Anytime someone argues that the holocaust could have been stopped if only Hitler had not taken people’s guns away, just post a link to this and save yourself some time.
1. Hitler did not take away everyone’s guns.
Hitler did not call for disarming German citizens (source). In fact, in 1938, the Nazi government deregulated most guns (source). After the war, they found significant numbers of firearms in people’s houses. They did eventually prohibit German-born Jews, first from manufacturing and trading, and then from owning any weapons of any kind, including guns, knives, and truncheons (and, interestingly, carrier pigeons), but foreign-born Jews were permitted to keep their weapons, and all this was done five years after the first concentration camps opened and the anti-Jewish laws began (source). Even on the rare occasion that Jews used guns to defend themselves, they were massacred. In the Warsaw Ghetto uprising “only about 20 Germans were killed, while some 13,000 Jews were massacred. The remaining 50,000 who survived were promptly sent off to concentration camps” (source). And, of course, as Tom Diaz puts it, “the Jews of Poland did in fact have armed protection. It was called the Polish Army” (source). That did not work so well, either. Also, incidentally, “Hitler” did not do anything. The German government and people worked together and, as Daniel Goldhagen shows in great detail, dissenters were not killed, even if they were in the military (source).
The point is that the Nazis didn’t just take the Jews’ guns away, they took everything away, and to focus on guns alone is arbitrary. This was not gun control; it was human control.
2. Guns could not have stopped the steps towards the Final Solution.
People write as if the Holocaust just happened, that Hitler seized power and persuaded an otherwise tolerant population to do evil things, but this is simply wrong. Antisemitism was nothing new in Europe, and under the Nazi regime, Jews were systematically dehumanized over a decade-long escalation that guns could not have prevented nice summary here). Jews were prohibited from owning property, from intermarrying, and from having businesses. They were forced to register and wear yellow stars. They were ridiculed, abused, raped, and stolen-from. Jews constituted less than 1% of the German population and even less in comparison to Europe at the time. Violent resistance would not have had much impact.
If you think guns could have saved the Jews, then ask yourself, could an armed gay and lesbian population force reluctant people to accept gay marriage? There are a lot more gay Americans than there were German Jews (source).
I realize that this brief post is not really consistent with the structure of PQED. I normally focus on questions intended for open-ended philosophical discussion. But given how much attention this blog is getting on gun-related issues, I think it’s important to post this. If we are to have a constructive debate about guns in the United States, it must be based on truths, not lies
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