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Armed Resistance to the Holocaust:

That's the title of my forthcoming article in the May 2006 issue of NATIV, the journal of the Ariel Center for Policy Research. (The Ariel Center is a think tank in Jerusalem; its main audience is Israeli policy intellectuals and policymakers.) The final article will be published in Hebrew and English. In the meantime, you can read an English draft in PDF or HTML. Comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

Summary: Contrary to myth of Jewish passivity, many Jews did fight back during the Holocaust. They shut down the extermination camp at Sobibor, rose up in the Warsaw Ghetto, and fought in the woods and swamps all over Eastern Europe. Indeed, Jews resisted at a higher rate than did any other population under Nazi rule. The experience of the Holocaust shows why Jews, and all people of good will, should support the right of potential genocide victims to possess defensive arms, and refutes the notion that violence is necessarily immoral.

stevesturm:
I just wish more had fought back...
3.16.2006 4:23pm
CJColucci (mail):
Maybe like the Irish Jews they didn't have armor.
3.16.2006 4:27pm
Zubon (mail):
Forthcoming in May 2005?

[DK: Thanks. I corrected it.]
3.16.2006 4:39pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Who thinks that "violence is necessarily immoral"?

Also, the notion that "potential genocide victims" are entitled to bear arms strikes me as of no practical effect. By the time such a group is identified, it's a little late to let them buy AK-47's.

For ex, Poland 1938: were the Jews "potential genocide victims"? Who knew that? Even had it been widely suspected, would the Poles have allowed the Jews special arms-bearing rights? Of course not.

Who are some "potential genocide victims" today?
3.16.2006 4:45pm
carpundit (www):
Who are some "potential genocide victims" today?

Jews.
3.16.2006 4:47pm
Walk It:
"The experience of the Holocaust shows why Jews, and all people of good will, should support the right of potential genocide victims to possess defensive arms, and refutes the notion that violence is necessarily immoral."

I think many terrorists would agree with that last clause.
3.16.2006 4:47pm
Wayne (mail) (www):
Who are potential genocide victims today

Everybody who is not an Islamist.
3.16.2006 4:49pm
Sammy Finkelman (mail):
You seem to forgetting one important angle> The Nazis were able to deter those prepared to offer armed resistance for a considerably long period of time. Only when it was clear that the nazis seemed determined to kill ALL the Jews (in the Warsaw Ghetto) and nothing could seem to head that off, was resistance offered.
So deterrence can go a long way - all the way to the murder of 75% and more of the population.

[DK: This is a case where reading the article would be helpful. The most successful resistance fighters were those who escaped the ghettos early, and formed partisan bands in the woods. The Nazis did convince a lot of Jews to stay passive in the ghettos for a very long time; the article discusses how some Jews took early action, and others did not. The only way to learn from past mistakes is to examine them.]
3.16.2006 4:56pm
Enoch:
Jews resisted at a higher rate than did any other population under Nazi rule.

Higher than Soviet citizens under German occupation? Higher than the Yugoslavs? The partisan movements in the USSR and Yugoslavia tied down huge German forces...
3.16.2006 5:02pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Enoch,

We are talking pro rata here. There were far fewer Jews than ethnic Russians. ALso, the impact of Russian partisans is generally over-stated, particularly by the Russians themselves. (Overy, "Russia's War").

Jews who did fight, it must be noted, largely did so just to survive the war, not to repel any particular invader - whether German or Russian - and seldom acted in concert with other partisan groups, which were also largely hostile to Jews.
3.16.2006 5:12pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

"The experience of the Holocaust shows why Jews, and all people of good will, should support the right of potential genocide victims to possess defensive arms, and refutes the notion that violence is necessarily immoral."

I think many terrorists would agree with that last clause.
Great moral equivalence argument--victims and their oppressors are pretty much the same to you, aren't they?
3.16.2006 5:17pm
Defending the Indefensible:
all people of good will, should support the right of potential genocide victims to possess defensive arms

Would this apply to Muslims in the US or Europe?
3.16.2006 5:18pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

We are talking pro rata here. There were far fewer Jews than ethnic Russians. ALso, the impact of Russian partisans is generally over-stated, particularly by the Russians themselves. (Overy, "Russia's War").
And in many parts of the Soviet Union, the Nazis were initially welcomed as liberators--especially because the "liberated" often hated Jews as much as the Nazis. There's an ironically titled book The Good Old Days of Nazi memoirs of the Holocaust in which some contemporary Germans were shocked at how enthusiastically occupied populations took to murdering Jews.
3.16.2006 5:19pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Anderson asks:

Who thinks that "violence is necessarily immoral"?
All pacifists, for one. It is pretty clear from Walk It's remarks that she sees terrorists and genocide victims as being morally equivalent, if the victims use violence to defend themselves. Of course, she's probably a professor somewhere.

Also, the notion that "potential genocide victims" are entitled to bear arms strikes me as of no practical effect. By the time such a group is identified, it's a little late to let them buy AK-47's.

For ex, Poland 1938: were the Jews "potential genocide victims"? Who knew that? Even had it been widely suspected, would the Poles have allowed the Jews special arms-bearing rights? Of course not.
The solution is not to wait until you've reached a crisis to be armed.

And who is talking about "special arms-bearing rights"? Just allow any law-abiding, not crazy adult to own a gun. There are lots of places in America where a home without a gun is somewhat unusual (like Idaho) and yet we have very little violent crime.
3.16.2006 5:22pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Clayton,

this was particularly true in Lithuania, Latvia and Esthonia, where populations were ethnically close to being German, and had serious anti-semitism even well before the war. They also fought almost exclusively against the russians, and weren't defeated fully until the 1950's.

