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Nazi Germany invaded France in 1940. In every occupied town, Nazi soldiers put up posters that demanded that civilians surrender their firearms within twenty-four hours or else be shot. Despite the consequences, many French citizens refused to comply with the order. In Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France: Tyranny and Resistance, Stephen P. Halbrook tells this story of Nazi repression and the brave French men and women who refused to surrender to it.
Taking advantage of a prewar 1935 French gun registration law, the Nazis used registration records kept by the French police to easily locate gun owners to enforce their demand that firearms be surrendered. Countless French citizens faced firing squads for refusing to comply. But many French citizens had resisted the 1935 decree, preventing the Nazis from fully enforcing the confiscation order. Throughout the Nazi occupation, the French Resistance grew, arming itself to conduct resistance activities and fight back against the occupation.
Drawing on records of the German occupation and testimonies from members of the French resistance, Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France is the first book to focus on the Nazis efforts to disarm the French.
Table of Contents
1. Crisis in the Third Republic
2. Pierre Laval Decrees Firearm Registration
3. Blitzkrieg, Defeat, and Twenty-Four Hours to Turn in Your Gun or Be Shot
4. Occupation and Collaboration
5. Weapons Possession: The Core of Criminal Activities of the French
6. Amnesty or Execution
7. Arms for the Resistance
Credits for Illustrations
About the Author
Illustrations follow page 124
- Decades before gun control became a hot-button political issue in the United States, France on the eve of the Second World War struggled with and ultimately adopted firearm registration. In the 1930s, political unrest brought the nation to the brink of disaster, prompting Prime Minister Pierre Laval to impose restrictions on freedom of assembly, decree gun registration, and ban military-style firearms. The unintended consequences would be horrendous, as celebrated attorney and author Stephen P. Halbrook shows in the first-ever book devoted to gun control in a Nazi-occupied country.
- When France crumbled before the Nazi blitzkrieg in 1940, German soldiers mounted posters declaring that all firearms must be turned in within 24 hours under penalty of death. As the armistice that France signed had stipulated, the French police were to enforce all decrees issued by the German occupation authorities. And the French police had the registration records of firearm owners.
- Attempts to resist the Nazi occupation of France were ruthlessly crushed, but the executions of disobedient gun owners failed to sway countless citizens to turn in their firearms. The Germans debated whether to declare amnesties for the recalcitrant French, yet nothing seemed to work for hard-core patriots. As one German report explained, Weapons possession is the core of criminal activities of the French.
- French gun owners who refused to surrender their arms were a potential source of resistance to the occupation. Despite facing repression and terror, Resistance members armed themselves and conducted acts of sabotage, provided intelligence for the Allies, and helped pave the way to the Liberation. In the mountainous regions, the maquisyoung men who escaped labor conscriptionattacked German forces, particularly after D-Day.
- Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France: Tyranny and Resistance offers a new and unique window on modern European history. Based on newly discovered documents from German and French archives, diaries, newspapers of the time, and recent interviews with surviving members of the French Resistance, it shows how the Nazis made use of gun control to repress and enslave their subjectstactics rarely mentioned in previous books about World War II, despite the essential role this played in Nazi occupation policy, which aimed to prevent and wipe out any resistance.
- The Nazi occupation of France was a showcase of gun control in its most repressive form. When gun registration was originally decreed, no one anticipated that the records would be used to induce confiscation under threat of the death penalty. Yet many still refused to comply and hid their guns. Having all firearms restricted to the military and the police, and having no right to keep and bear arms, became the essence of a conquered people. There is a historical lesson herebe careful what you wish for.
Countless works have been written about the German occupation of France during World War II, but until now no book has focused on the repression of gun owners. With the publication of Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France: Tyranny and Resistance, author and attorney Stephen P. Halbook (Gun Control in the Third Reich, Securing Civil Rights, The Founders Second Amendment) tells a story long waiting to be told. Focusing on the years 1934 through 1945, Halbrook examines Frances political convulsions, its laws restricting free assembly and requiring gun registration, its invasion and occupation by Nazi Germany, repression, execution of gun owners, resistance, and finally liberation. Here at last is the key that unlocks the secret history of Frances occupation under a brutal regime and the developments that helped lay the groundwork.
