Disarming the Jews and Enemies of the State
Leather-Bound Edition 280 pages 6 x 9 inches Index
8 pages of photographs
Publication Date: Jan. 1, 2016
Publisher: Independent Institute
Educators: Request exam copy
Disarming the Jews and Enemies of the State
Leather-Bound Edition 280 pages 6 x 9 inches Index
8 pages of photographs
Publication Date: Jan. 1, 2016
Publisher: Independent Institute
Educators: Request exam copy
Based on newly discovered, secret documents from German archives, diaries and newspapers of the time, Gun Control in the Third Reich presents the definitive, yet hidden history of how the Nazi regime made use of gun control to disarm and repress its enemies and consolidate power. The countless books on the Third Reich and the Holocaust fail even to mention the laws restricting firearms ownership, which rendered political opponents and Jews defenseless. A skeptic could surmise that a better-armed populace might have made no difference, but the National Socialist regime certainly did not think soit ruthlessly suppressed firearm ownership by disfavored groups.
Gun Control in the Third Reich spans the two decades from the birth of the Weimar Republic in 1918 through Kristallnacht in 1938. The book then presents a panorama of pertinent events during World War II regarding the effects of the disarming policies. And even though in the occupied countries the Nazis decreed the death penalty for possession of a firearm, there developed instances of heroic armed resistance by Jews, particularly the Warsaw ghetto uprising.
Table of Contents
Part I. Dancing on a Volcano: The Weimar Republic
1. Insurrection and RepressionPart II. 1933: Enter the Führer
2. The 1928 Law on Firearms
3. Keeping Firearm Registrations Out of the Wrong Hands?
4. The Nazi Seizure of PowerPart III. Gleichschaltung: Forcing into Line
5. Disarming the Politically Unreliable: The Case of Brandenburg
6. Defining Enemies of the State
7. From the Night of the Long Knives to the Nürnberg LawsPart IV. Reichskristallnacht: Night of the Broken Glass
8. The Gestapo
9. Hitlers Gun Control Act
10. October Prelude: Arresting Jewish Firearm OwnersConclusion: Whither the German Resistance, Whither the Holocaust?
11. Goebbels Orchestrates a Pogrom
12. Jewish Victims Speak
Credits for Historical Illustrations
About the Author
Cover design: Denise Tsui
- The perennial gun control debate in America for the past half-century did not begin here. Many of the same arguments for and against the freedom to own firearms were made in the 1920s in the chaos of Germany's Weimar Republic, which opted for gun registration and prohibition. Those measures restricted law-abiding persons who complied with the law, but had no effect on the ongoing political violence between the Communists and the emerging
Nazis. There would be unintended consequences.
- Weimar Germanys gun registration laws set the stage for the tragic deaths of people like Alfred Flatow, a German Jew who won first place in gymnastics at the 1896 Olympics. In 1932, Flatow registered three handguns as required by a decree of the Weimar Republic. After Adolf Hitler seized power in 1933, the registration records were used to identify, disarm, and attack enemies of the state, a euphemism for political opponents and Jews. By 1938, the Nazis had deprived Jews of the rights of citizenship and were ratcheting up measures to expropriate their assets. Police used the registration records to locate and arrest Jewish gun owners such as Flatow, who was turned over to the Gestapo and, like millions of others, was
later murdered in the Holocaust.
- Countless books about the Third Reich and the Holocaust fail to mention the firearms restrictions that rendered political opponents and Jews defenseless. A skeptic could surmise that a better-armed populace might have made no difference, but the National Socialist regime certainly did not think soit ruthlessly suppressed firearm ownership by disfavored groups. Newly discovered documents reveal that even before the Nazis seized power in 1933, a future legal advisor to the Gestapo, Werner Best, proposed the execution of anyone who refused to surrender their firearms. Also, weeks before the 1938 pogrom known as the Night of Broken Glass, even Jews who surrendered their registered firearms were taken into custody by the Gestapoa little-known fact that suggests that a major action against the Jews
was already planned.
- The history of Germany, 19181938, is a telling case study in the timeless gun control debate that provides an important historical perspective to recurrent questions: Should the people have a right to keep and bear arms? Should firearms be restricted to the police, military, and favored groups designated by the government? Is it possible that restrictions may go horribly wrong? What lessons does history teach?
A year before Adolph Hitler took power in 1933, the German Interior Minister directed that gun registration records be made secure to keep them from falling into the hands of radical elements. His efforts proved futile: the records fell into the hands of the Nazi government, which used them to disarm their political enemies and the Jews. By 1938, the Nazis had deprived Jews of the rights of citizenship and were ratcheting up measures to expropriate their assets.
