The Real History of Nazi Gun Laws

The (Russian sponsored,financed, and or controlled) National Rifle Association and their willing agents often “quote” the German Gun Law of 1938 as some kind of excuse for why your kids have to risk murder each day. As with the rest of their propaganda, it is not true, but they are safe in the assumption that their minions will use their Cognitive Bias, and never actually bother to look it up to see if it is true.

So, as I so often have done before, I shall review the truth. As always, I strive for Accuracy over Agenda.

After the defeat in WWI, the 1919 Treaty of Versailles stipulated strict control on weapons. Article 169 states, “Within two months from the coming into force of the present Treaty, German arms, munitions, and war material, including anti-aircraft material, existing in Germany in excess of the quantities allowed, must be surrendered to the Governments of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers to be destroyed or rendered useless.”

There was a pro-communist revolt in Germany in 1919, and in that year the the German government passed the Regulations on Weapons Ownership, which declared that “all firearms, as well as all kinds of firearms ammunition, are to be surrendered immediately.” Anyone found in possession of a firearm or ammunition was subject to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 marks.

In August 1920, the Law of the Disarmament of the People was passed to put the Versailles Provisions into effect. There were a number of right wing revolts and political assassinations performed by various groups, and the government cracked down even harder on offenders.

By 1928, the political situation had changed (this was the first year that Germany was readmitted to the Olympics), and the government passed The Law on Firearms and Ammunition of 1928, which allowed gun ownership, but owners had to have separate permits to own, sell, carry, manufacture, or to be a gun dealer. The law restricted ownership of firearms to “persons whose trustworthiness is not in question and who can show a need for a permit.” Gun manufacturers had to keep record of all gun sales, by serial number, and this information had to be given to the police, and were given to the police at the end of each year.

Adolf Hitler was elected chancellor of Germany in the 1932 elections, and took office on January 30, 1933. (As one British safe cracker once mentioned, German safes were the easiest to open because they all either used Hitler’s birthday or inauguration date as the combination).

On February 27, 1933, the Reichstag (German Parliament building) was burned, and the Reichstag Fire Decree was passed by President Hindenburg (who died August 2, 1934), which greatly restricted individual liberties and allowed arrest and detention without trial. Incidentally, the building was never really repaired, nor was it used later for legislative meetings. So, even though the Soviets placed their flag on the roof after the Battle of Berlin (April – May 1945), this was only symbolic, since the building held no governmental power for 12 years.

New elections were held on March 6, 1933, which gave the Nazis only 44% of the vote. On March 23, 1933, the Parliament met and voted 441-84 for the Enabling Act, giving Hitler absolute dictatorial power, which he held until his death in April 1945 (the Social Democrats were the only ones to try to stop this). Ludwig Kaas, leader of the Catholic Center Party, convinced his membership to vote with the Nazis. The next day, Kaas resigned his position, moved to Rome, and was granted honors and titles by the Pope, along with later being put in charge of the archaeological excavations of St. Peter’s Basilica, for which he had no expertise.

The first concentration camp, in Dachau, was opened that same month. The Gestapo has created April 26, 1933.

Anti-Jewish laws were first passed in March 1933, including expelling all Jews from the civil service in April 1933.

Hitler had the Social Democrats Party banned, and the other parties disbanded by June. On July 14, 1933, the National Socialist German Workers Party was declared the only legal political party in Germany.

On May 2, 1933 trade unions were banned, and many of their leaders sent to camps. Communists and other political enemies were imprisoned and or murdered.

After Hindenburg died in 1934, the powers of the presidency were added to the Reich Chancellor. There was no political power outside the Nazis Party left in Germany.

During the Night of the Long Knives (June 30 – July 2, 1934), the SA (Sturmabteilung – Nazis Storm troopers) leadership was eliminated, and the SS (Schutzstaffel) now controlled all police and storm trooper functions. They also administered the increasing number of concentration camps and secret prisons.

Germany withdrew from the League of Nations in October 1933.