Defending,

Are you, with a straight face, suggesting that muslims in the US are under a threat of genocide? That's not a fear reasonably grounded in anything resembling reality.
3.16.2006 5:23pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

all people of good will, should support the right of potential genocide victims to possess defensive arms

Would this apply to Muslims in the US or Europe?
Sure. An individual might be disarmed because of specific reasons to be concerned about his misuse of a gun, but disarming everyone because of generalized fear of members of a group is so California Democrat.
3.16.2006 5:24pm
Ross Levatter (mail):
Mr. Cramer again demonstrates difficulty in reading for content. Walk It didn't say HE agreed with terrorists, merely that he thought terrorists would agree that populations at risk of genocide have a right to defend themselves. That is to say, he argued that those labeled terrorists by our government see themselves in a somewhat different light. This is NOT a defense of terrorism, it is an empirical claim worth exploring. Since Mr. Cramer already has all the answers, though, I don't expect he'll spend much time in exploration.
3.16.2006 5:28pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

You seem to forgetting one important angle> The Nazis were able to deter those prepared to offer armed resistance for a considerably long period of time. Only when it was clear that the nazis seemed determined to kill ALL the Jews (in the Warsaw Ghetto) and nothing could seem to head that off, was resistance offered.
There were additional aspects to the problem, covered in Gutman's Resistance. Zionists thought of the Orthodox Jews as reactionaries; the Orthodox saw the Zionists as godless Communists. This mistrust made it difficult for either completely trust the other.

Arms availability was also an issue. Polish Gentiles were not terribly friendly to Polish Jews--even with a common enemy, and this was an obstacle to putting together an adequate arsenal within the Ghetto. Polish Jews (and I suspect Polish Gentiles) were probably not as well armed as the membership as Handgun Control, Inc.

A third part of the problem (and probably the most severe) is that for hundreds of years, Jews in Eastern Europe had taken a pragmatic pacifist view of how to deal with pogroms. If they fought back, it fueled more upset, and kept the pogrom growing. It was tempting to apply that model to the Nazis, at first--if we don't make a big fuss, a few will die, a few will be abused, but the community will survive.

The Holocaust, however, was not a pogrom with fancy uniforms. It was a methodical, carefully thought out expression of Social Darwinism, eugenics, and unlimited governmental power. The strategy for surviving pogroms could not work for surviving the Holocaust.
3.16.2006 5:32pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Ross,

based on what I have seen of Walk It's other posts on this site, some of which were deleted by David Bernstein for being, well, rabidly anti-semitic, and with no other purpose or substance, Cramer's assumption is perfectly reasonable (which is more than I can say for your sanctimonious ad hominem).
3.16.2006 5:35pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Mr. Cramer again demonstrates difficulty in reading for content. Walk It didn't say HE agreed with terrorists, merely that he thought terrorists would agree that populations at risk of genocide have a right to defend themselves. That is to say, he argued that those labeled terrorists by our government see themselves in a somewhat different light. This is NOT a defense of terrorism, it is an empirical claim worth exploring. Since Mr. Cramer already has all the answers, though, I don't expect he'll spend much time in exploration.
Walk It elsewhere has claimed to be a woman (although I'm pretty sure he's only a woman when cross-dressing).

Why point out that terrorists would agree with this last statement, if not to suggest moral equivalence? Terrorists and victims would probably agree that the sky is blue, but Walk It didn't make that point.
3.16.2006 5:37pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Defending,

Are you, with a straight face, suggesting that muslims in the US are under a threat of genocide? That's not a fear reasonably grounded in anything resembling reality.
In the academic world, the long night of fascism has already descended on America. That's why newspapers in the U.S. have refused to even show the cartoons that have so enraged Muslims elsewhere--because they are afraid of offending the academics, who see Muslims as their pets. Yet academics will defend vigorously not just the right of artists to produce works like Piss Christ but the duty of the government to subsidize such art. (They certainly have the right; I just don't see why I should have to fund it.)

Reality has little to do with the academic community, and the strongest evidence is the crowd that dominates the comments here.
3.16.2006 5:52pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
David,



Your examples are all fairly late war in timing. I think some criticize Jewish passivity in this context. I think the assertion was made that the Holocaust would not occurred if each family had killed 1 soldier/politzei when they were taken away.



Now I know that this would have been hard, because of the rationales:



1. it won't happen to us, it's all a big lie

2. If I threaten violence, my family will be hurt,

3. We can last in the camps, etc



It's sort of a second amendment argument writ large. Trade 1 family for 1 soldier, and the Germans would have quickly stopped.



I don't know if the hypothesis stands up, but that's how I've heard it stated.

[DK: You're clearly right. The Jews initially made the mistake of thinking that the Nazis were just running a big pogrom, despite Hitler's explicitly-stated intentions to the contrary in Mein Kampf.]
3.16.2006 5:54pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Are there any serious pacifists around any more? I thought WW2 pretty much exploded that particular daydream.

As for "let EVERYONE have guns," I would suppose that any PGV's would be minorities, and thus likely to be outnumbered by the hostile population. So I guess they actually need to ensure that they have major ordnance.

[DK: WWII was a huge setback for pacifism, but post-Vietnam, pacificism in the American religious leadership is even stronger than it was between WWI and WWII. To start with, there's the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Pax Christi, American Friends Service Committee, and the Catholic Worker Movement as among the explicity pacifists. More broadly influential are the mainline Protestant hierarchies, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which are not formally pacifist, but which seem to reflexively oppose all use of force, either by the United States government, or by individual Americans. Obviously there are important variations, but on the whole, the policy choices promoted by the mainline Protestants and the USCCB have very little difference from the choices promoted by the explicit pacifists. And then there's the U.S. elementary education system, where "violence never solves anything" is inculcated as if it were as plainly true as the law of gravity.]
3.16.2006 5:54pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Drill,

Another thing to bear in mind is that the genocide wasn't exactly publicized. People largely didn't know what would happen to them, not just that they would be murdered, but the conditions in the camps, etc.