The horrific consequences have names etched in our consciousness: the Night of Broken Glass and the Holocaust. Countless books have been written about Hitlers dictatorship yet have failed to mention the disarming of Jews and enemies of the state. Attorney and author Stephen P. Halbrook fills this yawning gap with his original and eye-opening work, Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and Enemies of the State.
Based on newly discovered documents from German archives, diaries, and newspapers of the time, Gun Control in the Third Reich presents the hidden historyin a readable but well documented, scholarly mannerof how the Third Reich made use of gun control to disarm and repress its enemies and consolidate its power.
The book is divided into four units, each with three chapters, representing distinct historical periods. It spans the two decades from the defeat of Germany in World War I in 1918 through the Night of the Broken Glass in 1938. A concluding chapter presents a panorama of events during World War II.
Dancing on a Volcano: The Weimar Republic
Part I begins by describing the chaos in the aftermath of World War I, a time when the struggling Weimar Republic repressed Communist insurgencies as well as attempted rightist coups, such as Hitlers Beer Hall Putsch. The suppression could be brutal: those caught with arms, including Red Cross nurses in one instance, were executed on the spot. The Versailles Treaty and repressive measures resulted in confiscations of firearms from law-abiding persons, while extremist groups secreted arms caches and fought in the streets.
In 1928, after public debate involving arguments heard even today, the liberal Weimar Republic adopted Germanys first comprehensive gun control law. The law required licenses for the acquisition and carrying of firearms, giving the authorities discretion to deny licenses based on purported lack of need or disqualification based on a subjective determination of dangerousness. The law failed to end the extremist violence.
In secret documents that were discovered by the authorities, future Gestapo legal adviser Werner Best proposed a Nazi takeover in which Jews would be denied food and those refusing to surrender their guns would be executed. Partly in reaction to the discovery of such extremist plans, the Weimar era ended with a decree that could later facilitate Bests plana requirement to register all firearms and authorization to police to confiscate them. The Interior Minister warned that the registration records must not fall into the hands of any extremist group. Yet they could have anticipated by then that the Nazis, the leading extremist group, could take power.
1933: Enter the Führer
Part II describes how the Nazis seized and consolidated power. In 1933 Hitler was named Chancellor, the Reichstag was set ablaze, emergency powers were granted to suspend constitutional rights, and Hitlers police initiated mass searches and seizures for subversive printed matter and firearms. Social Democrats and other political opponents in this onslaught were invariably described as Communists. Gun licenses held by Jews and the politically unreliable were cancelled. Police raids to search for and confiscate firearms and publications swept Germany, from passengers baggage at railway stations to offices of political parties and to entire Jewish communities.
A case study of Brandenburg, the German state that surrounds Berlin, shows how police used lists of licensed gun owners, assessed whether they were politically reliable to Nazism, and if they were not, cancelled their licenses and confiscated their firearms. Social Democrats were automatically disqualified. This was yet another step to nip in the bud resistance to National Socialism.
National Socialist power was consolidated in part by defining and disarming the politically unreliable and the enemies of the state. Legal theories were debated as to how to secure the New Order. The result was that persons in such categories could be disarmed, deprived of civil rights, and thrown into concentration camps.
Gleichschaltung: Forcing into Line
Part III focuses on the five years of repression that followed. During this time Nazi leaders leisurely conferred on amendments to the Weimar firearms law, which could be revised as society was cleansed by National Socialism. The Night of the Long Knives verified that Hitler could murder any opponent. Undesirables were placed in camps where labor made them free, and the Nürnberg Laws stripped Jews of their citizenship. The first major Aryanization of a Jewish business, seen in Europe as an attack on private enterprise, was the expropriation of a major firearm manufacturer owned by Jews.
By now Germany still had laws to which citizens were subject, but also Gestapo prerogative which courts could not review. The Gestapo banned independent gun clubs, arresting their leaders who failed to surrender their offices to Nazis. Gestapo counsel Werner Best issued a directive to police authorities throughout Germany forbidding issuance of firearm permits to Jews.
In 1938, Hitler signed a new firearm law which exempted Nazi Party members from some restrictions. It ostensibly made long guns easier to acquire, but the reform was hollow in that firearm ownership was denied to the perennial enemies of the state, many of whom had been removed from society. For the first time, it prohibited Jews from the firearms industry and banned ordinary .22 hollow point ammunition. The annexation of Austria had occurred just in time to apply the law there.