From even before coming to power, the Nazis pressed for rearmament of Germany. Private gun ownership increased, and even more gun clubs sprang into being. Private airplane clubs trained future military pilots, motor vehicle clubs trained tank and armored car drivers, parachute clubs trained future airborne troops. The Hitler Youth, the association for Nazi young adults and children, began weapons training for males. This was added to the entire public school system after the Nazis came to power. By high school age, young boys in school knew how to handle a wide variety of weapons, including machine guns.

The idea behind this program was to militarize the entire nation, as well as to reduce the amount of skills to learn required for soldiers called to military basic training, Conscription allowed boys to know what year they would be called to national service, often right after high school.

The rearmament was openly declared in 1935. German troops and equipment were tested during the Spanish Civil War (July 1936- April 1939). Refinements to tactics and equipment were learned, although many poor designs were kept because they had not been adequately challenged during the Spanish war, a fatal mistake for WWII. This intervention was in violation of the Treaty of Versailles, as was the reoccupation of the Rhineland in March 1936.

in August 1936, the Four Year Plan was developed, with the express purpose of helping Germany to get ready to start a war within the next four years (it happened in three). Preparation were made to go to “war in the east” with the intention of starting by 1938, but no later than 1943.

At the start of 1938, Hitler purged the top leadership of the military, since they opposed the idea of a war that year. Many were stripped of command or moved to lesser positions.

On March 12, 1938 Austria unified with Germany in the Anschluss. On September 29, 1938, the Sudetenland was taken from Czechoslovakia and granted to Germany, which occupied it starting in October. The rest of Czechoslovakia was conquered during an invasion in March 1939. Germany signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact on August 23, 1939 with the Soviet Union to divide Poland in the future. Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, and WWII started.

This is the background. Now, back to the German Weapons Act of 1938.

The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 stripped all Jews (and later gypsies, black people and others) of all citizenship rights, making them merely subjects. Much of the enforcement of these laws were held back until after the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.

These changes were overwhelmingly supported by the German population, The stated purpose of the continuously harsh anti-Jewish laws was for all Jews to leave the country (after handing over 90% of their wealth of course, money transferred to Palestine being the only exception). By the start of WWII 250,000 of Germany’s 437,000 Jews (57%) had already emigrated out of the country.

The Gun Law of 1938 kept the provisions about keeping records on gun sales, and transfer to the police. Gun restrictions now only applied to handguns. Government employees, Nazi Party members, and all holders of hunting licenses were exempted from all gun ownership restrictions. Ownership of rifles, shotguns, and ammunition was now completely deregulated. The legal age of gun ownership was reduced from 20 to 18.

Where were the Jews in all this? Companies even partly owned by Jews were now forbidden to manufacture or sell guns and ammunition. That was it. Some police precincts did forbid Jews to get ownership licenses, using the preexisting trustworthiness rule to deny them.

Again, this was part of the Nazi idea of training the population for a war that they wanted to start, sometime between 1938 and 1943.

Ironically, an economic recession in Germany caused a partial demoralization of the military and a reduction in arms manufacturing.

In August 1938, Germany announced that the residency of all resident aliens was cancelled, and would have to be reapplied for. Poland announced that no Polish born Jews would be allowed to return to that country. 12,000 Polish Jews living in Germany were expelled from their homes at night, only allowed one suitcase each, and taken on trains to the Polish border. They were forced to live in refugee camps on the border, the same as millions of refugees today. Some 4,000 were allowed to enter Poland, but often suffered harsh treatment, again, as so many refugees do today.

In Paris, a Polish Jew named Herschel Grynszpan heard about what was happening to his fellow Polish Jews. On November 7, 1938, he bought a pistol and a box of bullets, and went to the German embassy, asking to meet with any German official.

Grynszpan was brought to the office of Ernest vom Rath, ironically an anti-Nazi homosexual who sympathized somewhat with the plight of Jews in Germany. Grynszpan shot Rath five times (Rath died on November 9th). He did not try to flee, and confessed to police right away.