My gandparents, who were in Belarus in 1941, tell me that they had an uncle, who refused to evacuate, saying that Germans gave the world Wagner - they are civilized people - they couldn't be doing what the rumors say. I could easily understand that belief in someone who didn't have the hindsight that we do now.
3.16.2006 6:00pm
MikeWDC (mail):
When I was a kid around fifth or sixth grade, I read a choose-your-own-adventure-type story (not the CYOA brand, but a knockoff) about the Warsaw Ghetto, amounting to an adventure story about the quest for the third lost milk can containing their attempt to keep communication, records, and documentation of the Ghetto. It's such a powerful story, it deserves to be told more often.

I haven't read the article but look forward to doing so. However, I'm shocked by this sentence: "The experience of the Holocaust shows why Jews, and all people of good will, should support the right of potential genocide victims to possess defensive arms, and refutes the notion that violence is necessarily immoral." That seems like an endorsement of the Palestinian right to bear arms--and use them. I can't be right in thinking that.
3.16.2006 6:00pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Are there any serious pacifists around any more? I thought WW2 pretty much exploded that particular daydream.
Haven't been in a college classroom, ever? Serious pacifists do still exist, and pretend pacifists (the ones that believe that violence is wrong, except if it is done by a government employee) are dominant in gun control circles.

Here's an article I wrote a while back about Black v. Indiana, No. 71A03-0502-CR-56 (Ind.App. 2005), in which the prosecution prevented the defense from inquiring if potential jurors had a moral objection to self-defense. Fortunately, the Indiana Court of Appeals recognized that this denied Black the right to a fair trial.

As for "let EVERYONE have guns," I would suppose that any PGV's would be minorities, and thus likely to be outnumbered by the hostile population. So I guess they actually need to ensure that they have major ordnance.
Sure. The smaller the minority, the more important it is. A 40% of the population minority probably doesn't even need guns to prevent genocide. A 10% minority probably could prevent genocide if all they had were hunting rifles and shotguns. A 2% minority would probably need high-capacity semiauto weapons.

There's obviously a point where you are such a small minority (the minority of one--crazy person) that you need nuclear weapons to protect yourself--and I think we can safely call that reductio ad absurdum.
3.16.2006 6:05pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

However, I'm shocked by this sentence: "The experience of the Holocaust shows why Jews, and all people of good will, should support the right of potential genocide victims to possess defensive arms, and refutes the notion that violence is necessarily immoral." That seems like an endorsement of the Palestinian right to bear arms--and use them. I can't be right in thinking that.
In a defensive role, sure, they have that right. Blowing up cafes is rather a warped definition of "self-defense."
3.16.2006 6:07pm
Paul Hirsch (mail):
David:

Excellent article. I suggest that you might want to consider expanding the following passage by interposing an additional paragraph describing a bit more how people with commonly possesed arms can be a significant deterrant:


Armed Jews (or armed Cambodians, or Chinese, or other genocide victims) would not necessarily be able to fight open-field battles against standing armies. But to deter genocide, an armed population does not have to fight such battles. [Expand?]
The kind of people who specialize in perpetrating genocide are bullies. How many bullies are willing to take a chance of getting shot by the intended victim? If potential massacre victims can plausibly threaten to harm at least a few of their attackers, then the calculus of the attackers may change dramatically.
3.16.2006 6:08pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
Mike,

I agree that folks thought it couldn't happen, etc.

also that there were many folks Soviet (non-Russian) republics such as Belarus and Ukraine for the German invasion was initially seen as a liberation.

I'd dispute some of David's claim of "fought in the woods and swamps all over Eastern Europe. " though. My understanding was that most of the partisans (Yugoslavs excepted) that got good press were in fact bypassed Soviet troops with a relatively intact chain of command.
3.16.2006 6:08pm
Yehudit (mail) (www):
3.16.2006 6:10pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):

My understanding was that most of the partisans (Yugoslavs excepted) that got good press were in fact bypassed Soviet troops with a relatively intact chain of command.

This is true, especially later in the war, when partisans began to receive more centralized orders and support, along with NKVD supervision (in many cases).
3.16.2006 6:12pm
Barry (mail):
WRT American Muslims having the right to keep and bear arms...

Of course they do. Whether or not they might be the next victims of genocide is irrelevant.

One way to discourage genocide is to make it difficult to accomplish, no matter who the victims might be.
3.16.2006 6:16pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
OK, if pacifists are still a serious force to be reckoned with, then by all means, inveigh, inveigh. Beats shooting them.

I still think the practical effect is very small, unless you're trying to get the HEAP from Cryptonomicon funded ... but that has never been an objection to a journal article.
3.16.2006 6:23pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
[DK: You're clearly right. The Jews initially made the mistake of thinking that the Nazis were just running a big pogrom, despite Hitler's explicitly-stated intentions to the contrary in Mein Kampff.]

That's an interesting statement that brings us around to presnt day islamofascists. Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, OBL and the current Iranian leadership all published their intent to commit genocide in advance, well in advance. The convention wisdom, e.g MSM of their day all said that the leader couldn't really mean that crazy stuff.

Lesson: Believe the wacko's when they state their plans for genocide. Fear an Iranian Nuke.
3.16.2006 6:27pm
roy (mail) (www):
DK,

I enjoyed reading this. A couple critiques:

The "Evil Jews" section was a bit confusing. I had a strong "huh?" moment upon starting in on it, and it took a couple reads to get your point. Maybe I'm alone in that, or maybe you could be a bit less clever in constructing your argument.