Reichskristallnacht: Night of the Broken Glass
Part IV begins with the prelude to the Night of Broken Glass. Weeks before the November 1938 pogrom, police ordered Jews to surrender their firearms and other weapons. Jews who turned in their registered arms at police stations were still turned over to the Gestapo. The registration records revealed those who failed to comply. This represents substantial evidence, albeit ignored by historians, that a major action against the Jewish population was already planned, as disarming them would minimize the risk of resistance. An incident was needed to unleash the pogrom.
With the shooting of a German diplomat in Paris by a teenage Polish Jewthe incident they were waiting forHitler approved and Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels orchestrated the Night of the Broken Glass. This massive search and seizure operation, allegedly for weapons, entailed the ransacking of homes and businesses, and the arson of synagogues. SS chief Heinrich Himmler decreed twenty years in a concentration camp for possession of a firearm by a Jew.
Diaries and other eyewitness accounts record how the Jewish victims themselves, including gun owners as well as those not remotely connected to gun ownership, described the onslaught. Rusty revolvers and bayonets from the Great War were confiscated from Jewish veterans who had served with distinction. Valuables were stolen in house searches allegedly for guns. These accounts by the victims, many of them women and children, bring to life the horror of having ones house ransacked by Nazis and countless husbands and fathers arrested and thrown into concentration camps. The Night of Broken Glass has rightly been described as the prelude to the Holocaust.
Whither the German Resistance? Whither the Holocaust?
The books concluding chapter presents a potpourri of events during World War II, the second half of the thousand year Reich, to explore the effects of the disarming policies of the previous two decades. Jews about to be deported to death camps were searched one last time for weapons. Why was there no armed partisan movement in Germany, and why was resistance limited to small groups like the White Rose students and the military conspirators who were unsuccessful in killing Hitler? In the occupied countries, the Nazis decreed the death penalty for possession of a firearm, but there were instances of heroic armed resistance by Jews, particularly the Warsaw ghetto uprising.
Despite the significance of the perceived necessity by the Nazis ruthlessly to disarm political enemies and Jews, historians have failed to address this critical subject. Gun Control in the Third Reich presents the first analysis of the use of gun control laws and policies to pave the way for and consolidate the Hitler regime, rendering Jews and all other enemies of the state defenseless.
Stephen Halbrooks meticulous research in Gun Control in the Third Reich sheds new and revealing light on the consolidation of Nazi power and the prosecution of the Holocaust. Everyone, including advocates of gun controls, should find this pioneering and thought-provoking book essential reading.
James B. Jacobs, Warren E. Burger Professor of Law, New York University; author, Can Gun Control Work?
Gun Control in the Third Reich, Stephen Halbrooks excellent history of gun control in Germany, shows that, motives notwithstanding, removing weapons from the general population always disarms society vis a vis its worst elements. In Germany the authorities tried to deal with the Nazi and Communist mobs that were shaking society's foundations indirectly, by disarming ordinary people. But their cowardice ended up delivering a helpless population to the Nazis tender mercies. Halbrook's richly documented history leads Americans to ask why those among us who decry violence in our society choose to try tightening the vise on ordinary citizens capacity to defend themselves rather than to constrain the sectors of society most responsible for the violence.
Angelo M. Codevilla, Professor Emeritus of International Relations, Boston University; author, Informing Statecraft, War: Ends and Means (with Paul Seabury), The Character of Nations, and Between the Alps and a Hard Place: Switzerland in World War II and the Rewriting of History
Gun Control in the Third Reich is a provocative book on what is surely the worst case scenario in the history of gun control and an illuminating meditation on the role that the disarming of the Jews played in the Holocaust.
Jonathan Kirsch, author, The Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan
What good would private arms do against a totalitarian state? That wont remain an unanswerable rhetorical challenge for readers of Stephen Halbrooks calm, detailed scholarly book, Gun Control in the Third Reich. As Halbrook shows, Nazi leaders went to great lengths to extend the gun control laws they inherited from the Weimar Republic. They were obsessed with disarming Jews and other designated public enemies. Potential resistance was not only physically disabled. It was morally and psychologically disarmed. Evil then became irresistible in Germany, not because it was fueled by fanaticism but because shielded by fatalism.
