Friday, January 11, 2013

In the ghetto

In an age where degeneracy is a television programming strategy, and the gifts of God – things like life and liberty – are largely considered disposable, it doesn't pay to be easily shocked. Shock clouds the thinking, slows the hand, blunts the will. But every now and then, however callused or inured to the base state of the world one may imagine oneself to be, one finds that shock is still possible.

So I was, I confess, shocked when I read Alex Seitz-Wald’s piece in today’s Salon Magazine. Purporting to take on the historical inaccuracy of those who would compare modern gun control efforts to those in the middle of the last century in Germany, Seitz-Wald sets out an analysis in which he submits that Adolf Hitler’s regime actually loosened gun laws for most Germans – excepting only those who were also objects of the Final Solution. Thus, Seitz-Wald argues Hitler's targeted gun ban just isn't an apposite argument for  gun rights advocates.

"The law did prohibit Jews and other persecuted classes from owning guns, but this should not be an indictment of gun control in general. Does the fact that Nazis forced Jews into horrendous ghettos indict urban planning?*"

If that were all Seitz-Wald had said, I’d just have considered him a sarcastic, silly, intellectually dishonest hack. Nothing shocking in that. But that’s not all he said. It’s what followed that left me gasping, angry, sad. Seitz-Wald went on to argue that, as it happened, guns wouldn't have done Jews much good anyway, what with the efficiency of the German war machine and the depth of the Nazi’s commitment to genocide, so what matter if Jews were -- or, presumably, you are -- prohibited from having them.  In support, he suggests we consider the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, where some Jews did manage to get a hold of firearms and used them to contend for their lives. The math there was pretty simple, Seitz-Wald points out:

"In reality, only about 20 Germans were killed, while some 13,000 Jews were massacred. The remaining 50,000 who survived were promptly sent off to concentration camps."

Thus Seitz-Wald’s core premise is that there is no difference between, on the one hand, passively and helplessly submitting to the extermination of yourself and your entire people, and, on the other, dying while resisting that extermination. I cannot recall reading a more degenerate, dehumanizing and tragic statement anywhere, ever. 

That it should come to this, that an American who rises and sleeps under the veil of liberty** for which millions have sacrificed their lives, could entertain such a sentiment – or could put it in writing – or could see it published – inclines me toward despair for this nation and its people.

Many of Robert’s Rules shouldn't really need stating at all. I’d have thought that “Morals Matter More Than Math,” would have been among those.

One moral choice a human being is sometimes afforded, one moment that matters a lot, is how one dies. Not that we all are given the opportunity to die well: circumstances or evil men can render our death humiliating, or irrelevant, or random, or ironic, or even comic. Not that all those given such an opportunity do the best with it: courage fails, will weakens; we disgrace ourselves. But man is the only animal who knows that he will die, who can grasp at all what dying means. Thus every man who wishes to hold himself even a bit above the animals knows that it matters how he dies.

Or so I would have thought.

A Prime Minister of Israel once told me: "Do you know what it means that there is an Israel? It means this: It means that if there had been an Israel in 1942, and if Israel had an air force, and if the air force of the state of Israel consisted of one rickety biplane, the pilot of that biplane would have died bombing the railroad track to Auschwitz. That's what the state of Israel means -- and end to powerlessness."

I don't think this man suffered from an inability to figure arithmetic, or was ignorant of effective military tactics. I would have liked for Seitz-Wald to have spoken to that man.

But I have a feeling it wouldn't have done much good.

* The italics are Seitz-Wald's. I tend to read that sentence as "[Well OK-- sure  -- whatever -- if you want to be technical about it -- yeah] the law did prohibit to Jews. . . "

** Due credit to Col. Nathan R. Jessup.



  1. The few Jews who took up arms against the Nazi's in the Warsaw ghetto in Poland managed to hold out for 28 days. The entire nation of Poland fell in less than 2 weeks under the superior German army and its "Blitzkrieg" style of battle. That lasted over twice as long, in a portion of a city shaped like a figure "8".

    These were not warriors, the only thing they brought to the table was an advanced education, many were college professors and most had collegiate education. However they had no firearms experience, and no military experience. None. An American male youth of about 16 years of age who has hunted since age 12, is a firearms and tactical expert compared to these resistance fighters. The European Jewish culture shunned guns and violence, and literally jumped through hoops to obey every asinine gun control law their was. Their law abiding nature and submission to authority did not serve them well.

    Imagine if each Jewish member of the Warsaw ghetto had firearms training and militia experience like the Swiss people have, The Nazi's would not have taken Poland to begin with, let alone that ghetto.

    About 400 people a year a murdered with rifles, not assault weapons but "rifles". The number murdered with the type of firearms currently being considered for a ban or restriction is much lower.

    So are we going to ignore human rights, the constitution and recent the history of repeated genocide, and pass feel good legislation at the potential risk of a future genocide? Hymmmmm......

