In a bid to defend the right to bear arms in the wake of yet another mass shooting in the US last week, Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson suggested the Holocaust would not have happened had the Jewish people of Europe been armed.
When questioned by CNN if he really thought a lack of gun control laws would have meant the avoidance of six million deaths in Europe in the 1940s, the man who is currently second favourite behind Donald Trump to receive the GOP's nomination told CNN:
I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed … I’m telling you that there is a reason that these dictatorial people take the guns first.
While his comments have been widely criticised (using the Holocaust to further one's political goals is not everyone's cup of tea, it turns out), perhaps the best analysis has come from author Jacob Bacharach, who not only reeled off an impressive series of tweets to take down the argument but also penned a piece in the New Republic.
Bacharach explains that not only are Carson's comments "victim-blaming" but they also "touch on a troubling undercurrent in the popular Western mythology of the Holocaust" which suggests that all Jews who died in the Second World War meekly surrendered and walked to their deaths.
As Bacharach mentions, the Jewish population of Europe had a strong resistance movement. Arguably the most famous group was led by the Belarusian partisans the Bielski brothers, who helped to save the lives of over 1,000 Jews and were portrayed in the Hollywood film Defiance.
Other instances of resistance were led by the Jewish Military Union and Jewish Combat Organization in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, the Parczew partisans of eastern Poland, the United Partisan Organization of Lithuania as well as numerous uprisings in ghettoes and concentration camps across Europe.
Not only were Carson's comments damaging, as Bacarach explains, because they uphold a stereotype of Holocaust victims as "city people who would never own a gun or fight back" but they are also fundamentally wrong on the point of civil gun ownership.
This resistance was not successful. It reveals the lie in Carson’s real central claim. Armed citizens could not prevail against the might of the Wehrmacht. It required the combined power of the Western Allies and the Soviet Union to defeat Hitler, and even then at the cost of tens of millions of lives.