Jeremy A. Rabkin, Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law
[L]egal scholar Halbrook has written an impressive history of the Nazi governments campaign to penalize gun ownership with imprisonment and death, leaving political opponents and future victim groups without then means of defense. Halbrook admirably supports his densely woven book with legal, archival, and biographical information to describe how the Nazis exploited the vagaries of differing regulations; unrelenting street violence between political militias and veteran groups; the injustice of rampant anti-Semitism; and draconian punishments to disarm the population. The Weimars 1928 disarming of the public . . . unquestionably made it incrementally easier to subjugate and murder millions of unarmed Germans and other victims. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.
Even a defense with small arms against a tyrannical regime, if known, can galvanize public opinion which is the ultimate source of all political authority. That is why, as Halbrook authoritatively shows in Gun Control in the Third Reich, the Nazisdespite their massive military forcewent out of their way to confiscate even small caliber weapons in Germany.
Donald W. Livingston, Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, Emory University
The devil is in the details as the British note. Stephen Halbrook's excellent and deeply researched book, Gun Control in the Third Reich, has revealed the anticipation of Nazi gun control techniques in Weimar attempts to control incipient civil war between Nazis and Communists. In a conservative country replete with WWI veterans, racked with unemployment and wrecked with ideological struggles among the extreme Left, the list of potential victims proliferated among whom unarmed Jews had top priority. They had been quickly disarmed by the Nazis using Weimar laws. Only armed peasants and urban refugees in the mountains and forests in the perimeters of the Reich could resist the Nazi juggernaut until saved by Allied armies. History does indeed provide important lessons for contemporary debates and Halbrook's important research should inform our contemporary debate on gun control.
Steven B. Bowman, Professor of Judaic Studies, University of Cincinnati; Miles Lerner Fellow, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum; whose books include Jewish Resistance in Wartime Greece, The Holocaust in Salonika, The Agony of Greek Jews 1940-1945, and The Straits of Hell: The Chronicle of a Salonikan Jew in the Nazi Extermination Camps Auschwitz, Mauthausen, Melk, Ebensee
Attempts to draw parallels between our political debates and Nazi Germany are, as is often lamented, a dime a dozen in contemporary discourse. Rarely, however, do they run to more than 200 pages, plus bibliography. That distinction lies with a new book just published by the Independent Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Oakland: Stephen Halbrooks Gun Control in the Third Reich. Oh no, you think. Oh yes, say the books marketers, who are not shy at all about framing the Nazis disarming of Jews and other political enemies as a giant, .950 caliber warning shot amid efforts in Washington and some states to pass new regulations on firearms. . . . I reached out to some of these academics to see if they were as worried about the parallels between Nazi Germany and contemporary gun control debates as these blurbs suggested. [Steven] Bowman, for one, most certainly is. . . . The book shows what the government can do, Bowman said. It all depends on the political winds. If youve got the wind behind you, you can pretty much do what you want.
The New Republic
For Jews left trembling in their homes, powerless to defend against Nazi Stormtroopers, the right to possess a gun took on special meaning in the 1940s. In Stephen Halbrooks extraordinary book, Gun Control in the Third Reich, the consequence of disarming a population making them vulnerable to imprisonment and annihilation is told with frightening detail. It is a history with poignancy. With gun controllers in our midst today, who either do not understand the Second Amendment or choose to redefine it for their own ends, it would serve them well to read and digest the powerful arguments in this pathbreaking book.
Herbert I. London, President, London Center for Policy Research; former President, Hudson Institute
"With Gun Control in the Third Reich, Stephen Halbrook has written an important and disturbing book. It provides a timely reminder that self defense and the right to bear arms are fundamental human rights."
Robert J. Cottrol, Professor of Law, History, and Sociology and Harold Paul Green Research Professor of Law, George Washington University; author, The Long, Lingering Shadow: Slavery, Race, and Law in the American Hemisphere
One need not agree with Stephen Halbrooks opposition to almost all forms of firearms control in order to find Gun Control in the Third Reich, his book on regulation of firearms in post-World War I and Nazi Germany, both illuminating and challenging. The most truly serious arguments against significant regulation of firearms have always involved critiquing the proposition that a potentially oppressive state should have a monopoly over the means of violence, and Halbrooks book very much contributes to that debate. Many no doubt would like to believe that Nazi Germany is sui generis, which, paradoxically, implies that there is not much to be learned from its specific history or policies with regard to our own dilemmas today. Others are less optimistic, and for them Halbrook's well-told narrative has implications for our contemporary debates.