Drawing on newly discovered documents from German and French archives, diaries, and newspapers of the time, Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France not only adds immeasurably to our understanding of history, but it also remedies a longstanding injustice: historys neglect of the men and women who risked the firing squad by defying German-issued decrees to surrender all firearms.
If nothing else, it is fitting to remember and pay tribute to the French gun owners who resisted as well as those who were executed for defying orders to surrender their revolvers and hunting guns, and who thereby contributed in one way or another to the Resistance, Halbrook writes. While not every French citizen caught with a gun was shot, the very real threat of the firing squad was not enough to induce every gun owner to comply, leading the Germans repeatedly to declare amnesties.
Path to Persecution
A German poster requiring all people to surrender their firearms within 24 hours or face the death penalty is on prominent display in Paris at the Musée de lOrdre de la Libération (Museum of the Order of Liberation). The burden of enforcing the edict, which was issued in 1940 shortly after the occupation began, fell on the Vichy government and its leading promotor, Pierre Laval.
Years before he became the most notorious collaborator with the German occupiers, Laval as prime minister decreed the registration of firearms in 1935 in response to political strife. Issued following several violent incidents, such as a 1934 massacre in which police and the Mobile Guard opened fire on protesters, gunning down 18 civilians, Lavals decree also restricted free assembly, increased the size of the Mobile Guard, and banned rifles and pistols considered military-style.
Compliance with the gun registration requirement was problematic, however. A case study of the Ardennes department revealed few registrants. With internal and external threats looming, more gun restrictions were imposed. Gun sales were halted. The press reported searches of houses in which arms were found belonging to persons rumored to be communists. While disarming her citizens, France reacted to Hitlers growing threat by imposing military conscription and building the Maginot Line.
Invasion and Occupation
Germanys 1940 blitzkrieg defeated France in a matter of weeks. In every town square, posters were nailed up declaring that persons who failed to turn in their firearms within 24 hours would be subject to the death penalty. The French government reconstituted itself in Vichy and negotiated an armistice in which it agreed to enforce the orders of the German occupation authorities. Among other repressive measures, the French police were now in charge of confiscating firearms, and they had the gun-owner registration records with which to do so.
The Vichy government reconstituted itself along authoritarian lines headed by Philippe Pétain and Pierre Laval, who would become the chief collaborator with Nazi Germany. They took orders from Otto von Stülpnagel, the German military commander headquartered in Paris. While many Frenchmen were turning in their firearms, others were hiding theirs. The Germans reported that cooperation with the French police was high. Periodic reports were issued of illegal weapons possession and other offenses against the occupation, as well as statistics on enormous quantities of arms being confiscated. Surrendered guns were supposed to be returned to their owners when peace came, but instead many were looted by or sold to German soldiers.
Gun Possession, Execution, and Resistance
Germanys attack on Russia released the French communists from their orders from Moscow under the Hitler-Stalin pact not to oppose the German occupation. The communists began a campaign to assassinate German soldiers, leading Hitler to order the execution of scores of French hostages. From his London exile, Charles de Gaulle warned against such random attacks. A more sustainable Resistance movement was forming, members of which were arming themselves, sabotaging infrastructure essential to the Germans, and providing intelligence to the Allies. Executions of gun owners were prominently announced.
In desperation, the Germans allowed a brief amnesty for the surrender of hunting arms, which supposedly would be tagged and returned after the war. Such measures didnt work either, so Hitler issued the Night and Fog Decreepersons caught with guns, anti-German leaflets, or other violations would disappear without any trace.
The Germans knew that many French held on to their guns, and thus amnesty continued to be debated, despite the incongruity of having shot so many for gun possession and then letting others turn in their firearms without punishment. The time also came to impose the death penalty on persons who failed to denounce others known to possess a firearm. The French police continued to use the registration records on behalf of the Germans, including to trace firearms used to attack German soldiers. The SS under Karl Oberg took over repressive measures from the German military.
Armed Resistance and Liberation
The Allied invasion of North Africa spurred the Germans to take over the previously unoccupied area of France. A new wave of gun confiscations, repression, and executions pervaded the country. The Vichy government issued its own siren song promising to return surrendered arms but threatening disobedience with death by guillotine. Afraid that Resistance members would break into depots of seized arms, the Germans considered shipping them to Germany but settled on the ruse of returning the barrels to their owners, while keeping the other gun parts so as to render them unusable. The Resistance seized back what it could and begged the Allies to air drop more arms, which were never enough. The SS rejected a new amnesty knowing that those organizing to fight back would never turn in their guns. Both sides were getting ready for the looming Allied invasion.
