I hope that receipt of this finds you well. I just read Mr. Strugatsky’s guest post “When Ideology Trumps Self-Preservation” regarding what he sees as a tremendous oversight in how the US Holocaust Memorial Museum fails to cover the fact that had European Jewry, and perhaps more specifically German Jewry, been armed that the Holocaust could not have happened or would not have been as successful. I know from the personal/familial history that you’ve relayed on TTAG that this is an intensely and immensely personal issue for you and I’m not looking to pick a fight. However . . .
Mr. Strugatsky’s post provides the impression that the US Holocaust Memorial Museum does not cover Jewish resistance, when it does. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum actually covers the topic of armed Jewish resistance. [Click here and here.] So too does the Yad Vashem in Israel. [Click here.]
While it is true that this resistance came late, mostly after 1942 when it became very, very clear that the Final Solution was NOT simply ethnic cleansing through relocation, but ethnic cleansing through industrial scale extermination, the actual historiography and reality is not as simple as: Jews were disarmed and they couldn’t fight back.
For instance, the ADL issued a statement in 2013 requesting that because the historiography is ambiguous – the original firearms restrictions were put in place by the Weimar Republic, not the NAZIs; it is exceedingly unclear how many of the even assimilated Jewish Germans were firearms owners (a fraction of the 1% of all Jewish Germans).
So it is impossible to figure out if the NAZI recodifications beginning after 1939 were symbolic or not. And just how the reimposed restrictions were carried out; whether in a coordinated, planned surprise event like Kristallnacht a shocked and terrified community that include firearm owners would have been able to actually respond in any meaningful way as event unfolded.
The original guest post provides the erroneous impression that there was no Jewish resistance, when in fact there was significant, if somewhat belated resistance. Moreover, it ignores the fact that even armed, non-Jewish Germans, let alone armed non-Jewish citizens of other European countries, to include their actual armed forces, where unable to stop the NAZIs in one-on-one fights.
The NAZIs created the first real industrial military. Despite limiting party formal party affiliation for several years out of internal security concerns, they managed to mobilize the vast majority of German society either explicitly or implicitly behind their activities (the Goldhagen thesis), and as a result they were able to mobilize the power of the state through force – using all elements of power (diplomatic, informational, military, economic, financial, intelligence, and law enforcement/DIME-FIL) to achieve their ends.
Having a portion of the under 1% of the German citizenry, which is the accepted estimate of Jewish Germans in the 1930s armed and fighting back would not have slowed the NAZIs down for very long. The problem with historical analogies is that they are never perfect and context always matters. An armed population of less than 500,000 out of a total population of 67 million was not going to hold off the NAZIs. While it might have bought time for some to escape or slowed things down a bit, what happened in the 1930s in Germany is not analogous to any arguments over the 2nd Amendment here in the U.S.
Adam L. Silverman