Sanford V. Levinson, W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr. Centennial Chair, University of Texas School of Law; author, Framed: America's 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance
It couldnt be clearer with what happened in Germany following World War I. Stephen Halbrook, a well-known advocate for gun rights, traces the bone-chilling path taken starting in the Weimar Republic until the beginning of World War II in his masterpiece Gun Control in the Third Reich. . . . Halbrook is careful making any parallels to gun registration in the U.S. and Nazi Germany. He merely shows what can happen, not what will happen. Nevertheless, his exposé shows that not only is gun registration useless to control gun violence, it actually encourages it since criminals have no use for laws. . . . So if youre looking for a strong argument again gun restrictions, Gun Control in the Third Reich is a must-have for your library. It shows both the futility and the danger of gun registration, but also why an armed people is a people that stays alive.
The Daily Caller
In Gun Control in the Third Reich, Stephen P. Halbrook gives a decisive historical answer to a question which has generally been discussed without much evidence in the political discourse of recent years. Now there is no doubt: Halbrook shows that the Nazis relied on gun control to carry out its totalitarian program. Indeed, by means of painstaking historical research, he shows that the weapon confiscations and punishments of the Third Reich relied very much on the earlier registration measures of the democratic Weimar Republic. This pioneering book tells an essential story that is central to the history of the modern Leviathan state. Highly recommended!
T. Hunt Tooley, Professor of History, Austin College; whose books include Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe, Battleground and Home Front in the First World War, and National Identity and Weimar Germany
Discussions of Nazi gun control efforts are a staple of American debate, but until now there was little authoritative in-depth research to draw on. Stephen Halbrook's extensive research and clear explication in his book Gun Control in the Third Reich ensures that future discussion will be much better informed. A must-read for anyone interested in this subject.
Glenn H. Reynolds, Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Tennessee
Stephen P. Halbrook, an attorney and Research Fellow with the Independent Institute in California, has written a remarkably well-documented analysis of how Adolf Hitler and his Nazi henchmen in the government made private, unauthorized gun ownership a capital crime, while using registration records to effectively turn ordinary Germans into instant criminals. Halbrooks book took 15 years to research and write, and he relied on German archivists and translators to assist him in plowing through original records and files from 1920s, 30s, and 40s Germany. The result is Gun Control in the Third Reich, a fascinating, readable, informative and important book.
The American Spectator
In Gun Control in the Third Reich, Stephen Halbrook has uncovered and thoroughly documented a long-overlooked aspect of Hitler's rise to Power and ultimate genocide of German Jewsthe disarming of the citizenry made possible by gun registration and confiscation laws adopted during the Weimar Republic. The parallels to todays gun control debates in the United States are bone-chilling, and ought to raise a red flag call to action for all freedom-loving Americans."
John C. Eastman, Henry Salvatori Professor of Law and Community Service, Chapman University; Founding Director, Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence
Not only is Halbrook now one of the most respected of gun-rights scholars in America, but he has also successfully argued Second Amendment cases for the U.S. Supreme Court. In Gun Control in the Third Reich Halbrook takes us overseas to see how the Nazis used gun-restrictive laws to oppress people they deemed enemies of the state. . . . Gun Control in the Third Reich reminds us what can happen to a people deprived of arms, but it should also remind us that in Germany it wasnt the Third Reich that created the laws and machinery to confiscate firearms but the liberal Weimar Republicand it was done in the name of protecting the people. Protecting them to death, as it turned out.
Stephan Halbrooks Gun Control in the Third Reich provides a stark example of why defenders of liberty must oppose any attempts to limit our ability to defend ourselves from private and public criminals. Halbrooks work is especially timely since so many in Washington are once again trying to convince the people they have nothing to fear from gun registration and other infringements on our Second Amendment rights.
Ron Paul, former U.S. Congressman and candidate for President of the United States
Steeped in rich detail, exactingly researched, and supported by newly discovered documents, Gun Control in the Third Reich is a compelling work that no one who is serious about the gun control debate in America can ignore. Stephen P. Halbrook has produced a seminal piece of scholarship that describes how the gun control policies of the liberal Weimar Republic were molded into Hitlers strategy to disarm both the Jews and his political opponents.
Abraham H. Miller, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Cincinnati
Gun Control in the Third Reich, Stephen Halbrooks extensively documented account of gun control under Nazi Germany, shows how gun control was used to keep guns out of the wrong hands, mainly Jews. Much of the discussion these days regarding registration focuses on the claimed ability to trace crime guns. There might be no evidence of registrations success in doing that, but Halbrook slams home the success that registration had in tracing the guns of law-abiding politically undesirable citizens, so-called enemies of the people. Americans in even modern cities such as New York can see how discretionary licensing on who can own guns keeps blacks from owning guns, but Germany paints a picture of how discretion was used to disarm Jews and others considered undesirable. Among the many chilling discussions is how German Jews were systematically disarmed just weeks before the Night of the Broken Glass (Reichskristallnacht). Ultimately, however, just as Americans have recently learned about their IRS tax records, Halbrook shows that no one can really guarantee promises that information on gun registration will never be abused.