In the "No More Genocide" section, when you describe how genocide has been preceded by disarmament, are you asking your readers to succumb to the Reverse Mussolini fallacy?
3.16.2006 6:32pm
MikeWDC (mail):

However, I'm shocked by this sentence: "The experience of the Holocaust shows why Jews, and all people of good will, should support the right of potential genocide victims to possess defensive arms, and refutes the notion that violence is necessarily immoral." That seems like an endorsement of the Palestinian right to bear arms--and use them. I can't be right in thinking that.


In a defensive role, sure, they have that right. Blowing up cafes is rather a warped definition of "self-defense."

I considered adding a disclaimer that of course I didn't mean that I thought David Kopel was endorsing suicide bombings that murder civilians. Murder of civilians, of course, is reprehensible. I've been to the site of a suicide bombing in Israel, the Dolphinarium (sp?), a nightclub on the beach in Tel Aviv once frequented by Russian teenaged immigrants. It haunts me still when I think of it. No one can tell me suicide bombings are immoral. I know that.

The matter of possessing and using arms in the "occupied territories" (what they are, legally and in practice) is a whole different moral universe. Is Kopel with us?
3.16.2006 6:36pm
cfw (mail):
Clayton:

"And who is talking about "special arms-bearing rights"? Just allow any law-abiding, not crazy adult to own a gun. There are lots of places in America where a home without a gun is somewhat unusual (like Idaho) and yet we have very little violent crime."

Would be nice if powers-that-be could recycle existing weapons rather than making new ones (e.g., send weapons captured in Iraq or Afganistan or Compton to Africa).

I suspect a large number of weapons captured in Iraq and Afganistan were originally supplied in the 80's by the US.

It is easy to forget how long weapons remain leathal. I suspect well over 50% of M16 or AK47 type weapons distributed by US will get used against US or US ally during useful (25 to 40 year) life of the weapon.

That does not necessarily mean ignore the PGV, just help them with recycled weapons to keep the total population of AK's in check.

History of Krupp arms enterprise by Manchester has an interesting tale about cannons from the 1890's sold by Krupp to Norway used to sink Nazi ships in 1940.
3.16.2006 6:38pm
Justin (mail):
First of all, if anyone here thinks that caucasian Americans or Europeans have a higher chance of being the victims of a successful genocide than Shia or Sunni Muslims in the Middle East, you're either rediculously overpartisan, kidding yourself, or a complete coward.

Second of all, an argument that an armed Jewish population in 1932 in Germany, Poland, Russia, etc would have had a significant effect in decreasing the Jewish Holocaust is a weak argument, and that against a modern Western army, that argument is even weaker today. What could have saved many, perhaps millions, of Jewish lives is an Allied military strategy that considered minimizing the results of the holocaust a substantial goal.
This is not blaming the Aliied military strategy for the holocaust, the FAULT of the holocaust still lies, of course, with Germany.
3.16.2006 6:51pm
Kevin P. (mail):

I suspect well over 50% of M16 or AK47 type weapons ... during useful (25 to 40 year) life of the weapon.

I suspect that the useful like of such small arms is much more than that. If they are kept well, modern firearms last practically forever. The US government is selling 50 year old M1 Garand rifles via the CMP program and they are being snapped up by collectors and renovated, despite 50 years of indifferent treatment in foreign government armories.
3.16.2006 6:53pm
Kevin P. (mail):
bah, life, not like.
3.16.2006 6:53pm
Kevin P. (mail):
Justin, read the whole article.
3.16.2006 6:54pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):

and that against a modern Western army, that argument is even weaker today


If by Western you mean, styled according to Western military principles, e.g., heavy air forces, main battle tank, high infantry mobility, then sure. If you mean, an army that's actually from Western Europe or North America, then umm, see the first paragraph of your own post.
3.16.2006 6:58pm
Raw_Data (mail):


1. "...all people of good will..." As regards the Palestinians, that is simply not a given.

2. Is this post going to break any sort of record for rapidity of response? Fourty-five comments in two hours. Wow.
3.16.2006 7:24pm
DWPittelli (mail) (www):
"... refused to evacuate, saying that Germans gave the world Wagner - they are civilized people - they couldn't be doing what the rumors say. I could easily understand that belief in someone who didn't have the hindsight that we do now."

They also had the actual hindsight of WWI, when there was much propaganda of German massacres of civilians, almost all of it false.
3.16.2006 7:52pm
Michael D.:
Thank you for writing this! I wrote something similar (although a fraction of the length and quality obviously) for a college class on the Holocaust, stating pretty unequivocally that the handful of Jews in Europe who were willing to resist (and able to locate guns!) were morally superior to the "do anything to try to survive" types celebrated throughout film and literature. In other words, that it was better to die while killing as many Germans as possible than to try to make yourself as inconspicous as possible and pray you are not selected for the ovens. My professor, a far left Jew, 'Peace Now' member and ardent gun-control advocate was appalled. I think he viewed the Holocaust as a universal lesson: to avoid future Holocausts we need a big, 'enlightened' Socialist government that will make everyone equal, and thus bring peace and prosperity to a disarmed and 'civilized' citizenry. Scary.
3.16.2006 8:03pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
[DK: ... And then there's the U.S. elementary education system, where "violence never solves anything" is inculcated as if it were as plainly true as the law of gravity.]

David, too bad you're not a veteran, you'd make a great professor of History and Moral Philosophy :)


...but on the last day he seemed to be trying to find out what we'd learned. One girl told him bluntly: "My mother says that violence never settles anything"

"So?" Mr Dubois looked at her bleakly. "I'm sure the city fathers of Carthage would be glad to know that. Why doesn't your mother tell them so? Or why don't you?"

They had tangled before... She said shrilly. "you're making fun of me! Everybody knows that Carthage was destroyed!"

"You seem unaware of it", he said grimly. "Since you do know it, wouldn't you say violence settled their destinies rather throughly?"