When the news of the attempted murder reached Germany, thousands of Nazi SA storm troopers and civilians started the Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass November 9-10, 1938), rioting and destroying Jewish homes, businesses, cemeteries, and synagogues. This was also the 15th anniversary of the the Nazi Beer Hall Putsch (November 8-9, 1923). While few were killed, many were beaten and assaulted. Police either stood by and watched, or joined in. Over 30,000 Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps, and although over 1,000 died, most of the rest were allowed to leave within a few months. The Polish Jews in the refugee camps were untouched by the events.

Hitler flew his personal physician to Paris to try to save Rath, and when he died he was given a state funeral on November, attended by Hitler and much of the Nazi leadership. (Later on, there was some embarrassment among the Nazi leadership how they had heaped so much praise on a gay man, but that is what makes history fun).

Grynszpan was in a Paris jail from November 1938 until July 18, 1940, when he was extradited to Germany.His fate is unknown, but he disappeared in August 1944, and was probably murdered.

The Nazis had been preplanning a final pogrom against the Jews in Germany, and Grynszpan’s actions gave them the excuse they needed. That is one reason why the riots were so well organized and widespread.

The 1938 Regulations Against Jew’s Possession of Weapons came into effect the day AFTER the Kristallnacht. Jews in Germany, Sudetenland, and Austria were no longer allowed to possess weapons of ANY kind, including clubs, knives, guns, and ammunition. Exceptions were made for Jews who were foreign nationals. Many Jewish veterans of WWI had held on to their personal sidearms or swords as mementos of their national service, but were forced to give them up or leave the country.

So, there you have it. The actual story of the Nazis gun laws. Jews who actually owned guns held their guns for five and a half years under Nazi rule, and still had their guns on the Night of Broken Glass. The guns did not stop the riots, protect the businesses, or save people from being sent to camp. During those 5.5 years, thousands of Jews (and others) had already been sent to concentration camps. If anything, it was the 1935 Nuremberg Laws that would have been the most devastating on gun purchases, losing all citizenship rights.

Political freedom in Germany died in 1933, in a country with EVER INCREASING numbers of gun owners. The armed majority stood against a minority, who, armed or not, would not have been able to stop their gun wielding oppressors.

After WWII, German police were not initially allowed to carry guns, and private gun ownership was not allowed again until 1956. During that entire nine year period, no minority group was rounded up and executed. In fact, a large Turkish minority started to develop in Germany, brought in to work since so much of the population had died during the war.

The law essentially returned to the 1928 law, with changes added in 1972, and many more since then. As in the 1950s, no groups have been rounded up and killed to this day.

It was not the lack of guns, but a religious and civil supported hatred of Jews and other minorities that led to the Holocaust. People with guns wanted it to happen, and it did happen.

This is an open source article, and I encourage all of you to share it on your Facebook pages and blogs. The information is easy enough to find on your own if you prefer.

Show it to your NRA friends. They will not believe you, but in a Post-Truth mindset, not much else is to be expected. The Big Lie is alive and well, 73 years after Hitler and his Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels died in their bunker.

“All this was inspired by the principle—which is quite true within itself—that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.”

— Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X

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Give Me A Number

Give Me A Number

On September 11, 2001, 19 terrorists attacked the US, resulting in the deaths of 2,977 non-terrorists and over 6,000 injuries. The country rallied together, Congress passed emergency laws, orders were given.

26 days later the US invaded Afghanistan, and a world wide war costing over 1 million lives and over 7 trillion dollars started, which still rages today.

This weekend, 1 man killed 58 and wounded 527, for a total of 585 people. Yet in the current situation, we have been told “not to overreact”, “this is not the time to discuss this problem”, “its too soon”, etc.

Each of the 9/11 hijackers killed 157 people and injured 316, for a total of 473 apiece.