John R. Lott, Jr., author, More Guns, Less Crime; President, Crime Prevention Research Center
In Gun Control in the Third Reich, Halbrook is particularly effective in showing how the path for Nazi totalitarianism was cleared, though inadvertently, by firearms laws of Weimar Germany. The political objective of those laws was to enhance the public welfare by diminishing the ability of the population to inflict violence on each other. What followed instead was something not foreseen by the principled, well-intending Weimar democrats who carried that policy into execution. Those lawsheavily laden with official discretionleft disfavored minorities perfectly helpless when Hitler and the Nazi government came to power. Halbrooks book is the most complete depiction of a story that is interesting in itself, and which has lessons for our own place and time.
Daniel D. Polsby, Dean and Kirkland & Ellis Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law
Stephen Halbrook, a renowned expert on the subject, systematically and brilliantly examines Nazi gun-control policy in Gun Control in the Third Reich. American advocates of banning guns have tried to downplay the Nazi example because stringent control preceded the Nazis. But the fact remains that the Nazis capitalized on the fact that neither the Jews nor other victims nor the Germans in general, as well as those people in the occupied countries, could resist the Holocaust because the Nazi government had all the guns.
Don B. Kates, Jr., author, Armed: New Perspectives on Gun Control and The Great American Gun Debate (with Gary Kleck)
In Gun Control in the Third Reich, Stephen Halbrook presents a detailed description of Germanys gun laws from the years immediately after World War I to the end of the Second World War. There is an inevitability to this history: the reader is taken through a documented trail consisting of minor erosions of public freedom in the interest of public safety, usually initiated by well-meaning individuals during the Weimar years. . . . For American readers this book is also relevant. In the US, short-sighted legislators funded by wealthy political meddlers such as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, are callously manipulating the tragedy of crimes victims as an excuse to introduce unjust gun control laws that will only erode the ability of Americans to protect their own country. . . . There is a kind of madness that seems to take over the mind of some who in their desire to distance themselves from gun violence, fall into the error of removing the very tools needed to protect the innocent from violence. . . . I fully recommend this book to any student of this period in our history. It is a history that has for too long been ignored. In presenting this analysis of the causes of the twentieth centurys greatest upheaval, World War II, Halbrook provides important lessons for us today.
The fascinating book Gun Control in the Third Reich deals with firearms regulation in Germany from the beginning of the Weimar Republic in the early 1920s, when guns began to be heavily regulated, through the early days of World War II when gun ownership was punishable by death, through the Third Reich in 1945 when the government began to allow Germans access to weapons to fend off the Russian invaders. . . . Professor Halbrook does not claim that Hitler and the Holocaust would not have occurred had the population of Germany been armed. Nonetheless, firearms in the possession of individuals, especially Jews after they were ghettoized, might have raised the costs to the Nazis and slowed them down.
William A. Schroeder, Professor of Law, Southern Illinois University
Gun Control in the Third Reich is Stephen Halbrooks best book. He shows how the destruction of gun ownership, gun clubs, and self-defense was part of the National Socialists' extermination of civil society, individualism, and the Rule of Law.
David B. Kopel, Adjunct Professor of Advanced Constitutional Law, Denver University Sturm College of Law; author, Guns: Who Should Have Them?; Research Director, Independence Institute
Gun Control in the Third Reich is an outstanding and important book. Author Stephen Halbrook precisely and persuasively demonstrates how anti-gun laws enacted with good intentions be democratic governments can destroy democracy and the rule of law itself. . . . In modern gun control debate in the United States, gun prohibition advocates have always attempted to dismiss the lessons of German history. The prohibitionists insist that the Nazis could have accomplished all of their objectives without confiscating guns, and that resistance to the Nazis would have been futile. The Nazis thought otherwise, as Halbrook meticulously details. The Nazis treated totalitarian control over gun ownership and complete disarmament of all potential opponents as an essential part of their program of subjugating the German people.