Heinlein, Starship Troopers
3.16.2006 8:09pm
subpatre (mail):
David,
Missing from your biblio is Fighting Back: A Memoir of Jewish Resistance in World War II by Harold Werner, published posthumously by Columbia U Press 1992.

Werner's foreward is written by Sir Martin Gilbert, author of The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War, Henry Holt &Co 1986.
3.16.2006 8:30pm
vet (mail):
cfw,
"I suspect a large number of weapons captured in Iraq and Afganistan were originally supplied in the 80's by the US. "

The weapons and equipment found by my unit in Iraq were Warsaw Pact (Soviet bloc) and European made. In many cases, the equipment from Europe was better than that with which we (US military) were equipped. For information, check out the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It will give you good data on the veracity of claims about which country supplied what equipment to others and when.

http://www.sipri.org/contents/armstrad/at_data.html#data
3.16.2006 9:27pm
Charlie Eklund (www):
David,

Excellent piece. I would suggest adding two other major incidents of Jewish rebellion against the German murder machine.

On October 7, 1944 the Jewish Sonderkommando responsible for running Crematorium 4 at Auschwitz revolted, killing a number of SS men. They also blew up Crematorium 4, thereby putting a significant dent in Auschwitz's murderous productivity, complicating the ongoing extermination of Hungary's Jews. None of the Jewish Sonderkommando prisoners who revolted survived. A link:

http://www.hagalil.com/shoah/holocaust/greif-0.htm


There was also a long-running resistance movement in the death camp at Treblinka, resistance that culminated in August 1943 with an uprising that took the lives of a number of SS and Ukrainian guards, allowed a number of Jewish prisoners to escape, and brought extermination operations at Treblinka to an end some time before the Germans had planned to stop using that facility. A link/a>

This page lists these uprisings and several others:

http://www.ushmm.org/outreach/kcrechr.htm

Good luck with your work. We must never forget these brave people. Never.
3.16.2006 9:43pm
Jeek:
against a modern Western army, that argument is even weaker today

Against a modern, Western army with Western morals and subject to Western public opinion, small arms do very well indeed. Against a modern Army willing to suppress resistance ruthlessly, forces with small arms can still do quite well - e.g. Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Are there any serious pacifists around any more?

Yes, one of them (Tom Fox) recently got killed in Iraq while acting as a "peace activist". I give him credit for being "serious" about his pacifism, if not acting with total common sense.

We are talking pro rata here. There were far fewer Jews than ethnic Russians. ALso, the impact of Russian partisans is generally over-stated, particularly by the Russians themselves. (Overy, "Russia's War").

I don't think so. The Germans thought there were at least 500,000 to 700,000 Soviet partisans. (Soviets claim over a million partisans.) They certainly kept a lot of German troops busy.

Something like 300,000 Serbs fought as partisans (keeping 35 Axis divisions busy). Considering there were only about 7 million Serbs in 1941, that strikes me as an impressive ratio.
3.16.2006 9:59pm
sbron:
Tom Fox is a bad example of a pacifist, especially
for this discussion. Ironically,
he sided with the Palestinians a la Rachel Corrie,
and his church is associated with the "Replacement
Theology" movement which is essentially anti-Semitic.

There were many Jews who believed in fighting back
and recognized the threat before the death camps
started operating (Revisionist Zionist organizations
including Betar and Irgun organized Jews to flee to
Palestine and provided some military training.) These latter groups had given up on
Europe and decided that the only future for the Jews
was in Israel, not out of any particular religious
conviction, but solely as a matter of survival.

Many of these refugees joined the Jewish Brigade of
the British army both
to fight the Germans and to clandestinely form the
future Israeli armed forces. There are many fascinating
true stories of Jewish commandos sent on missions
by the British, e.g. to capture Rommel.

Anti-Semitism in pre-war Europe was incredibly intense,
and as noted above a large number of Ukrainians,
Latvians, etc. began killing Jews themselves as
soon as the Germans moved in. Thus many Jews who
survived were those who realized that Europe was
hopeless, and they would have to fight back elsewhere.
3.16.2006 11:12pm
Eric Muller (www):
David,
A small correction: on page 3, the word should be "Judenrat." There is no umlaut over the "a."
3.17.2006 8:38am
Enoch:
What is the current level of anti-semitic violence by "redneck American Christians"? Is this even a plausible fear? I think not.

You've got a great laboratory for the effects of disarming the goyim in Europe right now. European Jews are disarmed, and European muslims are - theoretically, anyway - disarmed, and I predict we will see that the outcome is more Ilan Halimi-type murders.
3.17.2006 10:13am
Matty G:
You're right Bill, armed Jews just assassinate their own leaders.

And yes, I take offense to your portrayal of Christians. Not because it's a weak arguemnt, but because it's true of virtually any majority, and you chose to single out christians.
3.17.2006 10:33am
Rusty (mail):
Yes, but the question remains: is it better to support free ownership of weapons for potential victims of genocide such as Jews, if that also means the free ownership of weapons by Christian peasantry, who are the traditional genocidal killers of Jews.


Since self defense is a natural right the question is moot. But I am reminded of a quote from somebody or other. "An armed society is a polite society."


For an insite to what an armed populace can do to an invader one only needs to look at the winter war the Finns fought against Russia.
3.17.2006 10:40am
mit naganes in di hent? (mail):
David,

As a former doctoral candidate in Jewish history, allow me to make the following comments:

(1) I think your article vastly overestimates the potential impact of an armed Jewish populace. An armed citizenry would surely have impeded the genocide of European Jewry, but it would not have prevented it, only made it more difficult, and there are potential costs to an armed populace--the present militarization of Israeli society is a good example. While Jewish armed resistance had some effect, it was crushed whenever the Germans made a concerted effort. The only pocket of armed Jewish resistance that was not destroyed was in the backwaters of Belorussian forests and Pripet marshes. Sonderkommando revolts impeded death camp operations, but they did not prevent the nearly two million Soviet and Baltic Jews killed by the Einsatzgruppen.