D-Day was the signal for resistance groups to escalate sabotage of rail and communications, and to launch armed attacks on German forces, which hit back at the French guerillas in the mountains and committed atrocities against the general population. In Paris, insurgents mounted the barricades and fought the Wehrmacht in the streets until Allied forces arrived, liberating the city. With most of France liberated, the time came for a reckoning. It was estimated that only a third of the hunting guns had been surrendered, a testament to massive disobedience to draconian gun control. Trials were held of traitors who denounced fellow citizens for anti-German offenses, including not turning in guns. The Vichy collaborators were brought to justice, most prominently Pierre Laval, who was shot at the same prison where his Nazi partners had executed countless citizens.
Repression in Retrospect
When Laval decreed gun registration in 1935, no one anticipated that five years later France would be overrun by and become a vassal state of Nazi Germany. Gun owners would join the ranks of others in all walks of life who would be subject to ruthless repression for failure to obey the occupation diktats. Many not caught and executed hid their firearms and waited until the time came to strike back. Just as the French army couldnt protect the country in 1940, the armed citizens who made up the Resistance could not overthrow the Nazi tyranny without the Allied invasion, but they contributed greatly to the Liberation. Frances nightmare in that era had many elements, but it suggests a telling lesson: history does not always repeat itself, but rue the day when it does.
Stephen Halbrook has done it again, broken new ground with meticulous historical gun control research. This is the harrowing story of Nazi and Vichy government savage repression of French gun owners, in part made possible by pre-war French firearms registration. Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France is an important and highly readable addition to scholarship on how dictators and invaders have disarmed conquered populations.
James B. Jacobs, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger Professor of Constitutional Law and the Courts; Director, Center for Research in Crime and Justice; New York University; author, Can Gun Control Work?
In the outstanding book, Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France, Halbrook shows that although the French government did not intend to disarm the population when it mandated the registration of firearms, the very existence of registration records made it possible for the Nazis who occupied France during WWII to tighten their bloody grip on the country by hunting down gun owners. The applicable lesson here is that the intentions behind gun control measures aimed at the general population dont matter as much as the inevitable result: subtracting from the peoples power to guard their own freedom. His mixture of anecdotes and statistics makes for sobering reading.
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
In this detailed and fascinating book, Stephen P. Halbrook gives us a companion volume to his superb Gun Control in the Third Reich. Relying on French archival sources and German occupational records as well as a truly illuminating set of eye-witness questionnaire responses and more, Halbrook demonstrates the extent to which modern dictatorship relies on the control and confiscation of weapons and fears what French socialist Jean Jaurès once praised as the general arming of the people. Like Halbrooks study of the Third Reich, Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France greatly expands our historical knowledge about the relationship between private gun confiscation and the Holocaust. As a work of scholarship, the book issimply putconclusive. But it is also an intensely interesting and at times inspiring account of how some French people collaborated with dictatorship and occupation, how some complied and just went along, and how some resisted heroically.
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
The theme of Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France is new, and Stephen Halbrook conveys it with laudable precision. In the early 1980s, I spoke to French Resistance fighters who told me how difficult it was to hide weapons during the German occupation. But never before had I read anything about it. We owe Halbrook tremendous gratitude for illuminating a crucial issue that had not been addressed by either the Germans or the French.
Wieland Giebel, Founder and Curator, Berlin Story Museum, Germany; author, The History of Berlin, The Brown Berlin, Goebbelss Propaganda, and Hitlers Terror in Berlin
Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France is an impressive addition to the already vast literature on the Second World War. The book is filled with useful information from primary sources, much of it previously unpublished. Halbrook vividly depicts the terrible years of the occupation of France by German armed forces, in particular from the viewpoint of French owners of firearms, mainly hunting weapons but also miscellaneous military arms retained by the families of soldiers in prior wars. One of Hitlers major objectives was to see France (and other conquered territories) completely firearms-free, and major efforts to this end were expended by the German armed forces and their French collaborators. Two aspects of Halbrooks story are of obvious relevance for contemporary debates about civilian possession of firearms. First, although the Germans collected truckloads of firearms from all over France, they didnt get all of themor even, perhaps, most of them. Despite threatening the most draconian penalties (including the death penalty, which was carried out in thousands of instances), and despite unlimited powers to search any premises at any time without giving reasons, occupation authorities simply could not successfully disarm a population that was unwilling to cooperate with them. Second, many of the guns that remained in civilian hands found their way to the Resistance, which valued handguns in particular. It is not that people with side arms could credibly threaten to take on organized formations of the German army. But as Halbrook shows, guns played an indispensable moralizing role for the Resistance. Because its members were able to arm and protect themselves, the Resistance was able to survive and grow, and as it grew stronger it did play an increasingly important role in harrying occupation forces, providing vital intelligence to the Allied armies, and preparing the ground for Europes eventual liberation.
