It didn’t surprise me when Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson raised the specter of the Holocaust following the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. As we all know Carson made the case last week that if Jews had been armed before the Second World War, fewer of them would have died in the concentration camps. To be precise, Carson said, “I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed.”
It was a peculiar comment for two reasons. First, Jews (at least those in Germany) were already a despised people despite representing less than 1% of the population. The vast of majority of Germans enthusiastically supported Hitler stripping Jews of their property. Even if Jews had been armed who among their fellow Germans was going to help them?
Second, there were Jews who did arm themselves. Of course, there were substantially more Jews in Poland than there were in Germany. As such we must never forget the Warsaw Ghetto uprisings. While a valiant effort was ultimately insufficient against the power of the Nazis who succeeded in conquering nearly all of Europe. A few guns are no match for tanks. It was going to take an army to stop the Nazis. Lots of armies as it turned out.
The reason I am not surprised that Carson would raise the Holocaust is because he has made several references to Nazi Germany over the past year or so. In January 2014, Carson invoked Nazi Germany while speaking at a fundraiser for Oregon GOP Senatorial candidate Monica Wehby:
There comes a time when people with values simply have to stand up. Think about Nazi Germany. Most of those people did not believe in what Hitler was doing. But did they speak up? Did they stand up for what they believe in? They did not, and you saw what happened. And if you believe that same thing can’t happen again, you’re very wrong. But we’re not going to let it happen.
In February 2014, Carson told Newsmax TV with regard to the behavior of the IRS, “We live in a Gestapo age.” During a speech in New York in March 2014, Carson claimed our government and institutions were “very much like Nazi Germany.” He went on to say, “You had the government using its tools to intimidate the population. We now live in a society where people are afraid to say what they actually believe.” Carson pretty much said the same thing to Ben Terris of the Washington Postin August 2014 while at a GOP fundraiser in Iowa:
You can’t dance around it. If people look at what I said and were not political about it, they’d have to agree. Most people in Germany didn’t agree with what Hitler was doing.… Exactly the same thing can happen in this country if we are not willing to stand up for what we believe in.
In December 2014, Carson told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer he would not take back his various Nazi analogies stating the federal government “is using instruments of government, like the IRS, to punish its opponents.” Carson added, “You are just focusing on the words ‘Nazi Germany’ and completely missing the point of what is being said.” Carson’s views can pretty much be summed up with what he told Breitbart News in March 2014, “I know you’re not supposed to say Nazi Germany, but I don’t care about political correctness.”
This has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with a basic understanding of 20th century history. Dr. Carson can tell us that we are too narrowly focused on the words “Nazi Germany” and missing the point of what he is saying all he wants. Well, too damn bad. I grew up knowing Holocaust survivors who saw their families murdered in front of them in concentration camps. When you invoke Nazi Germany you invoke everything that is associated with their unique brand of evil.
Now by all means please criticize the Obama Administration. The IRS is undeniably heavy handed with conservative activists, but its tactics are more Chicago than Chelmno. Conservatives in America are not being rounded up and sent to their deaths in gas chambers. For Carson to so casually suggest that America is the second coming of Nazi Germany suggests someone who is simply ignorant of history, perhaps even willfully so. The Nazis aimed to take over Europe and the world. The Obama Administration is retreating from the world as we are presently witnessing in Syria. Their conduct in the Iran nuclear deal resembles that of Chamberlain, not Hitler. The United States isn’t Nazi Germany. Not even close.
Let me put it another way, if America was, in Carson’s words, “very much like Nazi Germany” there would be no Tea Party, no Breitbart, no Newsmax, no National Review and no American Spectator. The Internet would be censored and gatherings of conservative activists would not be publicly advertised. Conservatives would meet in secret at the risk of their very lives. If America was very much like Nazi Germany, Dr. Carson would be in prison or dead. He would not be invited by the White House to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast.
Carson’s Nazi analogies are what I would expect of people on the Left who during the Bush Administration regularly compared President Bush and his family to the Third Reich even blaming them for their rise to power. Remember when Illinois Senator Dick Durbin likened the treatment of Gitmo detainees to those imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps? In October 2007, I spent an evening listening to feminist author Naomi Wolf telling people how the Bush Administration planned to turn America into Nazi Germany. She did this at Harvard Bookstore surrounded by books critical of the Bush Administration. When I pointed this out to her, she began shouting at me.
Ben Carson doesn’t raise his voice like Naomi Wolf, but the ideas he expresses are not far removed from hers where it concerns America and Nazi Germany. When Carson invokes the Nazis, he stoops her level and that of much of the Left. It is not too late for him to reverse course.
Whatever his reasons, Dr. Carson’s obsession with likening America to Nazi Germany isn’t a healthy one. In which case, there’s a very good chance that his cure for America would be worse than the disease.