(2) I think you miss the forest for the trees. The real problem for European Jewry was the failure of Jewish politics in the pre-World War II decades. (See Ruth Wisse's article in Azure from 1999 or so for an excellent discussion of this). While a smarter pre-WWII Jewish politics might have placed an emphasis on an armed population (although not even Jabotinsky was concerned with a private right to bear arms), by 1941, it was simply too late for armed resistance to make a big difference. An armed citizenry is one route--an armed state is another.

(3) As for the myth of Jewish passivity, I think you approach it from the wrong angle. There were of course many Jews who fought back during the Holocaust. But the central experience of European Jewry between 1941 and 1945 was to be murdered with minimal resistance. As Jews, we like to play up the heroes (for example, Israel's Holocaust Memorial Day is officially called Yom ha-Shoah ve-ha-Gevurah (Holocaust and Heroism Day)), but they are the exceptions, just as most of Spanish Jewry converted in 1492, rather than be expelled. To the extent that there was Jewish resistance, it was not mainly armed resistance, but took two other forms--negotiated resistance and simply trying to stay alive. I would recommend Isaiah Trunk's book Judenrat as to negotiated resistance, and survival as resistance speaks for itself.

(4) While I am pleased to see legal scholars venture into other areas, I am disturbed by what appears to be an attempt to conscript the Holocaust into a Second Amendment agenda. To an observer who does not have passionate feelings about a civilian right to bear arms, your argument looks as if it were driven by American politics. I say this because it is not a new discovery that there was armed Jewish resistance to the Holocaust. What seems to be novel in your article is the importance of weapons (something that the partisan survivors never harped on). But couldn't this be flipped to an argument against weaponry period? An unarmed Germany could never have carried out the Holocaust.
You've put forward a type of counterhistory argument: what if the Jews had guns. But there are so many other, more plausible counterhistories: what if Chamberlain had held firm over the Sudetenland, what if the Blitzkreig of 1940 failed, as it should have (see Ernest May, Strange Victory), or what if Hitler had been assassinated, or what if there had been no restrictions on immigration to Palestine, or what if Stalin hadn't decimated the Soviet officer corps in the late 30s. The Holocaust depended on an alignment of numerous historical factors. To pick the firearm angle out of all of these possibilities bespeaks an agenda unrelated to a neutral inquiry.
It is natural for us to use the past to bolster our current policy arguments, but when we wear the historian's hat, rather than the political advocate's hat, we should try to let the past speak on its own terms, not ours.
3.17.2006 10:47am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Anderson. Those groups you mention as pacifists are not pacifists. They oppose US military operations. They care not, or support by indirection and obfuscation and CPT-like and ISM-like tactics the military forces of our enemies.
They don't believe in pacifism. They use it against us in case we might be partly convinced.
I've talked with Bp. Bumbleton of the Pax Christi and asked him about their response to the Killing Fields. Nothing. No problem.
A group in Lansing, then organized by Fr. Peter Dougherty, trained to stop US imperialism, burbled one trainee, just at the time the Bosnians could have used some human shielding. Nope.
Liars. Morally corrupt. Not pacifists.
3.17.2006 10:50am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Justin writes:


Second of all, an argument that an armed Jewish population in 1932 in Germany, Poland, Russia, etc would have had a significant effect in decreasing the Jewish Holocaust is a weak argument, and that against a modern Western army, that argument is even weaker today.
Even in 1942, the German military was sufficiently technologically advancd that if your claim is true today, it would have been true back then.

Jews were not generally crowded together in a isolated areas across Europe. They lived sufficiently intermingled with Gentiles that the Germans could not just declare a particular spot a free fire zone and bomb it.

The German effort to exterminate Jews included confiscating their wealth--also preventing high technology extermination.

Thet net effect was that the Germans had to get up close and personal to the Jews to exterminate them--an ideal situation for small arms in the hands of the victims.

Now, there's no question that the German military would have a clear advantage over civilians armed at American levels. I think it would be unrealistic to assume that Jews would have defeated the German military (and their civilian auxillaries). But they sure would have raised the cost of the Holocaust. Resources lost fighting Jews would be resources not available to fight the Allies.

Furthermore, even at the start of the war, not every German supported Hitler. Dozens of uprisings across Germany by Jews would have encouraged larger resistance.
3.17.2006 10:56am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

I suspect that the useful like of such small arms is much more than that. If they are kept well, modern firearms last practically forever. The US government is selling 50 year old M1 Garand rifles via the CMP program and they are being snapped up by collectors and renovated, despite 50 years of indifferent treatment in foreign government armories.
A local gun collector showed me a Brown Bess musket. The Brown Bess was the standard military arm of the British Army during the American Revolution. Where did he get it? He purchased it from someone who captured it on the battlefield--in Vietnam.

Guns last a LONG time.
3.17.2006 11:00am
Freder Frederson (mail):
You disregard the power of pacifist movements. There were two great pacifist movements in the twentieth century, one that freed an entire subcontinent and probably saved literally millions of lives (Ghandi's nonviolent effort for independence from Britain) and the civil rights movement in the U.S. which certainly defused what could have torn this nation apart.

As for the notion that firearms in the hands of potential genocide victims will protect them, that is a dubious proposition at best. As alluded to in several posts, today's potential genocide victims may be tomorrow's terrorists (this is certainly what happened with the Taliban and everyone in Iraq owns an AK-47, even under Saddam, now they are being used against us.) For a bunch of lawyers, you sure have very little faith in the rule of law.