Daniel D. Polsby, Professor of Law, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University
Get your guns out of the straw, your stens, your grenades... These words of the popular 1943 Chant des Partisans, by Joseph Kessel, Maurice Druon and Anna Marly, only make sense if there are hidden guns, sten guns, and grenades to fight against the evil Nazis in the first place. As Stephen P. Halbrooks splendid new book, Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France, makes perfectly clear, the not so-well-intended but comparatively harmless administrative registration of firearms by the French government before World War II made the goal of the Nazis to disarm the liberty-loving people of France much easier. The heroic fight of the resistance against the invader became harder. Until there are no more aggressionsand I fear we still have some distance in front of us until we arrive on that bright sunlit upland of human historyuntil there are no more wars, a lesson remains: When the battle cry of freedom is heard, people should be well-armed to respond.
Jürg F. Stüssi-Lauterburg, former Director, Library Am Guisanplatz BiG; former President, Foundation Council of the Foundation for Democracy
Talk of Nazi gun confiscation has long been a staple of American gun debates, but until recently the scholarly work had not been done. In this book, Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France, Stephen Halbrook continues his extensively researched history of Nazi gun controls and gun confiscation, revealing in particular how prewar French gun registration laws made the Nazis task easier, and how French disobedience to those laws preserved a reservoir of firearms that made the Resistances task easier. Highly recommended!
Glenn Harlan Reynolds, Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Tennessee College of Law
The unending debate over gun control generally revolves around the events most recent in the publics mind. Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France, however, arms its readers with historical perspective by meticulously chronicling the disastrous consequences of Frances gun registration law. Beginning with an account of the social and political tensions that resulted in the creation of a national database of gun owners in France, prominent Second Amendment attorney Stephen Halbrook proceeds to outline the steps that occupying Nazi forces took to track down registered gun owners and summarily execute those who refused to hand over their firearms. Backed by exhaustive research gleaned from German military archives, the book ends with an account of the underground resistance movement, which was filled with French citizens who had refused to comply with the mandate. The author expressly avoids drawing any parallels to contemporary gun control movementshis goal here is to inform, rather than persuade.
Harvard Law Review
Did Frances gun control hurt its resistance to the Nazis? A new book by a prominent Second Amendment lawyer examines the history. The French came closer to having a Second Amendment than one might imagine. Indeed, they could have had one more clearly written than ours: Just a month after the storming of the Bastille in 1789, a draft of the Declaration of Rights stated that every citizen has the right to keep arms at home and to use them, either for the common defense or for his own defense, against any unlawful attack which may endanger the life, limb, or freedom of one or more citizens. Alas, it was not to be. That provision did not make it into the final document, though a vague right to resistance of oppression did. Renowned Second Amendment lawyer Stephen Halbrook detailed this history in a 2012 article for the Fordham Urban Law Journal. And now, in his book Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France, he explains how French gun policy evolved over the centuriesand the consequences it had under the Nazi-puppet Vichy regime during World War II. A sequel of sorts to Halbrooks Gun Control in the Third Reich, the book drives home the important lessons that gun control is a key element of the oppressors toolkit, that guns are incredibly useful for those resisting oppression, and that even the most draconian gun-control measures are far from perfectly effective. It cannot prove, of courseand doesnt purport tothat a stronger French tradition of gun rights could have radically altered history, or that Americas more libertarian gun policies strike the right balance among all the relevant priorities. What it does do is force readers to entertain a simple question: When a hostile and brutal power takes over, do you want your countrymen to have guns at hand, or not? Certainly this question weighed heavily upon the minds of the American Founders, and certainly its answer counts for something. . . . Gun control is not inherently a tool of oppression, but it is certainly useful to oppressors. And those who scoff at the notion that civilian gun owners can aid the fight against tyranny would do well to consider the evidence that Halbrook has marshaled here.
