Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States. — Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, 1787
DATELINE: Warsaw, Poland, 1943
In the Spring of 1943, the inhabitants of the Warsaw Ghetto, having become aware the Nazis were deporting the remaining Jews to the gas chambers of Treblinka, took up arms, whatever they could ﬁnd, and rebelled against the German occupiers. These determined insurgents had only homemade Molotov cocktails and a handful of small arms, revolvers, pistols, and a few military or hunting riﬂes. It took vastly superior Nazi forces to subdue the rebels, and the Germans suffered up to 300 casualties in pacifying the city.(1)
There were several other armed struggles and Ghetto uprisings, and the Poles and Warsaw remained a serious problem for the Germans during the remainder of the war. The Polish Jews continued to procure whatever arms they could find to defend themselves in their struggle, repeatedly disrupting the timetable of the Nazi high command and the German war effort.
The last major Polish uprising in August 1944 was to be launched in concert with the liberating Soviet Red Army. But the advancing Red juggernaut suddenly and inexplicably halted. Advised by General Georgi Zhukov, Stalin rejected the appeals of the Western allies to assist the insurgents. For two months the courageous Poles fought the Nazis in heroic, urban warfare without any assistance. Stalin had simply halted the advance of the giant Red Army to allow the Germans to destroy the non-communist freedom fighters: 200,000 Poles perished and 800,000 were deported to the death camps.(2) Warsaw was erased by orders of Adolf Hitler, and the Soviets at the outskirts of the city did nothing.(3)
DATELINE: Budapest, Hungary, 1944
During the summer of 1944 in the ongoing carnage of World War II, German troops were retreating on multiple fronts. Hungarian allied troops were defending the motherland from the onslaught of the Soviet Red Army, yet in the midst of the chaos, nearly 500,000 Hungarian Jews were rounded up and deported to the Nazi death camp Auschwitz–Birkenau, where 90% of them were summarily exterminated in the gas chambers. A reign of terror ensued for those who remained in Hungary; thousands of them were tortured, robbed, or murdered; Jewish women were raped; property was looted or conﬁscated.(4) These atrocities were carried out with a minimum of Nazi troops. While seated in a restored synagogue in Budapest a few months ago, a friend of mine listened in utter disbelief as this story was recounted. How could this have happened? How could these atrocities have been carried out with only a minimum of Nazi troops? The Hungarian state had outlawed the possession of firearms for its citizens. Simply put, this happened without resistance because the Hungarian people had been disarmed.
DATELINE: Havana, Cuba, 1959
And here is a story with which I am intimately familiar. After the triumph of the revolution in 1959, Fidel Castro reneged on his promise to establish democracy in Cuba. In response, the Revolutionary Directorate (RD), the opposing, non-communist group, threatened to renew the insurrection against the Castro brothers’ revolutionary government. To back their demands with substance or perhaps even expecting a showdown, the RD seized arms from the San Antonio de los Baños Air Force Base in the western part of the island.
Fidel Castro reacted characteristically in a speech at the Maestre Barracks of San Ambrosio, artfully commanding the situation by accusing the RD of seizing the arms and then, in a masterpiece of rhetoric, asking: Armas ¿para que? ¿Para luchar contra quién? ¿Contra el gobierno revolucionario, que tiene el apoyo del pueblo? ("Guns, for what? To fight against whom? Against the Revolutionary government that has the support of the people?")
Fidel Castro defused the situation and neutralized the defiance of the RD. Shortly thereafter, Castro commenced his long-term campaign to disarm not only his confreres in the Revolutionary Directorate who had not joined him, but also, in due time, all Cubans. A 100,000-member "militia" was organized to seek out the political opposition and actively disarm it.
Unfortunately, they had a well-drawn blueprint to follow — the local firearm registration lists that the former dictator, Fulgencio Batista, had established. All the milicianos had to do was to seize the registration (licensing) lists and then go door to door searching for and confiscating firearms. The militia tried to disarm my father, a physician, and the episode is recounted in my book Cuba in Revolution — Escape from a Lost Paradise (2002).(5)
During the Batista dictatorship (1953-1958), Cubans were free to leave the country with family, personal possessions, and their wealth, anytime they wished, but not so in communist Cuba.