The Khmer Rouge was chronically short of firearms, and managed to carry out much of their genocide with shovels and strangulation. The victims could have fought back with garden tools, yet somehow up to 1/3 of the population was wiped out. The native population of this country often fought fiercely but the government never gave up and if the fight got too hard resorted to starvation to achieve their goals of genocide and subjugation. The Nazis were not averse to collective and proportional slaughter often killing 10 or 100 civilians for every German killed by partisans.

To say that genocide can be stopped by the presence of more guns in the hands of civilians is unrealistic, oversimplifies the situation, dishonors and blames the victims for not fighting back, and excuses the perpatrators.
3.17.2006 11:00am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Big Bill writes:


Yes, but the question remains: is it better to support free ownership of weapons for potential victims of genocide such as Jews, if that also means the free ownership of weapons by Christian peasantry, who are the traditional genocidal killers of Jews.

For if Jews can go about armed, then redneck American Christians can go about armed, and Jews would be grossly outnumbered.

Lets face it, the issue for Jews is whether the goyim can be trusted with guns, not whether Jews can be trusted with guns. Avoiding that simple fact for reasons of political correctness is silly.
I would like to think that Big Bill is actually a neo-Nazi posing as a Jew while making these remarks. But in the event that he isn't: Guess what? In America, the Christian peasantry is extremely well-armed. And where are the pogroms?
3.17.2006 11:03am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

But couldn't this be flipped to an argument against weaponry period? An unarmed Germany could never have carried out the Holocaust.
Governments, by definition, are armed. Even if Germany had not invaded other nations, it would still have had the police forces required to exterminate German Jews.

The point that Kopel and others are making is that it isn't just about the Holocaust. It is about the right of any minority group to defend itself against genocide--and there are plenty of examples besides the Holocaust where gun control was a precursor to genocide.
3.17.2006 11:06am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

You disregard the power of pacifist movements. There were two great pacifist movements in the twentieth century, one that freed an entire subcontinent and probably saved literally millions of lives (Ghandi's nonviolent effort for independence from Britain) and the civil rights movement in the U.S. which certainly defused what could have torn this nation apart.
Pacifist movements work against opponents with a conscience. In the case of India, there was a significant movement within Britain that opposed imperialism (the "Little Englanders"). Don't get too self-righteous about Gandhi, either. Indian manufacturers funded his efforts as part of their efforts to remove themselves from the British Empire's free trade zone. As one of them complained about the costs of supporting Gandhi's efforts, "It costs us millions for Gandhi to live in poverty."

In the case of the civil rights movement, there was a significant white Southern population that disapproved of the violence and barbarism of the Klan--and even a significant fraction of Southern whites who found segregation distasteful. (Even on pragmatic grounds, there were strong arguments against it--building an entire law school for five blacks so that they wouldn't attend the University of Texas Law School? Insane.) There was also a large white Northern population that found segregation an embarrassment.

Pacifism isn't intriniscally evil, but it needs to be used against the right enemies, or it becomes just a silly form of suicide.

My biggest objection isn't to pacifism, but to convenient pacifism--the sort that says that violence is wrong, and therefore the government will send out police officers to disarm civilians at gunpoint. This isn't pacifism; it is thuggery dressed up in respectable clothes.
3.17.2006 12:03pm
cfw (mail):
vet:

"The weapons and equipment found by my unit in Iraq were Warsaw Pact (Soviet bloc) and European made."

I suspect the CIA is and was a major buyer (or maker) of AK-47s that it can supply to places like Pakistan or Afganistan where M-16s might bar "plausible denials" by the US of arms supply.

When Rumsfeld went to Iraq and shook hands with Saddam in around 1983, I suspect he was preceded or followed by AK-47 sales from US to Iraq. Maybe not, but if he did not come bearing gifts, why would Saddam meet and greet?

CIA supply of US-financed weapons to Afganistan in the 70's and early 80's is, I believe, not reasonably disputed. I still worry about the Stingers supplied to shoot down Russian aircraft.

"In many cases, the equipment from Europe was better than that with which we (US military) were equipped."

Could be. I suspect the AK-47 is objectively better than the M16, and an RPG is hard to beat compared to a LAW (too light) or TOW (too heavy and expensive) missile, for use in places like Iraq.

Incidentally, thanks for rounding up weapons in Iraq and Afganistan!
3.17.2006 1:17pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
The point that Kopel and others are making is that it isn't just about the Holocaust. It is about the right of any minority group to defend itself against genocide--and there are plenty of examples besides the Holocaust where gun control was a precursor to genocide.

Well of course minority groups have the right to defend themselves against genocide. It is recognized as a fundamental human right and a justification for aggressive war. But the question posed if arming minorities will necessarily protect them genocide. This premise is questionable at best. Minorities, because of their status as minorities (and presumably if they are targets of genocide, their status as oppressed minorities) will always be outarmed and outnumbered by the majority population so inevitably a majority bent on genocide will succeed. Obviously, the first step will be to attempt to disarm the minority, probably in the phase when the potential genocide victims are can still be considered "terrorists" (let's say the British decided to exterminate the Irish Catholics, of course they would justify disarming the IRA on the basis of them being "terrorists"--see how difficult it is to separate today's terrorists from tomorrow's genocide victim)

The black population of the U.S. south was well armed and almost 30% of the population, but that didn't stop them from being regularly lynched and abused, including having entire communities burned to the ground and entire populations chased out of counties for almost 100 years in this country.
3.17.2006 1:26pm
josh:
what "myth" are you talking about? are u claiming a historical discussion of Sobibor and the Warsaw Ghetto uprising is something new????? Who are these people that deny some Jews rose up in the face of genocide???
3.17.2006 2:15pm
josh:
comparing victims of terrorism to holocaust victims is a little offensive. the use of an entire world-leading civilization to wipe out an entire race of people cannot compare to the acts of lone psychopaths, acts of which no one disputes the immorality.

as someone whose family tree was somewhat pruned by the holocaust, i find the comparison highly offensive
3.17.2006 2:17pm
subpatre (mail):
Freder Frederson wrote: "The black population of the U.S. south was well armed..."

