Blaming the victims, holding them accountable in an abusive situation has long been the power-play of abusers. Victims are deemed responsible for their own oppression and abuse. If that seems absurd, one only has to look at a recent diatribe by Fox contributor, Dr. Ben Carson, who wrote in his book, A More Perfect Union:
German citizens were disarmed by their government in the late 1930s, and by the mid-1940s Hitler's regime had mercilessly slaughtered six million Jews and numerous others whom they considered inferior ... Through a combination of removing guns and disseminating deceitful propaganda, the Nazis were able to carry out their evil intentions with relatively little resistance. Read the article here.[caption id="attachment_3135" align="alignright" width="220"] Dr. Ben Carson[/caption]
When asked to clarify that statement, Dr. Carson explained, “I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed. There's a reason these dictatorial people take the guns first.” Read the article here.
In 1933 Germany, Jews continued to be productive members of society even after Adolf Hitler seized the reins of government and was designated as “dictator” for four years. Of course, some saw the handwriting on the wall and sought a safe haven. Those Jews who did not flee into exile were faced with an escalating barrage of bigoted regulations.
That same year Jewish businessmen were targeted; doctors, lawyers and teachers were forbidden to ply their trade with little hope of finding another means of support. Individual Jews are targeted and some were murdered. Books written by Jewish authors were burned after being labeled “degenerate.” The Gestapo was formed and Dachau, a concentration camp built ostensibly to hold political prisoners, was opened. It would later be used to incarcerate Jews.
Other laws enacted targeting Jews forbade them to be gainfully employed, possess radios, or intermarry with gentiles. It was the beginning of the strangulation that would, over the course of the next decade-plus, see the murders of six million Jews.
By 1934, the feared and hated Schutzstaffeln (SS) was formed. Hitler rearmed Germany and halted the publication and sale of Jewish newspapers. The following year, he enacted the Nuremberg Laws that denied citizenship to Jews and provoked and encouraged greater anti-Semitism. Jews were banned from public places, often from entire towns and villages.
The 1936 Olympics in Berlin relegated blatant Jew-hatred to a backseat, while camouflaging flagrant racism. American historian and author Deborah Lipstadt wrote of that period:
The sports competition was a massive exercise in propaganda and public relations, and many American reporters were uncritical about all that they saw.… Americans, particularly non-German speaking ones who only knew Germany from the Games — departed convinced that the revolutionary upheavals, random beatings, and the murders of political opponents had been greatly exaggerated or were a thing of the past…. Visitors to Berlin described it as a warm, hospitable place and Germany as a country well on its way to solving the economic and unemployment problems which still plagued America. (Deborah E. Lipstadt, Beyond Belief: The American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust, 1933–1945 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993), pp. 79–80.)
Yet, Hitler was forced to observe one grating exception to his vision of young, handsome, blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan men capturing all the medals. Jesse Owens, an African American track star scored four gold medals for the United States. Stunned and angered, the fuehrer stalked from the venue.
By 1937, the noose continued to tighten as larger numbers of German Jews sought ways to leave the country. The Buchenwald concentration camp opened. The ensuing years saw harsher directives against Jews as country after country fell before the onslaught of Hitler’s troops. In 1940, Poland was invaded and Polish Jews herded into the Warsaw Ghetto. The horror that was Auschwitz opened and began to accept trainloads of Jews destined for extermination.[caption id="attachment_3136" align="alignright" width="428"] A housing block burns during the suppression of the Warsaw ghetto uprising.[/caption]
The Warsaw Ghetto, an area of approximately 1.3 square miles, housed some 400,000 Jewish men, women and children. On January 18, 1943 more than 300,000 had been transported to death camps. Until that time, the belief was steadfast that those taken from the Ghetto had been relocated to labor camps. When that was proved to be false and upon learning that those moved had instead been killed in large numbers, those inside the walled-off compound decided to fight for their lives.
The revolutionaries who opted to fight back against further deportation did so with only a handful of pistols, gasoline bombs, knives, lengths of pipe, and homemade hand grenades, supplemented by whatever arms could be captured from Nazi troops sent into the Ghetto. The approximately 65,000 Jews that remained were no match for the better-armed and larger troop concentrations fighting against them. Once the uprising had been checked, those remaining in the Ghetto were deported to death camps and the area razed except for the infamous Pawiak prison.
It was a valiant effort, but doomed from the outset. Had every man, woman and child in Germany—some 525,000 Jews—been armed, they would have been less than one percent of the 65 million population. The odds would have been insurmountable; resistance futile.
Dr. Carson’s opinion was quickly denounced by Jonathan A. Greenblatt, director of the Anti-Defamation League:
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. When they had weapons, Jews could symbolically resist, as they did in the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and elsewhere, but they could not stop the Nazi genocide machine. Read the article here.
To say that the Jews failed to retaliate against Nazi subjugation is untrue. They did, indeed. Jews resisted against all odds—with acts of defiance in death camps, sabotage in labor camps, and resistance ghettos in Nazi-controlled countries. The options for Jews during World War II were ruthlessly and strictly limited; the choices made by the multitude in no way signaled acquiesce to the future that awaited them. They were instead severely hampered by a climate of duplicity, terror, and overpowering dominance by the Nazis and their partners in crime.