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
Stephen Halbrook has done it again. Building on the case he made in Gun Control and the Third Reich that gun registration efforts in the Weimer Republic contributed to Hitlers rise to power in Germany, he demonstrates in his newest book, Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France: Tyranny and Resistance, that similar policies in pre-war France facilitated Nazi-occupation of France. Gun registration laws put in place in 1935 by then Prime Minister Pierre Laval made easy pickings of those who failed to surrender their arms under Nazi occupationa failure whose penalty was execution. But Halbrook also tells the other side of the storythat the many French people who refused to register their firearms in 1935, or who owned hunting guns not subject to the registration lawswere often key cogs in the resistance movement that contributed ultimately to Frances restoration of freedom. Tis an important lesson that cannot be told too often: Tyrants seek to disarm the citizenry because a well-armed citizenry is the surest defense of freedom.
John C. Eastman, Henry Salvatori Professor of Law and Community Service, Chapman University; Founding Director, Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence
After the conquest of France in 1940, the Germans made intensive efforts to remove guns from French civilians. French civilians took great risks to keep their guns. Secret caches of firearms provided weapons for guerilla bands in the last months of the occupation. They also bolstered the confidence and spirit of a wider range of resisters. Stephen Halbrooks Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France tells this story in vivid detail, drawing on official documents of that era and a range of post-war reminiscences.
Jeremy A. Rabkin, Professor of Law, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University
There are few topics more controversial in modern American life than the right of citizens to own firearms. Proponents and opponents of the Second Amendment frequently invoke history in order to support their very contemporary concerns. It would therefore not be shocking if Stephen P. Halbrooks new book, Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France, made an appearance in some gun control debate in the very near future. . . . Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France is not a general interest history book, but it does discuss a very approachable topic. This monograph is convincing in its argumentation. . . . Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France serves as a reminder that totalitarian dictatorships in the 20th century, whether they were left wing or right wing, almost always disarmed its own citizens and those whom they occupied. The National Socialists disarmed Communists and Jews prior to starting the Second World War, and the Third French Republic tried to disarm its own people in order to maintain its weak grip on power. In sum, armed citizens, Halbrook shows, might not be able to defeat a modern army in battle, but they certainly can keep a power-hungry central state in check.
New York Journal of Books
Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France makes evident several inescapable conclusions: first, a disarmed populace is a priority for tyrants; second, disarming a populace is an achievable bureaucratic process done with relative ease over a short span of time; third, once disarmed the populace must choose either submission to tyranny or death; fourth, the natural right to self-preservation is inextricably tied to the natural right to keep and bear arms; and fifth, effective resistance to tyranny does not start at the knock at the door, but at the politicians call for gun registration. There was a time when most Americans understood these unpleasant truisms. Stephen Halbrooks timely book is an urgent reminder.
Marshall L. DeRosa, Professor of Political Science, Florida Atlantic University; author, The Ninth Amendment and the Politics of Creative Jurisprudence and The Politics of Dissolution and the Rhetorical Quest for a National Identity
Stephen P. Halbrooks, Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France, will be received with the same controversy as his previous work, Gun Control in the Third Reich. Gun control advocates will hate it and gun ownership supporters will love it. Irrespective of what side of the gun control debate you are on, you should read it. It is meticulously research, but that will not deter critics from saying that an example from occupied France is as irrelevant as that of the Third Reich. But is it? The venerated sociologist Max Weber instructed us to look at the extreme case as a way of understanding social reality, and Halbrook does precisely that. In the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting, do you want to seize guns? Well, even on pain of facing a firing squad, gun owners in Nazi-occupied France largely held on to their weapons. Seizing weapons is not as accessible a social policy as one might assume. An armed populace in Nazi-occupied France formed the foundation for the resistance to the brutality of the occupation. While the resistance could not overthrow the Nazi regime, it undermined it and was able to join the allied invasion force in pushing the Nazis out of France. Critics of Halbrooks earlier work have stated that since Jews were less than 1% of the population of Germany when the Nazis took over, what good would their armed resistance have been? This critique ignores the triumph of the human spirit in its desire to resist oppression, to make the oppression burdensome and odious. In his Gulag Archipelago, Alexander Solzhenitsyn argued for resisting the heavily-armed state organs with clubs in the absence of guns because resistance is important. Some of those who seek to join the oppressors will be deterred by the prospect of their own deaths. At a time when the debate over gun control is front and center on the political stage, Halbrooks meticulously researched work on Nazi-occupied France is a welcome contribution to that debate, and one that cannot be easily dismissed.