Americas 1st Freedom
Gun control caused the Holocaust. Thats an argument, rather unhelpfully phrased, that American gun-rights supporters have been making for decades. . . . Are we talking about a world in which the Nazis behaved exactly the way they did, but inexplicably allowed their victims to remain armed? A world in which, as the Nazis came to power, Germany already had a widespread and passionate gun culture like Americas? Unfortunately, this bold assertion obscures very serious questions about the role disarmament can play in oppression. And at last we have the historical information we need to investigate those questions, in the form of Second Amendment lawyer Stephen P. Halbrooks Gun Control in the Third Reich. It is the most extensive history to date of Nazi Germanys policies on firearms, drawing largely on original documents. . . . It is hard to deny that these incidents would have been more plentiful if Germany had been more protective of gun rights over the preceding two decades. Would that have merely nudged the balance slightly in the right directiona few dead Nazis, a few Jews saved from the concentration camps? Or could it have meant something more, in the context of 6 million people put to death? The answer is lost to history. The broader lesson of this book should not be: As the American Founders suspected, civilian disarmament and tyranny often go hand in hand.
"Based on newly discovered secret documents from German archives, diaries and newspapers of the time, Gun Control in the Third Reich presents the definitive, yet hidden history of how the Nazi regime made use of gun control to disarm and repress its enemies and consolidate power. While voluminous scholarship has documented the Third Reich and the Holocaust, this is the first thorough examination of the laws restricting firearm ownership that rendered Hitler's political opponents, as well as the Jews, defenseless. It also makes a compelling case that the National Socialist regime considered suppression of firearm ownership by disfavored groups a critical element of achieving its objectives. . . . Not every person who seeks disarmament is a dictator, but without question, dictators abhor an armed populace."
Anyone who participates in serious discourse will encounter at some point the reductio ad Hitlerum, a glib attempt to dismiss some person or policy by comparison to the rise of Nazi Germany. The vast literature on that theme, it turns out, contains little about gun control. In fact, Stephen Halbrooks Gun Control in the Third Reich is the first serious book on the subject and, fortunately, much more than an examination of laws and regulations. . . . Halbrook shows how the National Socialists advanced Gleichshaltung, the forcing into line of all institutions into a totalitarian system. So they used the Weimar regulations to deny access to firearms to anyone who was not an adherent of Nazism. . . . Beyond its historical value, Gun Control in the Third Reich certainly should motivate American readers to cherish and protect their constitutional rights to keep and bear arms. The book also serves as a primer on the National Socialist regime, particularly for those puzzled by the reductio ad Hitlerum. Those who deploy that fallacy are fond of comparing the National Socialist regime, which they portray as right wing, to free-market conservatism. Gleichshaltung leaves no room for anything like that, but Gun Control in the Third Reich does provide one clear example of laissez-faire under German National Socialism. When Rollkommandos Nazi wrecking crews attacked the disarmed and terrified opponents of the regime, the National Socialists ordered the police not to intervene. Thats what can happen when a militant state manages to disarm the populace.
I have never been one to be fascinated by Hitler and the Nazi's. I understand the importance of these strange and twisted people in history but just have directed my energies elsewhere except for some incidental reading. That changed a bit when I read another interesting book, a brief history of Hitler. It led me to wonder just how such a collection of nerdowells could take over an intelligent and educated country in such short order. Gun Control in the Third Reich answers that question. By executing or imprisoning anyone possessing ANY firearm Not only Hitler but his predecessors with the full support of the Allies, (Britain, France, the U.S.), after the first World War the populace had little choice but to go along. While in the US there are many who overstate the plausibility of a case for a modern American putsch against gun owners the simple fact is that it COULD happen. Stephen P. Halbrook sets up the historical precedent well, makes few outlandish claims, and ends up with a chilling narrative of government for government.
How did Hitler do it? There is no shortage of theories or writings related to the rise of the Third Reich and the subsequent Holocaust. Halbrook, however, offers a compelling and important account of the role of gun control in aiding Hitlers goals of exterminating the Jews and other 'enemies of the state.' While much of the early gun prohibition was created with supposedly good intent, Halbrook carefully and meticulously details how a change in political regime was all it took for some well-intentioned gun registration laws and other prohibitions to be used in ways never intended. The Third Reich was able to further its agenda due to available gun prohibition, and continued to expand such prohibition to aid in achieving its desired goals. Students of this period of history as well as Second Amendment (and other) gun rights enthusiasts, will find this a fascinating book, and will find parallels between gun prohibition in pre-Nazi and Nazi Germany and attempts to prohibit types of gun ownership and implement other forms of gun control in the United States today. . . . It is an astonishingly fresh and important look at this historical period, if for no other reason than to raise the question as to why no other research on the Third Reich and the Holocaust has addressed the role of gun control in the tragedies that occurred. The rapid pace with which Hitler disarmed the populace in Germany is astonishing. Halbrooks account is gripping, thorough, and full of legal documentation, leading the reader through the sometimes-daily changes in gun prohibitions that furthered Hitlers agenda. . . . Halbrook concludes by noting that less government regulation and a tradition of rejecting tyranny could have led to a different outcome in Germany. Instead, systematic creation and manipulation of firearms registration and regulations, coupled with the decimation of individual citizens rights, enabled Hitlers dictatorship and the slaughter of millions of innocent Jews and citizens of Nazi-occupied countries, as well as tens of thousands of Germans. It remains for all of us to wonder what might have been had people refused to register their firearms. Indeed, we should all take note and bear in mind, Never Again.
