I just came across one of the most ridiculous arguments I have ever encountered, made by a professor at the University of Vermont named Alan E. Steinweis. Steinweis’s ludicrous argument appeared in an article he authored entitled “Ben Carson Is Wrong on Guns and the Holocaust” that was published in the New York Times two days ago.
In his article, Steinweis took GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson to task for stating that if people in Nazi Germany had been armed, the “likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished.”
Steinwitz says that Carson’s remarks “not only trivialize the predicament in which Jews found themselves in Germany and elsewhere in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s. They also trivialize the serious, prolonged and admirable efforts undertaken by many Germans to work through the causes of their country’s catastrophic mistakes of that period.”
That’s just plain ridiculous. How does criticizing gun control in Nazi Germany or suggesting that armed resistance by Jews in Nazi Germany might have saved Jewish lives trivialize the Holocaust or trivialize historical soul-searching by post-war Germans?
Steinwitz attempts to explain his “logic” by detailing the origins of the Nazi dictatorship and exploring the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany. Steinwitz explains: Germans “understand their own history well enough to avoid being distracted by demagogy about gun control.”
What? That just makes no sense.
Why would arguments about gun control, the right to resist tyranny, and how gun ownership among Jews might have impacted the Holocaust distract Germans from understanding their history? Isn’t it possible to explore and understand Germany history while, at the same time, explore and understand the role that gun control played as part of that history?
In his article, Steinweis suggests that widespread gun ownership among German Jews would not have affected the outcome of the Holocaust. He says that the Nazi state was too powerful and that armed Jews would not have been able to resist its omnipotent power. He also says that most Germans supported the Nazi state and, therefore, would not likely have come to the aid of resisting Jews.
But no one, including Steinweis, can really say what the outcome would have been if German Jews (And Eastern European Jews) had owned lots of guns and ammunition when German police and soldiers came to arrest them and cart them away to the death camps. What we do know, however, is that there would have been a much greater public hub-bub when the firefights started than what occurred in the death camps, where the Nazis were intent on keeping what was going on secret.
After all, don’t forget that many U.S. officials, when confronted with evidence that the Nazis were killing mass numbers of Jews in the concentration camps during the war, reacted with disbelief.
That wouldn’t have happened if the Nazis had been forced, through armed resistance by the Jews, to kill them in firefights. It would have been extremely difficult to keep those types of killings secret, like they were able to do in the concentration camps.
Moreover, when people are armed and willing to resist tyranny, it’s possible that they will be able to make their tyrants pay a price for what they are doing. It’s true that they might die anyway but there sometimes is a consolation in making the tyrant pay a price for his actions. Moreover, widespread armed resistance by Germany’s Jews would undoubtedly have forced Hitler to devote resources and manpower to overcoming the resistance, which might well have adversely affected his war efforts.
A good example of this phenomenon is what happened at the Alamo during the Texas Revolution. The men inside the Alamo were armed and were willing to resist the tyranny of their own government with their weapons. But they were badly outnumbered and outgunned by Santa Anna’s army. That didn’t cause them to cut and run or meekly surrender to Santa Anna. Knowing that they didn’t have a chance, they nonetheless stood their ground with violent resistance to Santa Anna’s attack on the Alamo. They were all killed but in the process they made Santa Anna pay an enormous price in terms of casualties and time. By the time that Santa Anna reached San Jacinto, the defenders of the Alamo had bought Sam Houston enough time to gather his forces and defeat Santa Anna’s army.
Consider Switzerland, where every citizen was armed. Hitler hated an independent Switzerland, just as he hated an independent Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the rest of Eastern Europe. Hitler would have loved to invade and conquer Switzerland, just as he did with those other countries, especially since Switzerland separated Germany from Italy, which, under Benito Mussolini, had aligned itself with Nazi Germany.
But Hitler never invaded Switzerland. Why not? Because he knew that even if he could defeat the Swiss, he would pay an enormous price in terms of casualties. It just wasn’t worth it to him.
And that’s the big point about the Second Amendment and gun rights that people like Steinweis just don’t seem to get. As our American ancestors understood so well, widespread gun ownership among the citizenry is an insurance policy — one that insures against tyranny. Oftentimes, the tyrant thinks twice about imposing his oppression when he knows that his intended victims are armed.
Without gun rights, when a tyrannical regime comes into power, people have but one choice: Obey when the police and soldiers appear to take them away to concentration camps to be torture, raped, and murdered. That’s the choice that German Jews had in Nazi Germany.
With gun rights, people have another option: resist with force. It’s true they might lose anyway but at least they have the dignity of going down fighting and taking some of their oppressors with them, just as they did at the Alamo.
Moreover, there is always a chance of prevailing against tyranny. Sometimes resistance to tyranny gives courage to others to join the fight. Sometimes it causes military and police units to change sides. Don’t forget, after all, of the White Rose group in Nazi Germany and the assassination attempt against Hitler. Not everyone enthusiastically supported the Nazis, and armed resistance to the Holocaust might have generated an uprising that no one would have thought conceivable.
What’s amazing to me is that Steinweis, who, according to his article, “studies Nazi Germany and the Holocaust for a living,” didn’t even mention the role that the U.S. government played in the Holocaust. When Hitler offered to let Jews leave Germany in the 1930s, the response of the U.S. government, under liberal icon President Franklin Roosevelt, was to not accept them. Referring to U.S. immigration laws, FDR said that the U.S. has a quota system. All those German Jews would have exceeded the U.S. immigration quota for Germany.
In fact, if you have never heard of the “Voyage of the Damned,” it’s really worth Googling. When a German ship carrying Jewish refugees attempted to land at Miami harbor and let them disembark, U.S. officials gave the order to not let it happen, knowing that the ship would have to return to Nazi Germany. At the last minute, some European countries accepted them, but hundreds of them died in the Holocaust anyway when they were later taken prisoner by Hitler’s forces.
Why is the U.S. government’s role in the Holocaust important? Because if the United States had accepted Hitler’s offer in the 1930, all those Jews who would have immigrated to the United States would have been spared the Holocaust, making the gun control issue moot, at least for them. While Steinweis praises Germans for exploring their dark history, isn’t it a good idea for Americans to explore ours as well?