Was Hitler Really Anti-Gun Control?

A Salon.com article by Alex Seitz-Wald called “The Hitler Gun Control Lie” is making the rounds, purporting to challenge a myth Second Amendment enthusiasts spread that blames the Holocaust on Hitler’s policies of civilian disarmament. The thrust of the argument is that Hitler’s 1938 firearms law indeed ratcheted back restrictions from the Weimar era. But here is the most telling paragraph:

The law did prohibit Jews and other persecuted classes from owning guns, but this should not be an indictment of gun control in general. Does the fact that Nazis forced Jews into horrendous ghettos indict urban planning? Should we eliminate all police officers because the Nazis used police officers to oppress and kill the Jews? What about public works — Hitler loved public works projects? Of course not. These are merely implements that can be used for good or ill, much as gun advocates like to argue about guns themselves. If guns don’t kill people, then neither does gun control cause genocide (genocidal regimes cause genocide).

As a libertarian, I actually would argue that the violence of Hitler’s statism can be seen in such areas as his militarized police forces, and the totalitarian potential of a heavily policed society is one reason I’ve been so critical of America’s police.

Honing in on the gun rights issue, we see a most curious argument: Hitler was actually pro-gun rights—except for the minor issue of the Jews. We can get the same nuanced information from Wikipedia, which cites work by Stephen Halbrook and sums up Hitler’s gun control policy in this seemingly important area:

On November 11, 1938, the Minister of the Interior, Wilhelm Frick, passed Regulations Against Jews’ Possession of Weapons. This regulation effectively deprived all Jews of the right to possess firearms or other weapons.

Yes, Hitler did loosen some restrictions on firearms—except for the people he exterminated! The Seitz-Wald pieces relies heavily on a University of Chicago working paper by Bernard Harcourt, which includes this seemingly cursory dismissal of Hitler’s disarming of the Jews in the context of the Holocaust:

How to characterize their treatment of Jewish persons for purposes of gun control—banning the possession of dangerous weapons, including guns, in 1938, and subsequently exterminating Jewish persons—is, in truth, an absurd question. The Nazis sought to disarm and kill Jews, and their treatment of Jews is, for all intents and purposes, orthogonal to their gun-control tendencies.

Even if you don’t accept the standard “gun control = genocide” line coming from gun-rights advocates, this passage is just bizarre. If the question being debated is whether Hitler enacted gun control that enabled his murderous policies, it seems rather odd to me to concede that the “Nazis sought to disarm and kill Jews” yet assert in passing that genocide was “orthogonal to their gun-control tendencies.” Within a couple days of Kristalnacht, Hitler disarmed the very group he was most determined to eliminate. Even if this correlation is not causal, there is a relationship here. It is not random. It is not “orthogonal.”

Harcourt continues, writing that “if forced to weigh in, it actually seems, somewhat surprisingly, that the white supremacist Pierce may have the better of the argument: the Nazis were probably more pro-gun than their predecessors.”

He’s referring to one of the primary scholars behind the thesis that Hitler was pro-gun—William L. Pierce, “a pro-gun white supremacist” whose “ideological commitments are so flagrant” that he cannot be “trusted entirely in these historical and statutory debates.” Harcourt says the same about Halbrook, “a pro-gun litigator.”

This raises interesting questions. Surely we could expect someone with a soft-spot for white supremacy to be at least as biased as a pro-gun lawyer like Halbrook. This is not to say that a writer with extreme views is incapable of producing useful scholarship. Yet I would suspect that Pierce’s efforts to vindicate Hitler as a gun-rights champion in Gun Control in Germany, 1928–1945 might suffer from a fatal flaw, if indeed the gravamen that has made its way from that book to the Harcourt piece to the Salon.com article is: Hitler supported the right to bear arms. . . except for the Jews and other people he wanted to kill, but that’s a minor detail.

Harcourt weighs the evidence and argues that Pierce’s account is more accurate than Halbrook’s, but I think this all turns on a question of emphasis. Consider this revealing paragraph:

To be sure, the Nazis were intent on killing Jewish persons and used the gun laws and regulations to further the genocide. But it appears that the Nazis aspired to a certain relaxation of gun laws for the “ordinary” or “law-abiding” German citizen, for those who were not, in their minds, “enemies of the National Socialist state.” Stephen Halbrook, in fact, seems to acknowledges as much.