The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics
Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and Enemies of the State is an astonishing piece of scholarship: complete; careful; thoughtful. . . . In doing so, Halbrook makes use of an astonishing set of sources. His secondary sources are impressive. . . . Halbrook goes far beyond that, however, with an impressive collection of primary sources, including diaries by people who lived through the time, surviving police records, internal government memos, and court decisions.
Stephen Halbrooks extensive research demonstrates how the German government neglected to consider that law-abiding citizens would register their firearms when criminals and extremists would not. It took a mere 20 years for the right of private citizens to keep and bear arms to be replaced by registration, confiscation and death camps. Besides Jews, whose property was taken or destroyed, 'enemies of the state' included members of the opposing political party. Once disarmed, these groups could offer no effective resistance to the horrific crimes of the Nazi regime.
Stephen Halbrooks book, Gun Control in the Third Reich offers a compelling and important account of the role of gun prohibition in aiding Hitlers goals of exterminating the Jews and other enemies of the state. While much of the early gun prohibition was created with supposedly good intent, Halbrook carefully and meticulously details how a change in political regime facilitated manipulating some well-intentioned gun registration laws and other gun prohibition to be used in inconceivable ways. Students of history as well as Second Amendment enthusiasts will find this a fascinating book and will find parallels between gun prohibition in pre-Nazi and Nazi Germany, and attempts to prohibit types of gun ownership and implement other forms of gun prohibition in the United States today. The current climate in the United States surrounding gun prohibition combined with a president who uses his office to impose executive order in ways not historically common gives many citizens pause, especially when looking at the era of the Third Reich. While certain states have imposed gun registration laws recently, enforcement of the laws remains unclear. While Halbrook is careful to point out that a combination of factors led to the events of the Holocaust, there is no denying that many of the pre-war activities contributed to Hitlers ability to disarm targeted groups, particularly the Jews. . . . Halbrook concludes by noting that less government regulation and a tradition of rejecting tyranny could have led to a different outcome in Germany. Instead, systematic creation and manipulation of firearms registration and regulations, coupled with the decimation of individual citizens rights, enabled Hitlers dictatorship and the slaughter of millions of innocent Jews and citizens of Nazi-occupied countries, as well as tens of thousands of Germans. It remains for all of us to wonder what might have been had people refused to register their firearms. Indeed, we should all take note and never forget.
The definitive book on the subject, settling the issue once and for all with full documentation.
Gun Control in the Third Reich is a fascinating look back at an ugly chapter in modern history, as well as a prescient lesson for contemporary defenders of Second Amendment rights. . . . What will happen if the anti-gun crowd gets its way in America? Reading this chilling book will open your eyes to one of Historys most egregious precedents of total gun control and leave you with little to imagine.
The Illinois Shooter
Stephen P. Halbrook is a Research Fellow with the Independent Institute who has argued and won three constitutional law cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Dr. Halbrook is the author of eight books including The Founders Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms; Securing Civil Rights: Freedmen, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Right To Bear Arms; That Every Man Be Armed: The Evolution of a Constitutional Right; A Right to Bear Arms: State and Federal Bills of Rights and Constitutional Guarantees; Target Switzerland (also in German, French, Italian, and Polish editions); and The Swiss and the Nazis: How the Alpine Republic Survived in the Shadow of the Third Reich. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Florida State University and J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center. His popular articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, San Antonio Express-News, Environmental Forum, USA Today, and Washington Times, and he has appeared on numerous national TV/radio programs such as The Phil Donahue Show and programs on Fox Business Network, Court TV, Voice of America, CNN, and C-SPAN.
2014 David & Goliath Award (awarded by Jews for the Preservation of Firearm Ownership, Second Amendment Foundation)
Robert Ade, Communications Manager