while, as in 1935 the Gestapo had ordered no weapons permits to be issued to Jews without the approval of the Gestapo itself).
The Nazis were also happy to exploit actual instances of Jewish quasi-insurrection. In early November of 1938, after a young Jewish man attempted to assassinate the German ambassador in Paris, a general campaign was launched to disarm the Jewry of Berlin. As the Berliner BörsenZeitung reported, Jews in Berlin found still in possession of a weapon without a “valid weapon permit” would be treated with “the greatest severity.”
So it went. The disarmament of the Jews was a political and social fact in Nazi Germany. It is uncontestable and inarguable. It was one of the many harsh realities of German Jewish life in the 1930s: if you were a Jew and you had a gun, the Nazis wanted to take it. Adolph Hitler himself knew it: “The most foolish mistake we could possibly make,” he said, “would be to allow the subject races to possess arms.” The Nazi Party was ruthlessly methodical. It knew that disarmament was a pretext to annihilation. You could not easily kill a Jew if he could easily kill you back.
F*** Off, History, We Hate Guns
So, both historically and practically, Carson is right and his clueless, hysterical critics are completely wrong. The Nazi government was a zealous disarmer of Jews, and this disarmament made it easier to eventually ship the Jews to death camps in boxcars. This is patently obvious.
Yet the general reaction has been one of almost comical obtuseness. Rabbi David Wolpe accused Carson of “blaming the victims.” Both the fashion magazine GQ and pot-smoking fartsmith Seth Rogen told Carson to “fuck off.” At The Guardian, Nigel Jones called Carson’s remarks “ignorant, offensive, and downright stupid.” The Twitterverse exploded with indignation. All of this was spectacularly witless and uninformed.
Carson’s detractors do at least have this on their side: it is unlikely that a fully armed German Jewry could have stopped the merciless onslaught of the Final Solution. The program was backed by the full might of the Nazi government, and even a tightly coordinated attack by all the able-bodied Jews in Germany would have likely been futile.
But given the realities of the Wehrmacht, the issue should not be one of, “Could a civilian militia have defeated the German army and prevented the Holocaust?” Rather, the question is this: “If the German government hadn’t stripped the German Jewish population of arms, would it have been easier for the Jews to fight back, and would more lives have been saved?”
The answer is obviously yes. The Holocaust might not have been “greatly diminished,” as Carson claimed, but there would have been a better-than-average chance that many people could have been saved, and it assuredly would have been better than nothing.
If Facts Won’t Persuade You, Try This
By the time of the Wannsee Conference, it was probably too late for anyone outside of an invading army to do anything to stop the sure march of extermination. But prior to the full implementation of the Final Solution, an armed Jewish population would almost certainly have had a positive effect on the Jewish casualty rate.
The forced-labor camps, the einsatzgruppen, some of the pogroms and ghettos, Kristallnacht—an armed Jewish population could have had a lot of success pushing back against certain elements of anti-Semitic hostility in Nazi Germany. Armed civilians might have saved a decent number of lives from the clutches of the Nazi Party. This is a fact.
But it’s a fact the Left cannot treat with: to acknowledge that Hitler disarmed the Jews in order to make them weaker opponents, and to acknowledge that the Jews, with guns, could have had moderate success fighting against the Nazis would offer legitimacy to one of the Left’s most hated boogeymen: an armed civilian populace.
Progressives refuse to believe civilian armament has any utility whatsoever. Indeed, they claim gun ownership is actually a threat to civil society and should be tightly regulated, if not banned altogether. So when Carson points out what even Hitler himself acknowledged—that Jews in Nazi Germany would have been better off with firearms instead of without them—they cannot acknowledge the sheer obviousness of his position. Their response: “Fuck you, Ben Carson.”
You cannot reach these people with logical, well-reasoned historical arguments. So instead, to all of those people who think Carson is both wrong and crazy, we can pose a simple, easy to answer question: if you could be transported back in time and assume the role of a Jew in late-1930s, German-occupied Poland, would you rather be disarmed—or would you rather have a gun?