Abraham H. Miller, Emeritus Professor of Political Science, University of Cincinnati; Distinguished Fellow, Haym Salomon Center
The sophisticated analysis in Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France shows how Nazi gun control enforcement was affected by military events, international law, civilian cooperation, and the special situation of the nominally independent Vichy government. Halbrook demonstrates how gun registration laws enacted by a democratic government may later be exploited by a tyrannywith registration leading to confiscation and then to mass murder.
David B. Kopel, Adjunct Professor of Advanced Constitutional Law, Sturm College of Law, University of Denver; author, Guns: Who Should Have Them?; Research Director, Independence Institute
I am reading a fascinating book by Stephen P. Halbrook from the Independent Institute called Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France. The book describes the history of how the registration of firearms by the French government before World War II made it easier for the Nazis to disarm the French people. . . . It is also a testament to the bravery of the French people who did not turn their guns in; some of those guns contributed to the Resistance and helped the Allies to win the war. . . . the only armed resistance in France until D-Day was conducted by civilians . . . Remember this the next time you hear someone mention that private citizens should not own guns.
Unlike Americans, Germans had no legal right to keep and bear arms and the liberal Weimar Republic sought to register, regulate and prohibit firearms. When Hitlers National Socialist (Nazi) Party took power, they used those records to disarm and oppress the people, and that is why there was no armed resistance movement in Germany. That is the story of Stephen Halbrooks masterful 2013 Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and Enemies of the State. Halbrooks new book, Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France: Tyranny and Resistance, charts the same process in occupied France. As he notes, of the many books on the occupation, not one focuses on the repression of gun owners. So Halbrook, who earned his JD at Georgetown and taught political philosophy at George Mason University, wrote the first authoritative account. . . . As arrests, midnight raids, and bogus investigations confirm, this fight is far from over. If the deep state coup succeeds, things could get very exciting. In the meantime, Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France should be required reading for every American. Readers will understand why, in their national anthem, the French sing aux armes, citoyens.
In 1935, as president of France, Pierre Laval banned weapons of war and decreed that all firearms should be registered with the government. In 1945 he was tried and found guilty of treason for his collaboration with the German occupation. Between those years, Hitler built his strong war machine, and in 1940 he invaded and occupied France. Immediately after her defeat, the French government, under the terms of the armistice, agreed to administer the country on the Wehrmachts behalf. Among its first steps was to order every gun owner to surrender his weapon to the authorities within 24 hours under penalty of immediate execution. . . . The story of course is a significant one in the early 21st century, when the advocates of gun control in the United States are trying to weaken or repeal the Second Amendment, and when Stephen Halbrook describes as the European Unions agenda to disarm the populations to the fullest extent possible is being pursued in Brussels. Halbrook never belabors the point, but the implications of his story for these present politically unsettled times are clear, and they carry a warning. A very excellent, interesting, and well-written book.
No discussion of gun control goes for very long before someone mentions Nazis. Yet surprisingly little historical research has delved into what the Nazis actually did, both in prewar Germany and in the countries that fell before the invading Nazi armies. With his recently-released Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France and its 2014 predecessor, Gun Control in the Third Reich. Dr. Stephen Halbrook has started mining a long-ignored vein in the history of World War II. That historians have so carefully avoided the topic for so long is remarkable in itself. Dr. Halbrook avoids accusations, but he succeeds in gently raising the question of why the topic has been ignored. It just might be that academic backers of common sense restrictions on guns find it uncomfortable to see policies they favor being modeled by the archetype of totalitarian government. Working from a trove of historical source documents in French and German, and from questionnaires he sent to veterans of the French Resistance, Dr. Halbrook has produced a detailed and meticulously researched picture of how the invading Nazis viewed arms in the hands of ordinary Frenchmen, and the steps they undertook to eradicate what they considered a menace to the success of their occupation. . . . The Nazis lack of success in making France a gun-free zone might provide a lesson for current politicians. A good portion of Frenchmen did not give up their guns in the face of firing squads. The low rates of compliance with registration laws in California, New York, and Connecticut really should not be all that surprising. Stephen Halbrooks Gun Control in Nazi Occupied-France: Tyranny and Resistance is an important book, one that deserves a place on the bookshelf of anyone who holds the Second Amendment dear. The history of the Nazis and their gun control should not be buried in obscure footnotes. It should be readily available and studied for the important lessons that can be learned and applied today. Halbrooks books are a great start.