Since Fidel Castro took over the island in 1959, the best figures we can glean are that between 30,000 and 40,000 Cubans were either executed en los paredones de fusilamiento (on the firing squad wall) or died at the hands of their communist jailers. Between 1960-1965, hundreds of anti-communist rebels, many of them former RD members, went back to the hills of the Escambray Mountains in my native Las Villas province to fight the new communist dictatorship of the Castro brothers. The mostly peasant insurgents, who were defending their lands, lacked sufficient weapons to overcome the well-armed, communist Cuban military forces. Thus, most of these peasant insurgents were annihilated by 1966.(4-6)
Moreover, between 1960 and 1993, 36,000 Cubans perished at sea trying to escape the Castro brothers' communist inferno. If we include all of those who died escaping the regime, those who were shot or died in custody, the figure well exceeds 100,000. In fact, the late scholar Armando Lago arrived at a death toll of 105,000 victims directly attributed to the regime of Fidel Castro.(4,5)
Countless thousands of other Cubans have died indirectly as a result of Fidel Castro's collectivist policies, unspeakable privations, malnutrition, and the general desolation of a once prosperous island — the island Christopher Columbus called the "Pearl of the Antilles."
Lessons to be learned
One day, as it happened in the Soviet Union, we will learn the truth, and more accurate numbers will be available, recording the full extent of the brutality and destruction wrought by communism in Cuba. One reason this happened and Cuba today remains a totalitarian state despite the collapse of Soviet communism is because the Cuban people were disarmed.(4-6)
In Part III of this essay will conclude with the troubling historical relationship of civilian disarmament to the development of tyrannical governments and genocide. In a better light, Part III of this essay will also end with a discussion of how armed citizens can preserve their freedom and republican form of self-government, more commonly referred to as representative democracy.
1. Edelman M. The Ghetto Fights: Warsaw, 1941–43. London, England, Bookmarks Publications, 1990.
2. Blejwas S. A heroic uprising in Poland and Kojder A, Wegierski M. The Role of Poland and the Poles in World War II. The Polish American Journal, August 15, 2004. Available from: http://www.polamjournal.com/Library/APHistory/Warsaw_Uprising/warsaw_uprising.html.
3. Wdowiński D. And We Are Not Saved. New York, NY, Philosophical Library, 1963.
4. Faria MA Jr. Cuba in Revolution — Escape From a Lost Paradise. Macon, GA, Hacienda Publishing, 2002. http://www.haciendapub.com/articles/interview-dr-miguel-faria-part-i-myles-b-kantor.
5. Clark J. Cuba, Mito y Realidad — Testimonios de un Pueblo. Saeta Ediciones, 2nd edition, 1992.
6. Encinosa E. Cuba en Guerra — Historia de la Oposicion Anti‑Castrista 1959‑1993. Miami, FL, The Endowment for Cuban American Studies, 1994.
Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D. is Clinical Professor of Surgery (Neurosurgery, ret.) and Adjunct Professor of Medical History (ret.) Mercer University School of Medicine. He is an Associate Editor in Chief and World Affairs Editor of Surgical Neurology International (SNI), and an Ex-member of the Injury Research Grant Review Committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2002-05; Former Editor-in-Chief of the Medical Sentinel (1996-2002), Editor Emeritus, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS); Author, Vandals at the Gates of Medicine (1995); Medical Warrior: Fighting Corporate Socialized Medicine (1997); and Cuba in Revolution: Escape From a Lost Paradise (2002).
This series of articles is based on the two-part essay entitled “America, Guns and Freedom” originally published by Surgical Neurology International (SNI), an on-line, peer review journal for neurosurgeons and neuroscientists. The illustrated essays were published in October and November 2012, but have been edited for an American audience and published for readers of GOPUSA in a three part series.