Yes, Halbrook does admit it—because Halbrook’s point isn’t that Hitler disarmed everybody; it’s that he disarmed the people he wanted to exterminate. We can glean this from the very title of his paper: “Nazi Firearms Law and the Disarming of the German Jews.”

I hate seeing poor history used in defense of liberty, and I hate seeing the false Nazi and Hitler quotes floating around. On the other hand, it seems to me that disarming Jews was indeed clearly one of the precursors to the Final Solution, as Harcourt admits, and as Seitz-Wald mysteriously ignores by dismissing the importance of Hitler’s prohibition of “Jews and other persecuted classes from owning guns.” If the only revisionist response to the core thesis that disarming the Jews facilitated the Holocaust is something like “Hitler only disarmed the Jews and his enemies,” one wonders what the policy implication is, especially considering that most people happily citing the Salon.com piece without reading it carefully or digging deeper seem to want to go even further and disarm the general population.

48 comments… add one

  • I cant believe someone would have the audacity to write this article. Their argument is that because Hitler only took away guns from Jews, he wasn’t anti-gun control.

    This is a liberal attempt to stifle a growing movement against law abiding citizen disarmament. However, if anything, this argument only furthers the argument that people who are being persecuted by their governments in collectives, such as people who speak out against the government, who are now labeled ‘domestic terrorists’ for any trivial absurdity or supporting certain political candidates.

    All that this article will do is scare people even more, knowing that Hitler killed millions of Jews and they were the only collective disarmed, mmmmm… so liberally comforting.

    Reply
    • Nice points. The author is obvious in his agenda and loose with his facts. The 1938 laws were very strict in prohibiting gun ownership to anyone that might oppose the National Socialists. Have a familiar ring to it?

      Reply
  • Hitler only wanted to use gun control against his enemies. Kind of like the KKK and Ronald Reagan.

    Of course, the US is not Nazi Germany. It doesn’t even compare. But Joe Arpaio uses concentration camps in the pre-WWII sense of the term, prison companies profit off of what is essentially slave labor and use that money to lobby for more drug war, people who violate immigration law can be disappeared into a network of secretive prisons and holding centers, and some people want to come down harder on those who look or act differently. It is not a good idea to give up defensive power to the government.

    Reply
    • Wow, Darian, you managed to play the race card and the reductio ad hitlerum argument, plus a few pages worth of slander, into two short paragraphs.

      Have you considered a career in the mainstream media?

      Reply
      • He probably already works for the mainstream media.

        Reply
      • I suspect Darien was just using something called “sarcasm”, and you managed to miss it.

        Reply
      • You nailed Darian. What a moron.

        Reply
    • Darian I don’t know what country you live in but it’s not the same one I do. Every country has a right and an obligation to it’s citizen to protect their borders. We have laws and it is everyone’s responsibility to obey those laws or change them. It’s the governments duty to enforce those laws. When a president writes orders for the government not to enforce certain laws, isn’t he violating his oath of office? Also instead of asking congress to pass an unconstitutional law shouldn’t he be urging them to start the process to change or do away with the 2nd amendment?

      Reply
      • 2/3 of both houses of congress or 2/3 of state legislatures must propose the amendment (to repeal); then it must be approved by 3/4 of the state legislatures. In other words, it ain’t happening.

        Reply
      • To Robert and all the Darian haters: his post was sort of off topic, but these things are true–the War on Drugs is a racket that benefits government, and yes, whether you think they should be here or not, immigrants can disappear in the system and can be treated inhumanely. Robert Mullins-so is it everybody’s responsibility to obey laws that are clearly unjust? Should we settle for nagging our politicians to change them?

        Reply
  • What the Jews were for Hitler, we all are for “progressives”: targets for gun control.

    But, but, saith the progs, nothing else!

    And yet the argument need not be that progs intend to expropriate us and then kill us.

    They only intend to expropriate us. And not just through taxes. They want to confiscate wealth generally, too. After all, they will soon discover that taxing income at 100 percent won’t settle the federal deficit. So they’ll have to take “from the rich” at a higher rate: that is, grab wealth holdings as well as income gains.

