A Facebook page purporting to be that of the Republican Party of Virginia Beach promoted a controversial and debunked theory over the weekend claiming that the Holocaust could have been thwarted if the Jewish people had guns.
The post garnered nearly 900 shares and 400 likes as of Sunday afternoon, but the chairwoman of the Republican Party of Virginia Beach said the page was a copycat and not the official party Facebook, and she denounced its contents.
Party chairman Tina Mapes called the post “horrible.” She said the copycat page often posts comments that the official Republican Party of Virginia Beach disagrees with.
“I think that post is horribly insensitive,” Mapes said. “There were a lot of things going on during that time. I just think that post was completely out of line.”
The Saturday morning missive was addressed to the hundreds of thousands of students who have walked out of school in recent weeks in support of the victims of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting and to rally for stricter gun laws. It was posted alongside a photograph hundreds of shoes belonging to Holocaust victims.
“These are the shoes of Jews that gave up there firearms to Hitler. They where led into gas chambers, murdered and buried in mass graves,” the post read. “Pick up a history book and study the US Constitution, and you’ll realize what happens when you give up freedoms and why we have them.”
It’s a theory that has been repeated — and debunked — repeatedly since the Parkland shootings.
In February, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) came under fire after he argued that Jews could have averted the Holocaust if they’d been armed.
“How many millions of people were shot and killed because they were unarmed? Fifty million in Russia,” Young was quoted as saying.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson linked the Holocaust with U.S. gun control laws when he was running for president in 2015.
The Facebook post received swift backlash from users, who called it “offensive” and noted that history doesn’t support the claim.
“Using this to define the gun problem we have here is shameful, one Facebook user said. “More republican scare tactics.”
The man who runs the page, James Cohen, said he runs multiple Facebook pages and is active on message boards. He said someone else accidentally posted the Holocaust item on his Virginia Beach Republicans page. The post had been removed by Sunday evening.
The official page of the local party is Republican Party of Virginia Beach. However, Cohen’s page, which looks official, has more than three times as many followers as the real party page. Mapes said she has previously attempted to get Cohen to rename his page to avoid confusion.
Cohen said the Holocaust item was intended to be posted as a comment on a Israel-focused online forum.
“That should have been commentary on a closed discussion group,” Cohen said.
Republican Rep. Scott Taylor, whose district includes Virginia Beach, wrote on Facebook Sunday afternoon that he has fielded messages from constituents about the post.
He called the post “insensitive” and urged people to follow the Republican Party’s official page.
The argument that gun laws in Nazi Germany prevented Jews from fighting back is not new, but it has grown louder in the wake of the Parkland shootings, which left 17 students and staffers dead on Feb. 14. The shooting reinvigorated all sides of the gun debate, culminating in a massive student-led march in the nation’s capital on March 24 demanding action against gun violence.