So, my question to those who say to wait is “How many does it take, before you respond like 9/11?” The total killed/wounded is higher per perpetrator this time, so why do we need to NOT do what you did 16 years ago? Is the ratio of dead too small; what if it had been 527 dead and 58 injured? Would you act then? Is that 157 killed per perp the real threshold, or is it higher? What if the shooter had killed 3,000 people and injured 6,000 more by himself? Would that be enough to finally get you to act?

Gun violence kills enough people for more than 10 9/11s every year in this country. Or, for you history types, the Battle of the Bulge and D-Day COMBINED are lower. The Battle of Gettysburg was a cake walk compared to one year in the US today. The entire American Revolution didn’t kill more people than the last 365 days, and most of them in that conflict died from disease. Does this history lesson give you some perspective?

So, the Do Nothing Crowd, I am speaking directly to you. Give me a number. Don’t look at the gun lobbyist, or the phantom tyrant living in your closet. Give me a number. How many American lives will it take before you treat this crisis like 9/11?

Give Me A Number.

The Empowerment of Women

In his poem, “Types of Women” or just “Women”, Semonides of Amorgos, a 7th century BC Greek poet, described the ten types of women.

Zeus made men and women differently, and the poem divides women into types categorized by animals or earth elements, such as “Fox Woman”, “Sea Woman”, “Ape Woman”, based on their looks, personality, and actions. Only the “Bee Woman” is considered good.

As the poem states:
“But by the grim contrivances of Zeus
all these other types are here to stay
side by side with man forever. Yes,
Zeus made this the greatest pain of all:
Woman.”

The Empowerment of Women is still one of the Great Issues that the human race struggles with, and probably will for some time. Women are blamed for bringing evil into the world by many religions, treated as property in the past and even today, often kept uneducated or not allowed to hold positions of authority, either in their churches or governments. Even in countries where women have gained, there are strong reactionary forces trying to return things to “the good old days.” I know several women who think themselves inferior to men, or whom allow a man to do their thinking for them.

Chris Hitchens once said, “The cure for poverty has a name, in fact: it’s called the empowerment of women. If you give women some control over the rate at which they reproduce, if you give them some say, take them off the animal cycle of reproduction to which nature and some doctrine—religious doctrine condemns them, and then if you’ll throw in a handful of seeds perhaps and some credit, the floor of everything in that village, not just poverty, but education, health, and optimism will increase.”

If you have read my posts, you know that I think women are wonderful, the fully equal partners in humanity’s quest for greatness. No one had to grant them that status; they earned it with their blood, sweat, and tears. While the Orthodox thank God every day in their prayers for not making them a women, I am thankful every day; for the mothers, sisters, daughters, friends who make life worth living.

I shall quote from another and better work called “Women”, from the great Def Leppard.

“One part love, one part wild
One part lover, one part child
A whole lotta fire, a little bit of ice
A whole lotta somethin’ you can’t sacrifice”

The Khalkhin Gol Campaign

The Khalkhin Gol Campaign (May 11 – September 15, 1939)

I like to share information on important historical persons and events that people should know, but do not. Today is a military campaign that changed the course of modern history. If the attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941) had any impact on your life, you might wish to learn its origins, along the windy plains of the Mongolian-Chinese border.

The Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) brought onto the stage a new player in world politics; The Empire of Japan. Just a few decades before, Japan had been a feudal nation, steeped in tradition and conformity, but hopelessly outclassed by the other imperial powers. The Meiji Period (1868 – 1912) was an almost unprecedented modernization of every aspect of the country. Japan wanted to become a militarily strong, world class industrial power   . But, despite the extreme beauty of the mountainous Japanese home islands, they lack natural resources, and the ability to feed an ever-growing population. Japan held islands in the Pacific, Korea, and other mainland enclaves. The war brought Japan additional territory, and with it the need for a garrison. The Kwangtung Army was born.

Starting out as a small garrison, Kwangtung became the largest and most prestigious part of the Japanese military. Its leaders went on to hold a great deal of power in the Imperial government. Several attempts to overthrow civilian control originated in the Kwangtung Army.