    The parallel seems apt. Progressives were, after all, the American comrades of the fascists and national socialists in Europe. Their general agenda was a repudiation of limited government and the social engineering of society along “scientific” lines. You know, the good old science like they teach in college English departments.

    Reply
  • That’s how they have any chance at all. When we parrot (law abiding citizens) we give the government all they want.They will create more laws to create more criminals, and if you don’t think it will be people who they don’t want to be fighting for there rights, you better think long and hard about it.The government is prohibited by the 2nd amendment fom infringing on gun rights. The feds, the states, the media,and quite a few treason loving citizens have done nothing but. The way they have gotten away with it is by promising that law abiding citizens can ignore this because they will be OK. Im sorry, but they are prohibited by our law of the land from infringing on ANY of our rights, not just people they choose. They have all taken an oath to protect, preserve and defend the constitution. I guess that must mean they are the non law-abiding class.

    Reply
  • I knew this “Hitler was a gun controller” argument would backfire. Nice summary and treatment. I’ve linked to it, and other stuff on the same subject here:

    Reply
    • Ex-Army:

      So you were a member of the Red Liberation Army? No need to ask your MOS because of course you couldn’t respond. Having disposed of that fabrication anyone who believes Hitler was pro guns demonstrates his qual;ifications to run for Barney Franl’s seat or substitute for a turnip.

      Its sad to see someonepost such a delusional comment.

      Reply
  • My link didn’t come through. It’s here:
    http://ex-army.blogspot.com/2013/01/argumentum-ad-hitlerum.html

    Reply
  • Some points:
    – Gun control in the interwar period was quite strict, before Hitler became the Führer.
    – Even before 1938 administration was free to discriminate against jews by not giving them a gun license.
    - In 1944 the New York Times commented on the Volkssturm: “It is significant that the guarded statement by the German radio does not admit that civilians have been armed, but merely that they have been instructed in marksmanship and the handling of small arms.”
    - The Germans partially reintroduced the gun control laws of 1938 in 1952. And Germany is considered to have strict gun control in comparison to most European neighbours.

    See: http://blog.freisinnige-zeitung.de/archives/6377 (in German)

    Reply
    • Police states do not allow their citizens to own weapons. In 1938 Hitler insured no opposition groups could own guns. So your point is?

      Reply
  • Hitler was actually pro-control? Nope. This article confirms Hitler was pro-gun. I presume the extension here is that if the U.S. government and voters agree that criminals and mentally-handicapped people are banned from owning guns then you got a persecuted minority since even criminals ought to have the right to personal self-defence.

    The fact that Hitler was okay with gun ownership proves that gun ownership doesn’t stop tyranny. Why didn’t the everyday Germans not rise up against the Nazis? Why didn’t they use their gun rights to defend those without gun rights? For that matter why didn’t the masses march down to Waco with their guns to give a persecuted minority the chance?

    Reply
    • This article doesn’t address mandatory registration, which made control possible. Hitler convinced the German populace that Jews were the problem; like Obama is trying to convince America that constitutional conservatives are the problem. Balkanize and conquer.

      Reply
    • Criminals and mentally challenged people as defined by the state? Are you familiar with the Soviet use of mental asylums, for those who opposed the regime were obviously crazy. I note that the progressives here are following the same tactic. The author no doubt aspires to work for Pravada or at the minimum MSNBC. But with reasoning skills and an education perhaps he should aim at the Democratic Underground.

      Perhaps you can provide evidence of Hitler allowing free unrestricted gun ownership. We know all police states encourage this. Surely this would pose no challenge to such a giant intellect such as yours?

      Reply
  • Can anyone speak to the veracity of this article by Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO) ?

    Gun Control’s Nazi Connection

    Reply
  • The “Hitler wasn’t anti-gun” argument is pure nonsense. NO gun prohibitionist or gun controller, no matter how rabid, wants to get rid of all guns. They want guns, lots of guns; but only in “approved” hands. Hitler was in no way outside the norm for gun prohibitionists.

    By the way, this argument also indicts the “we should keep guns out of felons’ hands” crowd (like NRA). Felons, terrorists, crazy people, what’s the difference? It’s all gun control AKA victim disarmament. Even a gang banger has the right to defend his life.