  2. Sadly, Anonymous at 7:21, it appears to me that that is EXACTLY what our putative rulers believe they are going to do.

    Your comment is exceedingly cogent, both with respect to what it looked like to take guns away from those eager to do so, and what it may look like trying the same with a less pliable population.

  3. This has got to be the lamest response to an article that I've ever seen! Guns in civilian hands matter because we should be able to choose how we die? No, they matter because as Mao said "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." Please read the Founders on the idea that there should be no standing army but instead a militia. That's what went wrong in Nazi Germany. Don't argue for civilian guns to balance out the govt's guns, argue for a disarmed govt.

    Here's a great place to start learning:

    Henry's speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention (1788) by Patrick Henry

  4. Darren, I can only presume you didn't read Seitz-Wald's piece, or that you did and are being intentionally disingenuous. Seitz-Wald's rejection of gun rights advocates' invocation of Hitler as an example of gun control as a means of evil rests in large part on Seitz-Wald's contention that guns in the hands of Germany Jewry wouldn't have made much of a difference, that resistance was futile. I can't deny for sure that he's right about the futility -- the Bielski Brothers might have something to say on the subject -- I'm merely saying futility isn't relevant.

    I am certainly not suggesting that the opportunity for futile resistance is the REASON "civilians" (interesting choice of words there, Darren) should be armed. What you call civilians, what I call human beings, should be armed because their lives are a gift of God which that have a fundamental right to defend and firearms are an important factor in the complex calculus required to figure the best defense. (You can read elsewhere in this blog and see that I hardly think firearms are the only, or even most important, factor.)

    As for your condescending suggestion that I "start learning," I will say that my study of the history of the Second Amendment has been extensive -- though I suppose no one can ever say such reading is ever complete. The ability of the citizen to resist tyranny -- however effectively -- was at the heart of the intent of most of the Founders who found the Amendment worth discussing (since most found it entirely uncontroversial). I trust you also know what George Mason said at the selfsame ratification convention on the subject what comprised the militia. ( And I trust you have read District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), now the law of the land. If not, both are great places to start learning.

  5. I realize this whole discussion is not about the numbers, but Seitz-Wald stating that only 20 Germans were killed during the uprising is grossly inaccurate. The actual number is closer to 300. It's easy to learn from reputable sources including the Jewish Virtual Library and even United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (see reference below). That latter organization actually states something that was much more important. That the uprising itself meant so much to the Jews at the time that it gave them hope to continue to resist. I quote from their online article: The Warsaw ghetto uprising was the largest, symbolically most important Jewish uprising, and the first urban uprising, in German-occupied Europe. The resistance in Warsaw inspired other uprisings in ghettos (e.g., Bialystok and Minsk) and killing centers (Treblinka and Sobibor). (See entire article here:

    So if it was up to Seitz-Wald, the Jews in Warsaw and other places should have just let themselves be rounded up and murdered because resistance was futile. His lack of scholarship aside, he really misses the point behind resisting tyranny be it in 1940's Warsaw or the 18th century British colonies.

  6. Exactly correct, Anonymous at 11:52.

    Accounts of the ghetto rising actually differ even more widely than that about the number of Germans killed. The Germans didn't have any interest in reporting higher numbers than that and all the ZOB and ZZW fighters who might have offered contesting figures died in the rising or the camps. And there's no doubt that one contemporary effect was to inspire or encourage other resistance.

    I questioned whether to expand the post with some of that but, as you note, my central point is that it doesn't matter. The Salon article has received some attention, and it's sad evidence, if any were needed, that when the choice is to die on one's feet or live on one's knees, there are plenty of folks for whom the latter really is preferable to the former. (Any doubt of that can be dispelled by reading the comments to the Salon article.)

  7. From a purely military viewpoint, the Warsaw Ghetto uprising was a slap in the face of the Wehrmacht. No more than 500 poorly armed urban guerrillas managed to counter 2,800 direct troops and contain another 7,000 for a month and a half.

    But I guess nowadays some people still choose to appease the tiger in order to be eaten last, Mr.Seitz Hyphen Wald being one of them.

  8. Wonderful response to those stupid comments from Seitz-Wald. It's an argument that seems to take place whenever the issue of gun control comes up, and Mr. Kuntz takes it on beautifully. One thing we can be certain of: just as the sun follows the rain, political opponents to the government will eventually be marched off to labor camps for "re-education" or worse. The idea that somehow we have somehow become more "civilized" is ludicrous. The worst elements of society always scratch their way to the top, and make life miserable for those of us who just want to be left alone to live our lives as we see fit.

  9. "If every Jewish and anti-nazi family in Germany had owned a Mauser rifle and
    twenty rounds of ammunition and the will to use it, Adolf Hitler would be a
    little-known footnote to the history of the Weimar Republic."

    -- Aaron Zelman