With this power came pride and arrogance. Against the wishes of the government, in 1931 the Kwangtung Army invaded China, and succeeded. The government was forced to pretend that they had supported the idea the entire time, and the puppet state of Manchukuo (Manchuria) was created. If you have ever seen the film The Last Emperor, it shows this time period.

The Japanese government suffered from various internal power groups, and the two strongest were the Army and the Navy. While officially under one control, they operated as two separate militaries, with overlapping authority and often contradictory goals and production requests.

While everyone wanted to conquer China, there was a real debate over which direction Japanese imperial ambitions should follow. The Army held the North Group idea, to invade Mongolia and Russian Siberia, while the Navy held the South Group idea of the Pacific Islands down to Australia. The political stalemate continued, while the economic and foreign policy situation worsened.

In 1939, the Japanese government sent orders to the Kwangtung Army to strengthen the border with Mongolia. Interrupting their orders their own way, the Kwangtung Army decided to invade Mongolia. Hey, it worked with Manchuria, right?

There had long been skirmishing along the border, but on May 11 a Mongolian patrol was attacked by a Manchukuoan patrol. The Mongolians moved in more men, so the Japanese sent a regiment to drive them out. It was surrounded by Mongolian and Russian troops, who inflicted 2/3 losses on it before it could escape.

Throughout June, tens of thousands of men were moved in by both sides, and the Japanese government tried to halt further violence. A new Russian commander, Gregory Zhukov, who would become the most famous Russian commander of WWII, was brought in to take command.

In July, the Japanese launched a major offensive, backed up heavily by tanks. Japan treated the tank as an infantry support gun, and not like it is thought of as today. Zhukov counter attacked with a combined arms tank, armored car, artillery, and infantry force that crushed the Japanese and drove them back.

On August 20th, Zhukov launched a massive assault against the Japanese. It was supported by the first massed aircraft attack against a single objective in human history. The Japanese countered with their own forces, including their own air force, and large-scale aerial combat resulted. Russian tactics of combining artillery attacks with armored thrusts, followed by huge encirclements were born at this time.

The Japanese forces were shattered, and fled in full retreat. It was the largest defeat Japan had suffered in modern history, and it sent shock waves through the halls of imperial government. The power of the Kwangtung Army was broken forever, and the North Group idea was dead. Within days, the Nazi-Soviet Pact was signed, so Japan saw no help from their German allies.

The Japanese government in the meanwhile signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union on April 13, 1941. Even as German armies closed in on Moscow in 1941, and Hitler asked Japan to attack the Soviet Union, they refused to break this pact. This allowed the Russians to transfer troops to the west, massing 56 divisions for a counter offensive that dealt Germany their largest defeat of the war up to that point. The South Group idea was now to become the only hope of the Japanese future. The seeds of Pearl Harbor had been planted.

Other changes also followed. The Japanese Army staff in charge of armored warfare increased from 12 men in a single office to over a hundred, and tank production more than doubled. New ideas regarding field medicine were introduced, as many Japanese soldiers had died needlessly from minor wounds. Zhukov became famous, and would later become the Russian marshal who led the final assault on Berlin, ending the Third Reich.

For the rest of WWII, the Kwangtung Army was mostly used to garrison the region, and fight Chinese partisans. Its best units were sent off to fight in other theaters, replaced by poorly trained units with old, outdated equipment. When the Russians invaded Manchuria in August 1945, they destroyed an army of almost 800,00 men, most of whom had only been in military service less than 10 days. They spent the next few years in labor camps.

We can only speculate what would have happened if Japan had won the Khalkhin Gol campaign. They would have been at war with the Russians if Germany invaded, and perhaps there never would have been a Nazi-Soviet Pact in the first place. How WWII would have played out, would there have even been a full-scale war in Europe, is open to debate. Japan turned its eyes southward, and the rest is history.

