Exclusive to The Zelman Partisans
My wife and I attend get-togethers of her extended family, a fairly large clan, almost all of whom are urban or suburban Reform Jews, many with non-Jewish spouses. Her family is pleasant, intelligent, fun to talk to, and polite. And largely liberal. While there is little overt criticism of my libertarian politics, or my stance in support of the Second Amendment, few of her family are comfortable talking about guns; they used to view my JPFO pin more than a little askance. ( I no longer wear it, for reasons every TZP reader understands.) At one of these gatherings some years back, I was privileged to be seated next to one of my wife’s aunts, a beautiful and bright woman who converted to Judaism when she married.
As soon as she was seated next to me, she turned and said, “ Historian, did you know that there are instructions on how to build bombs, and make poison gas, and MACHINE GUNS on the Internet?”
“Well, yes, Aunt Marie, I do; there are books published on all those topics and more besides, and I own some of them.”
“That’s outrageous,” she spluttered, “absolutely outrageous!”
“ Aunt Marie,” I began diplomatically, ‘We’re Americans, and we have the right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Besides which, lots of people already know how to make those kinds of things. You can’t repress the knowledge even if you tried.”
“Ridiculous,” she snorted,”Nobody needs to know to know how to build weapons!”
A bit nettled, I leaned toward her and said, “Aunt Marie, why don’t you tell that to the Jews in Warsaw?”
She looked puzzled, and said “The Jews in Warsaw? Historian, I’ve been to Warsaw, and there aren’t any Jews in Warsaw!”
Her gun-owning Jewish husband leaned over to her and very quietly murmured into her ear “Dear, I think you had better quit while you are behind.”
Starting in the Middle Ages, Poland was a refuge for Jews, being the most religiously tolerant European country up until the 17th Century. Even after the Russian takeover of Poland, and the rise of anti-semitism, Poland generally and Warsaw particularly were still friendly to Jews; while estimates vary, over 300,000 Jews lived in Warsaw ( about 3.3 million in Poland) before the start of World War II.
After Poland was invaded by the Russians and the Germans, and divided between them, Warsaw became the site of the largest of several ghettos, where Polish Jews were confined before being shipped to extermination camps. Hundreds of thousands of people were sent from Warsaw to the East for ‘resettlement’ in 1942. In reality, these people were sent to Treblinka and murdered, but since the government controlled the press, few knew.
In April of 1943, the SS again entered the Warsaw Ghetto to send more Jews to Treblinka for extermination, but this time, the Jews knew where they were to be sent, and with death as their only alternative, they resisted. Estimates vary widely, but according to the sources I have read, there were almost certainly fewer than a thousand guns in the Ghetto, probably less than three hundred, most of which were small caliber pistols and revolvers with just a very few rifles, probably less than a couple of dozen all told.
In the event, after a month of fierce resistance, dozens to several hundred German troops were dead, and the Warsaw Ghetto was burnt to the ground. Few of the about 60,000 Jews left in Warsaw in April 1943 escaped the Nazis, and fewer still survived the war. In 1938, there were as many as 330,000 Jews in Warsaw. Today, in 2015, there are about 2,000; just after the War, there were perhaps 150 or 200 Jews left.
It is impossible to truly comprehend the magnitude of this horror, but the following is just one tiny taste.
My two nephews read their Bar Mitzvah text from a rescued Polish Torah scroll recovered after World War II and sent here to these presently united States. I asked the rabbi whether she knew exactly where the scroll came from, or anything about the history of this Torah, and she did not. So many were lost, and so much was lost with them. It was deeply moving and wonderful to see this beautiful handmade three hundred year old scroll inscribed with the words of Torah, and at the same time it was heartbreaking to realize that no living person would ever know how it came to be, who scribed it, how it survived, who hid it, or how it survived to be brought here to these presently united States. It was enough to make an Historian weep. One Torah, from the thousands that existed in prewar Poland, from one of the thousands of Jewish congregations that are no more.
I wonder, if we could ask them, what the Jews of Warsaw would say to us about needing to know how to make and use weapons. I wonder, if the dead could speak, what they would say about the wisdom of allowing those who seek power over others to take your weapons from you. I wonder whether they would protest against people having books on marksmanship, or ammunition reloading, or on making bombs. I wonder whether they came to understand that it is not the weapon but the wielder that is good or evil.
It has been said that history does not exactly repeat itself, but it often rhymes. Today, Europe is again under attack. Collectivism is again on the march. One has only to watch the online video and read the eyewitness reports to understand that. My understanding is that in Europe today, there is not a gun or ammunition to be had; reports I have read online say that there is a 12 week backlog for rifles and shotguns in those places, such as Austria, where (some) guns may legally be purchased. Yet those who resist can protect themselves only by permission, not by right. Those who protest this invasion are persecuted, thrown into jail for telling the truth.
I wonder, if we could ask them, what the Jews of Warsaw circa April 1943 would say about this ongoing Islamic invasion? I wonder what the Jews of Warsaw would say about free people being imprisoned for their opinions, about being kept helpless in the face of those who would destroy them? What would the Jews of Warsaw say about these insidious attacks here in these presently united States on our Bill of Rights, on our right to free speech, freedom of the press, and especially about our right to own, carry, buy, sell, trade, or loan weapons and ammunition? What would the Jews of Warsaw say to those who refuse to criticize their government?
My curiosity must remain forever unsatisfied, for as my aunt unknowingly said, those Jews are dead. They cannot answer my questions, and their stories will remain forever untold; I can never know what they might say.
But I do know what I say. I say that government exists to protect the rights of individuals, and for no other purpose. I say that all of the powers that legitimate government wields come from the individuals governed, and with their consent. I say that violations of our rights, including but not limited to our rights to free speech, a free press, the right to own and carry weapons of all sorts must be resisted by any means necessary.
To the forces of tyranny, in memory of the dead Jews of Warsaw, I say “Never again.”
What do YOU say?
With regard to all who serve the Light,
Historian is a middle aged grouchy engineer, who writes about the history of liberty and politics. His web log may be found at www.libertyhollow.weebly.com.
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