    Reply
  • If the overwhelming majority of the population had the right to held guns, saying that gun ownership is able to protect us from tiranny seems just false.

    I’m pro-gun, but this don’t seems like a good argument.

    Reply
    • Sorry my poor grammar. English is not my mother tongue and I only saw the error after submitting.

      Reply
    • Guns in the hands of (some, even a lot of) citizens will do little or nothing short of many other factors. For one, if the majority of state subjects are entirely integrated into the hegemony and control of the state, whatever weaponry they possess might as well be directly in the service of the state. Even should they be oppressed or constrained, if they have been disarmed internally, as it were, all the weaponry in the world will not prevent tyranny.

      Likewise, mere citizens hoarding weapons in their cabins will do nothing against the state or against tyranny in general. Only collective action, whether through citizens’ militias, neighborhood self-defense forces, or other forms of communal self-defense, could ever stand any sort of chance against the state- and only in the event of an already weakened state. Short of revolts in the ranks of the military and considerable defection or desertion from the police forces, no revolution is going to stand a chance, not for long. Guerrilla warfare may be effective against imperial states out in the margins, but not here in the center. Anyway, while possession of firearms is important for defense against the state, that possession must be united with collective action and coordination to actually resist the state. Yet in the US gun rights and usage has become an almost exclusively rightist thing, and only within limits- I don’t imagine too many right-wingers getting excited about, say, Latino or African-American secessionists or self-autonomy groups getting guns and getting organized, or radical workers arming themselves out on the picket line. Unfortunately, the mainstream left is even more reactionary and conservative, wanting to remove all autonomy from everyone save the armed thugs of the state.

      Reply
      • I agree with you. But, again, this only show how thin is the argument in favor of guns based on Nazi Germany.

        The Brazilian Left (to speak of a country I am more used to) tried guerilla fighting, and it failed miserably. Only with peacefull organizing of the labor movement is that they were able to actualy confront the goverment, wich lead to contemporary Brazilian democracy (that is not very good, but you get my point).

        It appears to me that the Jews had no chance. If they where armed and tried to resist, they would be killed. Because, as you ponted out, the majority of the population was part of the system.

        Reply
        • If the bad guys supposedly can get guns anyway then the Jews of the day simply had to resort black market guns to defend themselves so everything was fine. Oh wait . . .

          Reply
          • Except for the fact that the Jews were not “the bad guys.” Unlike criminals, most of them followed the law.

      • Jonathon, thank you for making many good points, especially about the need for an armed population facing oppressive gov’t needing to coordinate resources rather than as disparate groups trying to survive in isolation like preppers, by having rallying points for such resistance with energetic leadership (perhaps most likely in the Oklahoma and Texas areas from what I’ve seen.) However, I take issue with the view that the guns rights thing in the USA belongs exclusively to what you call “rightists” with a kind of KKK mentality. That is typically what the biased media would have many believe, but it is nonsense. The vast majority of gun rights people where I live (Arizona) are middle of the road who just want to get on with their lives while enjoying their traditional freedoms with the ability to defend themselves, and they include the whole spectrum of races, cultures, genders, social standing, and political views. Based on conversations with LEOs it seems most people in the Phoenix area go about armed, especially after dark and at weekends. I consider Arizona a much safer place than other places I’ve lived with strict gun control, including London, UK, simply because I can defend myself here, and criminals don’t their victims being able to defend themselves, and those criminals who risk it often get shot. The drugged up nutcase is another matter, but that’s why training and 255 grain bullets are important. I don’t know how an oppressive gov’t move on the SW USA would work out, since there are still a lot of self reliant people here with strongly independent attitudes, and lots and lots of guns, and in the event of any gun ban, most of those guns (with their boxes of ammunition) would simply go underground. Anyway, interesting discussion, but don’t let the controlled US media sell you their BS misinformation.

        Reply
    • Exactly, the U.S. does already allow gun restrictions for certain groups.

      Reply
  • Cant we just take all these gun nuts with their paranoid delusions of gov coups, the coming apocalypse, etc and have them complete their secession. Please secede. Our nation immediately improves tenfold when that occurs folks. LOL

    Reply
    • So now that we know from you that only a nut
      would want to keep the right to bear arms I was wondering what other rights you think only a nut would want to keep.

