American psychiatrist, author and television personality Keith Ablow, who is also a contributor on psychiatry for Fox News Channel, has weighed in on the Ben Carson controversy regarding the hypothetical question of whether or not Jews would have fared better had they owned guns during the Holocaust.
In his new book “A Perfect Union,” Carson wrote that “through a combination of removing guns and disseminating propaganda, the Nazis were able to carry out their evil intentions with relatively little resistance.”
What Carson’s comment revealed was not so much his knowledge of the Nazi state’s effort to dehumanize, disenfranchise, relocate and execute millions of Jews, through a policy of terror, starvation and brutality, but perhaps the fact that he did not know enough not to step on the third rail of American national politics — Jewish sensibilities about the Holocaust. His comment about “little resistance” sounded too close to the notion of “sheep to slaughter” Jews have tired of hearing.
ADL National Director Jonathan Greenblatt tried to put it charitably when he noted: “Ben Carson has a right to his views on gun control, but the notion that Hitler’s gun-control policy contributed to the Holocaust is historically inaccurate. The small number of personal firearms available to Germany’s Jews in 1938 could in no way have stopped the totalitarian power of the Nazi German state.”
But Keith Ablow stood up for Carson, stating simply: “Ben Carson is right, and Jonathan Greenblatt is wrong.” And he explained: “What Greenblatt fails to account for is that the surrendering of firearms by Jews when required to by Nazi authorities was not merely the surrender of guns and ammunition. Those material items would not have been sufficient to defend against the Third Reich’s military.”
As is often the case, context is crucial in understanding these seemingly conflicting views. According to Stephen P. Halbrook, author of “Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and ‘Enemies of the State,’” There were an estimated 20,000 German Jews who owned guns, either for hunting, or souvenirs taken home after their service in WW1. As soon as Adolf Hitler became Germany’s Chancellor, in 1933, the Nazi government used official records to disarm potential opponents—communists, socialists and Jews. They conducted mass searches and seizures of guns, and Police revoked gun licenses of Social Democrats and others who were not “politically reliable.”
In 1938, Halbrook reports, Hitler signed a new Gun Control Act, prohibiting Jews from working in the firearms industry, and also banning .22 caliber hollow-point ammunition. Then, following the shooting of a German diplomat in Paris by a teenage Polish Jew, the Nazis engaged in Kristallnacht, the Night of the Broken Glass, which was, in fact, presented as a massive operation in search of Jewish owned weapons. The Nazis also ransacked Jewish homes and businesses and set fire to synagogues, but the excuse for all of the above was the notion that the dangerous Jews were harboring illegal weapons.
It is always a tricky business to judge the behavior of people in the past using the mindset of the present. But while Ben Carson misunderstand the sense of helplessness German and later Polish Jews felt, deserted as they were by practically the entire gentile world in the late 1930s and early 1940s, the point he makes is still valid. Gun ownership is an effective bulwark against a tyrannical regime, and the proof is that the first thing such a regime would go after are individually owned guns.
And, possibly, to take Carson’s notion another step, even in the most decrepit conditions, in a starved and diseased Warsaw Ghetto, a small band of Jews, scantily armed, managed to hold the Nazi army at bay for nearly a month, from April 19 to May 16, 1943. So Jews have shown that finally possessing guns made a big difference, contributing to the most heroic chapter in our own history.