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