Thursday, September 01, 2005

The power of an armed citizenry

When Hitler invaded Poland, he immediately banned all civilians from owning weapons. All privately owned firearms were seized, and hash punishment was instituted for anyone found to be in possession of a firearm. A few individuals defied this ban and hid away their guns.

In 1942, German troops occupying Poland deported about 350,000 Jews from Warsaw to Treblinka, a Nazi death camp. When word of the mass murder leaked back to Warsaw, a handful of Jewish civilians decided to resist future deportations. Between them, they had two handguns, a rifle, and about one hundred rounds of ammunition. The resistance began with a series of surprise attacks on small groups of German soldiers. The main purpose of these attacks was to secure more weapons to arm the resistance. In January of 1943, resistance fighters staged the first large-scale attack, firing on German solders as they tried to round up Jews and force them into box cars for deportation. After several days of fighting, the Germans retreated. Emboldened by this victory, the resistance grew, and by April there were 750 armed fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto resistance.

On April 19, 1943 German troops entered the Warsaw Ghetto to remove the remaining residents. The resistance fought hard, and inflicted heavy losses on the German army. Although they were vastly outnumbered by the heavily armed and well trained Germans, the resistance held off the German attack for 27 days. In the end, the Germans were forced to burn large parts of the Ghetto to the ground and commit a large portion of their forces to crush the resistance of these brave Jews who stood up against one of the most evil and powerful aggressors in history. In the end, 56,000 Jews were captured in the Ghetto. 7,000 of them were shot on the spot, and the rest were sent to Nazi death camps or concentration camps. However, thousands were able to escape as a result of the resistance.

It is remarkable that a few civilians with three guns were able to hold off the German army for longer than the entire Polish military. It took just 26 days for the Nazis to invade and capture the entire country of Poland, but the Ghetto resistance held out against a full-scale assault for 27 days. One has to wonder how history would have been altered if people by the hundreds of thousands had defied Hitler's attempt to disarm them, and had instead taken up arms against him. It also makes me wonder why people today are so happy to have their right to keep and bear arms stripped away, rendering us unable to resist whatever tyranny attempts to rob us of our freedom.

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