A Republican congressman from Alaska dismissed calls for stricter gun control by claiming that Jews were murdered in the Holocaust because they were unarmed.
Longtime NRA member Don Young told constituents at a town hall in Juneau last week that millions of European Jews could have avoided gas chambers had Nazi Germany not taken firearms away from its civilians.
“How many millions of people were shot and killed because they were unarmed? Fifty million in Russia,” Young said. “How many Jews were put in the ovens because they were unarmed?”
A report in Alaska Public Media noted that Young was responding to a question asked by Dimitri Shein, a Democrat running for Young’s seat in the upcoming midterm elections, about renewed efforts to enact stricter gun laws in the wake of a deadly Florida school shooting.
The claim that Jews could have saved themselves from Nazi extermination had they been armed has circulated in conservative American circles for years.
In 2015, then-Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson — now the US secretary of housing and urban development — made similar claims 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,” he wrote.
The claim sparked some backlash, but Carson doubled down on it in two later interviews, saying that “many” Jews, including rabbis, agreed with his assessment.
Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany used overwhelming force to occupy wide swaths of Europe and to murder six million Jews. While his rise to power in Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s encountered some violent resistance, it was otherwise relatively unimpeded because the vast majority of Germans chose not to resist Nazism and to a large degree embraced it.
The Anti-Defamation League has previously called on conservatives to keep Nazi analogies out of the debate over gun control, and later in 2015, ADL head Jonathan Greenblatt called such claims “mind-bending.”
“It is mind-bending to suggest that personal firearms in the hands of the small number of Germany’s Jews (about 214,000 remaining in Germany in 1938) could have stopped the totalitarian onslaught of Nazi Germany when the armies of Poland, France, Belgium and numerous other countries were overwhelmed by the Third Reich,” he said in a Huffington Post op-ed. “When you manipulate the history of the Holocaust and use it to score political points, its wholly inappropriate and offensive.”