Chris Knox, Ammoland Shooting Sports News
25 Good History Reads: Stephen P. Halbrooks Gun Control in Nazi Occupied-France: Tyranny and Resistance (Independent Institute, 2018) shows how Nazis made a French citizens possession of a weapon a capital crime, and how a seemingly benevolent 1935 law requiring gun registration had fatal consequences for brave resisters five years later.
Several years ago, in these pages, I reviewed Stephen Halbrooks compelling work, Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and Enemies of the State. It should come as no surprise to any reader of that book that Halbrook would provide another riveting account of the role of gun control by the Nazis in occupied France in the 1940s. Relying on original sources, data records kept by the Germans on gun registrations and confiscations, and surveys of French Resistance survivors, Halbrook weaves another cautionary tale of the perils of gun prohibition at the hands of a criminal government such as the Nazi regime. Halbrook, with incredible detail, documents yet again the danger of a totalitarian regime seeking to disarm the citizens in occupied France. With contemporary calls for gun bans of varying degrees as terrorist attacks continue across the globe, Halbrook adds to the cautionary tale in his historical account of the case of Nazi-occupied France and the subsequent liberation. . . . Although France did not have a guarantee of the right to bear arms, the occupation in France led America to maintain its right to bear arms. With each terrorist attack, mass shooting, school shooting, or other gun-related tragedy, however, there is always a call for gun registration, bans of high capacity magazines, bans on certain types of firearms, and so on. People on both sides of the issue would do well to read Halbrooks works on the subject and not turn a blind eye to history.
The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics
Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France: Tyranny and Resistance is the title of a new book by Dr. Stephen P. Halbrook, who is the first to do a methodical review of this chapter of German-French history. The book, published by the Californian Independent Institute describes how the control over firearms is part of often brutally used instruments of dictatorial and conquering rulers and how such control serves the purpose of disarming the population in order to suppress it. After the blitzkrieg of 1940, German soldiers put up posters in all of the occupied territories, which posters ordered the surrender of all firearms within 24 hours, under penalty of death. Later, a German report noted that the possession of firearms was the main reason for criminal activities of French persons. As Dr. Halbrook indicated in several discussions with Visier, his research for this book was based on newly discovered documents in French and German archives, on diaries, and on contemporary newspapers. In addition, he spoke to surviving members of the French resistance who talked to him about their personal experiences. In his detailed and very readable book Halbrook also shows that the case history to the prohibition of firearms began in 1935 when the prime minister at the time, Pierre Laval, ordered the registration of firearms as well as the prohibition of possession of military weapons, the latter being a continuation of the prohibition of possession of military weapons and ammunition by civilians that had been in existence since 1834. This new and later further tightened registration requirement provided the Nazis with one of their most important instruments of suppression and control in France. Dr. Halbrook emphasizes that this kind of weapons registration not only eased this process but also played an elementary role for it. In that sense, the book also contains a historic lesson regarding mechanisms of suppression.
Drawing on records of the German occupation and testimonies from members of the French Resistance, Halbrook analyzes the Nazis efforts to disarm the French after their invasion in 1940. He reports that in every occupied town, Nazis demanded that civilians surrender their firearms within twenty-four hours or be shot; however, despite the consequences, many French citizens refused to comply.
Law & Social Inquiry
The books content goes from the crisis of the Third Republic to legal directories of weapons and their compulsory surrender to the victors to the use of retained weapons in the fight against foreign rule and for the liberation of France. Laval led in 1940 and from 1942 the Vichy government collaborating with the Nazi occupiers. He was sentenced to death in 1945 as a traitor and shot. Many of his fellow citizens had been executed in the same prison. Stephen P. Halbrook, a well-known American lawyer and historian, as well as a book author with a focus on arms law, the Third Reich, World War II and neutral Switzerland, has discovered new documents in the archives of France and Germany and concludes another historical work with his carefully source-based and excitingly read work gap in disarming peoples.
2020 Best Book Award Winner in History (General)
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25 Good History Reads: World Magazine
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