Untrue, and negates the rest. The history of early gun control in the US is almost exclusively aimed at disenfranchising blacks or foreigners. See (you're gonna regret this) The Racist Roots of Gun Control by Cramer.

Firearms possession by blacks wasn't common. See Radio Free Dixie or Negroes with Guns for starters.
3.17.2006 2:19pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Josh,

lone psychopaths, acts of which no one disputes the immorality.

In a better world, I would be surprised that you said that. The psychopaths you speak of were just elected to lead the territory immediately next to the country inhabited by the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors (and victims). Genocide is their stated goal. Genocide, in particular, of Jews. Therefore I fail to see why you see the parallel drawn by Kopel as anything but apt.
3.17.2006 2:29pm
john w. (mail):
Here is one criticism of the article (based on a fast speed-reading only)>>

I don't think you do a good enough job of de-bunking the commonly-held argument that a bunch of yokels with squirrel guns can't possibly defeat a superpower, blah, blah, blah... You ought to explicitly point out that the "embattled farmers" don't have to DEFEAT the superpower; all they have to do is to raise the cost of oppression until it is no longer in the oppressors' self-interest.

This point may seem intuitively obvious to you &me &Clayton Cramer, and any other 'Red-State' American gun owner; but it is not obvious to Socialists - especially to non-Americans.

By the way: I don't have the exact reference, but isn't there a famous quote from Solzhenitsyn in "The Gulag Archipeligo" to the effect that " ... If only we had offered armed resistance at the very beginning...." (If anybody knows what I'm referring to, could you post the full quote &citation, Thanx.)


[DK: I'm posting this a couple days after your original comment. Here's the Solzhenitsyn quote I think you were referring to. Note that Solzhenitsyn isn't talking about resisting the Communist take-over in the first place, since he was obviously well aware tht there was a civil war after 1917. Instead, he's talking about individual/family resistance to Stalin rounding up victims for the Gulag:

"And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand? After all, you knew ahead of time that those bluecaps were out at night for no good purpose. And you could be sure ahead of time that you'd be cracking the skull of a cutthroat. Or what about the Black Maria sitting out there on the street with one lonely chauffeur -- what if it had been driven off or its tire spiked? The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin's thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt!
If … if… We didn't love freedom enough. And even more—we had no awareness of the real situation."
3.17.2006 4:05pm
Enoch:
You disregard the power of pacifist movements. There were two great pacifist movements in the twentieth century, one that freed an entire subcontinent and probably saved literally millions of lives (Ghandi's nonviolent effort for independence from Britain)

Gandhi's pacifism did not defeat the British Empire and liberate India - the Germans and the Japanese did. If Britain had not been exhausted militarily, politically, economically, and psychologically by her hegemonic struggle with the Germans and Japanese, India would never have gained independence in 1947. The British could have held India for a LONG time if all they had to contend with was a 1930s-style "nonviolence" campaign.

It is also worth noting that whether or not the liberation of India "saved literally millions of lives", it indisputably COST literally millions of lives during the partition. Massive violence and slaughter was the immediate result of India's "liberation".

The Khmer Rouge was chronically short of firearms, and managed to carry out much of their genocide with shovels and strangulation. The victims could have fought back with garden tools, yet somehow up to 1/3 of the population was wiped out. The native population of this country often fought fiercely but the government never gave up and if the fight got too hard resorted to starvation to achieve their goals of genocide and subjugation. The Nazis were not averse to collective and proportional slaughter often killing 10 or 100 civilians for every German killed by partisans.

This is hardly an argument against arming the potential victims.
3.17.2006 4:54pm
Jack (mail) (www):
David:

Very inspiring article.

I must concur with Roy, however: the Evil Jews section does not fit with the tone of the rest of the article and is a big deterrent, especially coming at the begining. As some of the comments above indicate, people of the opinion you are targeting in that section are not very likely to read an article on resisting the Nazis to begin with. Furthermore, the point of that section is somewhat redundant as you make the same point more subtly, and much more persuasively, throughout the rest of the article. Do you really want to antagonize those few pacifists who might otherwise have continued reading?
3.17.2006 9:43pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Firearms possession by blacks wasn't common. See Radio Free Dixie or Negroes with Guns for starters.

Your cites don't prove a thing. The first article deals mostly with antebellum laws and the second with extreme black activist organizations in the sixties. Rural southern blacks (and whites)--which was the vast majority of the population and the most oppressed--almost universally owned firearms for hunting. If you don't know this, then you don't know anything about the history of the south.
3.18.2006 10:06am
subpatre (mail):
Freder Frederson wrote: "The first article deals mostly with antebellum laws and the second..."

Neither are articles, neither is about what you claim. Both are books, RFD is one of the better researched in the field.

".... then you don't know anything about the history of the south."

Wrong again. I was here --in the rural South-- at the time, just as I am today. I remember. Tyson's book is excellent, primary-source documentation of what actually happened.

Firearms ownership by blacks, rural or otherwise, wasn't universal; not even a majority.

Frederson's ad hominem is not only uncalled for, but is thoroughly wrong.
3.18.2006 5:48pm
Michael Kielsky (mail) (www):
Typo noted on the bottom of page 8 of the PDF, second sentence of second-to-last paragraph:

"Many Jews failed to realize until too that Hitler was different from their previous enemies" should probably read "Many Jews failed to realize until too late that Hitler was different from their previous enemies"

I quite enjoyed the article.
3.19.2006 1:54am