      Reply
    • Steve thank you for allowing those Americans who believe in the Constitution permission to loeave. Now can you tell us what other parts of the Bill of Rights you find cinstrain you so that you cannot abide them. Commissar Obama has stated this as well.

      I do wonder why you stay in this country since you cannot understand nor agree with the Constitution. If you ever bothered to learn it.

      Reply
    • Cant we just take all these gun control nuts with their paranoid delusions of armed citizen, the coming apocalypse, etc and have them complete their secession. Please secede. Our nation immediately improves tenfold when that occurs folks. LOL

      Reply
  • A whole lot of truth with just a little fiction is a dangerous thing. I did a piece myself in response to the Salon article.

    Hitler’s gun control lie debunked

    Reply
    • I’m sorry Jennifer but your attempt at re-writing history is a flat out lie and offensive.

      The Nazi Weapons Law of November 11, 1938 prohibited Jews from “acquiring, possessing, and carrying firearms and ammunition, as well as truncheons or stabbing weapons,” and ordered them to turn in all guns and ammunition to local police. As historian William Sheridan Allen noted, the Nazis also began house to house gun confiscations targeting “subversives” shortly after they came to power. that’s called a gun ban.

      In addition, historians like Israel Guttman have outlined how the Warsaw Ghetto uprising against the Nazis was hampered by the fact that imprisoned Jews did not have access to adequate arsenals of firearms, although their resistance did lead Goebbels to note in his diary: “This just shows what you can expect from Jews if they lay hands on weapons.”

      J.E. Simkin and Aaron Zelman document in their book:
      http://www.mercyseat.net/gun_genocide.html#sovietunion
      “Gun Control”: Gateway to Tyranny, in October 1918, the Council of People’s Commissars (the Communist government) ordered citizens to surrender all firearms, ammunition, and sabres, having first mandated registration of all weapons six months earlier. Just like the Nazis, Communist Party members were exempt from the ban.
      A 1920 decree then imposed a minimum six month prison sentence for any non-Communist possessing a weapon. After the civil war, possession became punishable with three months hard labor plus fines. After Stalin came to power, he made possession of unlawful firearms a crime punishable by death.

      He even placed extensive propaganda with the “Comrades, Turn In Your Guns” campaign:
      http://www.infowars.com/communist-propaganda-poster-comrades-turn-in-your-weapons/

      This article and yours is a load of Communist crap. What’s next, Hitler didn’t mass nuder Jews in the Holocaust? Only Jews that Hitler exterminated?

      Reply
  • Yes, Hitler was for GUN CONTROL for segments of society in the Nazi sphere of influence that he wanted to oppress or eradicate, and if such controls were not as widespread initially, it was only because most Germans and Austrians supported Hitler’s rise to power, thus, the oppression and eradication of certain people was SELECTIVELY applied and increased with the growing size of the Nazi Empire. The real question is whether the Nazis relaxed previous gun control laws, or even encouraged the general non-militarized population to arm. We know that Nazi organizations usually had access to arms since the whole Nazi state was all about militarizing life and furthering the ideological cause thru conquest and annihilation, but how this affected non-ideological areas of society in the original homeland during the dictatorship needs some more specific research. Too many here are jumping to “conclusions” without sufficient thought, research, knowledge or evidence, which just mirrors much of the meaningless repartee in the superficial pro/anti gun ownership arguments seen and heard everywhere else.

    Reply
    • Strict gun control was implemented in 1919 in accordance with draconian post WWI treaty demands. This didn’t stop the clandestine re-militarization of Germany beginning in the 1920s. Older Hitler Youth members were routinely trained in the use of firearms. The 1938 weapons Act deregulated ownership of rifles and shotguns but regulated handguns. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_Germany

      Reply
      • George:

        In a police state who controls the sale of any type of firearm? The Hitler Youth used 22 caliber weapons which were not controlled under Versailles as they were not considered nor are today military weapons. Further the 1938 laws were very strict in prohibiting any number of potential opposition groups such as Catholic youth groups, unions, hunting clubs from obtaining weapons let alone ammunition. You apparently understand German I suggest you read the 1938 laws which are available if you conduct a Google search.