 

 

 

 

 

Fritz Haber

Fritz Haber (1868-1934), is probably one of the most important persons in the history of the modern world, and yet almost no one today can tell you who he was. However, if you eat food to live, I hope that you will continue reading.

Haber was born in Breslau, in the Kingdom of Prussia, into a wealthy Jewish family. Germany was very prejudiced against Jews, but the Habers were not very religious, and integrated well into German society. Fritz himself later converted to Christianity, which helped his career immensely.

Haber was a very patriotic German all of his life, and jumped at the chance to serve his mandatory year of service in the Prussian Army in 1889. He served in the artillery, a branch that would later gain the most from his chemistry skills. He wanted to serve longer, but as a Jew his career ambitions were blunted.

He became an academic, earned his PhD from Friedrich Wilhelm University in 1891, and married Clara Immerwahr (herself a PhD chemist) in 1901. Haber was a contemporary and friend of some of the greatest names in the history of science.
Here is where the story becomes important to you. At the beginning of the 20th century, there was not enough ammonia and nitrates to be mined to keep up with the growing population of the world, and every country on earth faced famine and the problems it would create.

Fritz Haber knew that nitrogen was all around us; we inhale it every time we take a breath. With the atmosphere almost 80% nitrogen, he knew that he could solve this crisis, if he could just find an economical way to pull it from the sky. Nitrogen (N2) is a very stable molecule, and it would require some special coaxing to extract it.
In 1909, he developed the Haber-Bosch Process, This process converts atmospheric nitrogen to ammonia by a reaction with hydrogen using a metal catalyst under high temperatures and pressures: The formula is N2 + 3 H2 → 2 NH3.

Today, half of the human race eats directly because of this process.

Haber was awarded the 1918 Nobel Prize for this amazing discovery.

When WWI broke out, there was a dilemma in the scientific community. There was a very real belief that Science belonged to everyone, and scientists should not use their knowledge to make weapons. Haber was a German patriot, and he signed the Manifesto of the 93, declaring his support for the war effort. Albert Einstein pointedly refused to sign this document. Haber said, “During peace time a scientist belongs to the World, but during war time he belongs to his country.”. Other academics followed the lead of the 93.

Germany lacked resources to produce large quantities of gunpowder, and would have been forced to surrender in a few months based on their small stockpiles. The Haber-Bosch process was used to manufacture nitrates, which overcame this glaring problem.

Haber was made a captain in the German Army, and worked hard in the lab to develop new chemical processes for the war. He developed the use of chemical weapons, hoping to force the Allies to surrender. Many of his contemporaries in the scientific community were outraged, but Haber discovered a way to deliver quantities of chlorine gas to the enemy in quantity. He personally oversaw its first use at the Second Battle of Ypres (Spring 1915).

The Kaiser awarded Captain Haber a medal for his invention, but on May 2, 1915, his wife Clara committed suicide with her husband’s service revolver because of her horror at what he had done. Even with his wife’s death, Haber was committed to the war, and within a week was on the Russian Front gassing the Czar’s troops. He remarried in 1917 to Charlotte Nathan. (They divorced in 1927).

The Allies had their own Nobel Prize winning chemists, and they developed their own weapons. Haber was also the inventor of the gas mask, which has been a personal friend most of my life. By the end of WWI, 1/3 of all munitions fired (grenades, artillery shells, etc) contained chemical weapons.

Haber is today considered the Father of Chemical Warfare. He continued to work on Germany’s illegal chemical weapons program after the war, sometimes helping former enemies develop theirs in order to raise funds.

With the rise of Nazism in Germany, Fritz Haber once again found his past catching up with him. Although a Lutheran, and technically therefore a Christian, the Nazis saw him as “once a Jew, always a Jew.” His patriotism and his service to Germany meant nothing. Many of his co-workers at his institute were Jews, and he was forced to fire them. Secretly, he helped many to escape, including Charlotte and his three children and their families. Haber resigned and left the country, helped by several of the scientists who fought against him in WWI.

