January 22, 2019

Could guns for German Jews have prevented the Holocaust?

In the mid-1930s, an English scholar wrote a book — with many learned citations — proving that Nazism was the wave of the future and made for a happier and healthier nation.

In reviewing the book, one critic noted that if the distinguished author had spent only one day actually living in Nazi Germany, he probably would change his mind.

That anecdote comes to mind while reading that Dr. Ben Carson, the noted neurosurgeon turned Republican presidential candidate, told CNN that Hitler could have been foiled if ordinary German citizens had been allowed to carry guns.

A corollary to that frequently repeated claim is that if only German Jews had carried pistols in their pockets, they could have foiled the Nazis and prevented the Holocaust.

Perhaps if the proponents of this theory could retroactively spend a few days in Germany, where I was born and lived until 1939, they would be disabused of this illusion.

First, German Jews, predominantly middle class, were among the most law-abiding members of a generally law-respecting civilian population and no way could they have been persuaded to arm themselves illegally.

Also remember that it took a single shooting by a Polish Jew of a minor German functionary at the German embassy in Paris to serve as the trigger for unleashing the 1938 Kristallnacht and the destruction of synagogues and Jewish stores throughout Germany.

Can you imagine how Hitler would have loved to have a few Jews kill a couple of storm troopers in Berlin as a rationale to wipe out the entire German-Jewish population, even before World War II and the Holocaust? That would have meant the death of an additional 100,000-plus German Jews, including my family, who managed to emigrate in 1938 and 1939.

The naiveté of the guns-for-everyone advocates, retroactively in Germany and now in the United States, is matched only by some middle-aged Jewish Angelenos, who have taken up pistol and rifle practice on weekends to foil any future fascist takeover of California and the United States.

I was particularly taken by an online invitation by one such group to join in a jolly “Bagels & Bullets” brunch.

For the record, may I note that I was an American combat infantryman in France and Germany during World War II and subsequently a squad leader in an anti-tank unit during Israel’s War of Independence.

So I believe I know something about rifles, machine guns and mortars, and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I hear Dr. Carson’s analysis or follow the Walter Mitty fantasies of some members of our community.