Earlier this week, in response to the renewed national debate on gun violence, U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, implied that the Jews could have escaped the atrocities of the Holocaust, if only they had had guns to defend themselves. Young’s exact words were, “How many Jews were put in the ovens because they were unarmed?” Let me be clear, the systematic extermination of 6 million European Jews did not occur because the Jews were unarmed. The Holocaust occurred because of the distinct evil of the Nazi regime, rampant anti-Semitism across Europe, and the unwillingness of decent, moral people to stand up and speak out against genocide.
Young’s statement should be deeply offensive to Jews and non-Jews alike, not simply because of the insensitivity of his language or the fact that Young is using the victims of a genocide to score political points. Young’s statement should also offend all free-thinking people because it is factually and logically untrue.
During the Holocaust there were some cases, such as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Jewish Partisan resistance, in which Jews exhibited tremendous bravery, using guns and other weapons in an effort to slow the Nazis’ progress toward their Final Solution. However, the Nazi war machine flattened much of Europe and North Africa and decimated some of the largest and most powerful armies the world had ever seen. It is simply a fantasy to believe that Europe’s Jews, armed with handguns and rifles, could have protected themselves against their Nazi oppressors.
Young is certainly entitled to his position opposing additional restrictions on gun purchases in the United States. However, for him to use the death of 6 million innocent Jews (especially in a factually incorrect manner) for his own political gain is a tremendous insult to the survivors of the Holocaust and to the memory of those who died.
Young is the only voice representing Alaska in the U.S. House of Representatives. The people of Alaska deserve better from a leader who speaks in their name.