Haber was by this time sick and disillusioned. He found himself rejected by the nation that he had loved and worked for his entire life. All because he had been born a Jew. He died in Switzerland in 1934, at the age of 65.

Ironically, the institute he helped manage developed Zyklon, the hydrogen cyanide based gas that that would murder over 1 million people in the Holocaust death camps. The victims included members of Haber’s extended family, his co-workers, and his friends.

So, the next time that you sit down to a meal, I hope that you will take some time to think about Fritz Haber, this brilliant complex man who did so much to bring life, and death, to the human race.

The Reconquista of Spain

The Reconquista (Reconquest) of Spain (711-1942) is one of the longest series of wars in history. Later centuries turned it into a conflict in which the Christian states of Spain fought to liberate their country from the Muslim invaders. As with most of history, the story is far more complicated.

In the 7th century, Muslim armies, spurred on by religious zeal and a new found unity, expanded their control in an almost straight line west and east across the globe. They followed in the wake of untold numbers of Muslim missionaries, spreading the word of the new religion.

By 711, Muslim armies crossed the Straits of Gibraltar, conquering two thirds of Spain. In 717 they crossed the Pyrenees Mountains into France. In 734, Prince Charles Martel ended their expansion northward at the Battle of Tours, and in 759 the Muslims were forced back into Spain.

The situation in Spain stabilized, and a number of Christian and Muslim states developed, at various times fighting each other or making temporary alliances. Religion took a backseat to politics, and Christians and Muslims fought side by side. Cultural and military blending made it difficult to distinguish friend from foe.

Today, foreign fighters are pouring into Syria and Iraq, but for several centuries, Spain was the place for young men to go. Knights from all over Christendom, usually second and later sons, with just enough funds for arms and weapons, gathered their followers and headed off to seek their fortunes. If they were lucky, they could fight for several years for different masters, building up a reputation and military experience, find a wife of either religion, and become a noble landholder in their own right. More often, they only found an unmarked grave on some unnamed battlefield. Muslim warriors did the same. Even Vikings and archers from the steppes of Asia joined in the never ending conflict.

The life of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (1043-1099), known as El Cid, the most famous knight of the Reconquista, exemplified this trend. He started his career fighting Christians for a Muslim king, and hopped back an forth as his fortunes waxed and waned. Finally, he ruled a principality, officially as a vassal of a Christian king but really independent, before dying in the siege of Valencia against Muslims.

Roland, the legendary paladin of Charlemagne, died in an ambush at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass (778). He was killed fighting rebellious Basques Christians, but later chroniclers changed the story to Muslims.

Edward the Black Prince (1330 -1376), the first Prince of Wales to die before becoming King of England, caught his fatal illness while campaigning in Spain, from which he suffered for years before dying.

The Crusades would put an end to the impasse, as the flood of Christian warriors greatly increased, while many Muslims left to go fight in the Holy Land. Although the Muslims eventually won the Crusades, they had enough other problems, from invading Mongol armies and inter struggles, and mostly gave up Spain as a lost cause.

In 1469 the marriage of two teenagers spelled the end of Muslim Spain. Queen Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon joined their two nations, and by 1492 captured the last Muslim stronghold of Granada. (As seen in the picture). They celebrated their victory by sending Christopher Columbus off to discover a new route to India, and by expelling from the country all of the Muslims and Jews who refused to convert.

So began the Spanish Empire, which for the next several centuries would dominant politics in Europe. It would explore and conquer the New World and even reach out to the Pacific. It was the time of Spanish armies, the dreaded Inquisition, and huge Treasure Fleets. Several centuries would go by before this empire died, exhausted by war, economic mismanagement, superstition, and religious repression.

Vast numbers of books in Latin, Greek, or Arabic captured during this reconquest would fuel the Renaissance in Europe.

I have visited the palace of Granada, admiring its beautiful artwork and pools of water invented as early air conditioning. Spain is a wonderful nation with a long history, and countless unknown heroes lie in perpetual slumber in her soil.

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