Flaminia Luck is a 1st year History and IR student with interests in ethics, war crimes, and human rights. She is an Ambassador for the Holocaust Educational Trust and uses her knowledge of the Holocaust to highlight contemporary issues such as racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia.
Following the tragic school shooting on Valentine’s Day in Florida and the subsequent ‘March for our Lives’ protests that have rallied across the United States, the debate surrounding gun control has found its way back into headlines.
As discussion over firearm sales, self-defence and the Second Amendment is reignited, a worrying idea that justifies the obstruction of basic gun control measures has disgusted me in a way that other pro-gun arguments are yet to do.
While the issue of gun control is a complex one, one argument that is often circulated by pro-gun activists is one that states that the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened if the Jewish population of Germany had been armed.
This case was brought to my attention, in typical millennial form, through social media. A photo on Facebook of the shoe exhibit on display at Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Museum posted with the caption ‘To all the kids that walked out of school to protest guns. These are the shoes of Jews that gave up their firearms to Hitler. They were led into gas chambers, murdered and buried in mass graves. Pick up a history book and you’ll realise what happens when u give up freedoms and why we have them’. This post has garnered over one hundred and forty shares and can be found in similar forms amongst Conservative, anti-gun control circles.
Not limited to just the dark depths of social media, this type of thinking has been expressed publicly by many prominent pro-gun politicians and gun rights activists.
These include leading author and pro-gun academic David Kopel who simply asserts that ‘If not for gun control, Hitler would not have been able to murder 21 million people.’
Wayne LaPierre, Vice President of the NRA, one of the most influential lobbying groups in the United States which claims to have a membership of five million, has likened proposed gun control measures to Nazi laws; ‘In Germany, Jewish extermination began with the Nazi Weapon Law of 1938, signed by Adolf Hitler.’ And finally, State Representative for Alaska, Don Young, recently stated in February of this year ‘How many Jews were put in the ovens because they were unarmed?.’
The suggestion that a small minority living in Germany, which accounted for 0.75% of the population, could have prevented their own genocide and the wider war merely through the abolition of gun control is absolutely absurd.
The irony of the phrase ‘Pick up a history book’ is particularly outrageous as this assertion completely lacks historical context and fails to acknowledge centuries of anti-Semitism in Europe which came to a climax in the 1940s due to a vicious combination of economic anxiety, political volatility and institutionalised violence against Jews to name a few.
This theory neglects the same fate of non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust, including Roma and Sinti, homosexuals and disabled people amongst many others. It also enormously underestimates the power of the Wermacht; the German state military machine which included the SS, the SA and the Gestapo which was only stopped by the combination of years of armed effort from the Allied Forces.
Drawing on Nazi comparisons that bear no resemblance to modern gun control measures is disgraceful and demonstrates the lengths pro-gun advocates will go to in order to scare people into opposing logical common sense restrictions that could prevent unnecessary deaths. This fearmongering tactic uses an almost apocalyptic argument to present people who don’t agree with gun control as vulnerable to oppression and annihilation by their government.
This shameful strategy of pro-gun lobbyists which politicises the victims of one of the most heinous episodes in human history is unacceptable. The distortion of historical facts concerning the Holocaust in order to serve a pro-gun agenda is both incorrect and deeply offensive.
The Holocaust Educational Trust is a charity that uses lessons from the past to educate young people about where hatred can ultimately take society. It is committed to defending the truth and in an era of fake news, it is imperative to maintain historical accuracy in public debate and to stop the spread of this fictitious claim that disrespects the memory of 6 million Holocaust victims.