        Reply
  • Hitler’s gun control program in a nutshell:

    1. Jews are prohibited from owning guns.

    2. Nazi party members are exempt from gun control laws.

    3. Everyone else may own guns with some restrictions.

    How did the people without guns make out under this scheme?

    Reply
    • I find the cognitive dissonance strong in the author of the article. Even by reading what he writes you can tell hitler had gun control in place.

      “Yes, Halbrook does admit it—because Halbrook’s point isn’t that Hitler disarmed everybody; it’s that he disarmed the people he wanted to exterminate. We can glean this from the very title of his paper: “Nazi Firearms Law and the Disarming of the German Jews.””

      So admitting that gun ownership was forbidden for a certain part of the population is not gun control?

      No, it’s even worse than gun control, it’s racially based gun control. Shame on the author.

      Reply
  • Hitler took away the Jews rights to have guns in order for him to make it easier for him to kill them. It was just one step along the way of his final goal. How many small steps did he take before banning the Jews rights to own guns? If he thought about it he might have started limiting what guns they could own, but he may not have thought about it.

    Reply
  • I have only one thing to say. Ref, The FRENCH UNDERGROUND. Any control establishes the right of the government to selectively decide who may or who may not possess weapons. It then becomes a political tool to further the agendas of said government. There is a reason why the right to have and bear arms is a constitutional right.

    Reply
  • yes hitler had gun control and thats why you see pictures of 5 germans with guns controllign 100 jews, they had no weapons to defend themselves from the ruling GUB-MENT!

    The 1938 German Weapons Act, the precursor of the current weapons law, superseded the 1928 law. As under the 1928 law, citizens were required to have a permit to carry a firearm and a separate permit to acquire a firearm. Furthermore, the law restricted ownership of firearms to “…persons whose trustworthiness is not in question and who can show a need for a (gun) permit.” But under the new law:
    Gun restriction laws applied only to handguns, not to long guns or ammunition. The 1938 revisions completely deregulated the acquisition and transfer of rifles and shotguns, as was the possession of ammunition.”[4]
    The legal age at which guns could be purchased was lowered from 20 to 18.[5]
    Permits were valid for three years, rather than one year.[5]
    The groups of people who were exempt from the acquisition permit requirement expanded. Holders of annual hunting permits, government workers, and NSDAP members were no longer subject to gun ownership restrictions. Prior to the 1938 law, only officials of the central government, the states, and employees of the German Reichsbahn Railways were exempted.[4]
    Jews were forbidden from the manufacturing or dealing of firearms and ammunition.[4]

    Under both the 1928 and 1938 acts, gun manufacturers and dealers were required to maintain records with information about who purchased guns and the guns’ serial numbers. These records were to be delivered to a police authority for inspection at the end of each year.

    On November 11, 1938, the Minister of the Interior, Wilhelm Frick, promulgated Regulations Against Jews’ Possession of Weapons. This regulation effectively deprived Jews of the right to possess firearms or other weapons

    Reply
  • Regardless of who Hitler was targeting, the fact remains that Totalitarian governments actively stripped their citizens of their right to own guns. The author of this article needs to reasearch how Communist China and the USSR disarmed their citizens. In the Soviet Union it was a death sentence if a peasant owned a gun. In both societies private gun ownership was outlawed. When the peasants in the Soviet Union and China rioted against collectivisation, their only weapons were pick-axes and shovels – bad odds against men with guns and tanks.

    Reply
  • So because he only took the guns from jews and extremist it was ok? Are you nuts, who ever wrote this article is an idiot. That’s like saying there is no sun and that a conspiracy. Obama wants all the guns, its part of the United Nations small arms treaty. Look it up before you call me a liar.

    Reply
  • I could not get past the statement “—except for the minor issue of the Jews.” That one statement voided any arguement that this person might have been trying to make.

    Reply
    • Kelly, I agree, that’s why this whole article is a criticism of that argument. If you read the sentence again, you’ll my point, perhaps:

      “Honing in on the gun rights issue, we see a most curious argument: Hitler was actually pro-gun rights—except for the minor issue of the Jews.”

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Current ye@r *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.