Friday, May 16, 2014

Gun Control In The Third Reich, A Quick Review

Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and "Enemies of the State", by Stephen P. Halbrook. ( link)
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 dictatorship made use of gun control to disarm and repress its enemies and consolidate its 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 so—it ruthlessly suppressed firearm ownership by disfavored groups. The book spans the two decades from the birth of the Weimar Republic in 1918 through Kristallnacht in 1938 and then presents a panorama of pertinent events during World War II regarding the effects of the disarming policies. ( blurb)
So, it seems that the extreme case that gun rights activists sometimes fall back on, that "If the Jews had not given up their guns the Holocaust might not have happened", has a basis in fact. Oh, sure, we'll never know for sure, but based on the research presented here it is certain, now, that the Nazis did, in fact, pass common sense strict gun control laws, requiring that all guns be registered with the local polizei.

Who did then, in fact, turn the registers over to the Geheime Staatspolizei who ordered that all Jews, Gypsys, Commies, and other "undesirables" turn their guns over to The State. Said undesirables were shortly afterwards loaded on trains bound for Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, Treblinka, etc.

The prohibitions included, by the way, hunting guns, starter pistols, and so forth.  Just as Hitler was the Original Environmentalist, the Original Anti-Tobacco Activist, the Original Teetotaler, he was the Original Vegetarian, and felt that hunting was some kind of atrocity.  So to speak...

Professor Halbrook makes a point that many of the Jews targeted by these laws were veterans of WWI; one case that he follows is that of Alfred Flatow, a Jewish man who won an Olympic Medal for Germany in 1896. He made the mistake of registering his pocket pistol and two revolvers, and died in Auschwitz...

One thing that might get lost in the discussion of gun control is the administrative processes that enabled this. More and more often as the years went by the process was "streamlined", meaning that accountability declined even while those making the decisions were more and more arbitrary.

Frankly, I feel that the description of the way that an unaccountable, arbitrary bureaucracy made evil so easy and unobjectionable should be emphasized, because I think even those uninterested in the gun rights/control debate should be concerned by how easy it is to slide down the slope to atrocity. 

I fear, though, that the lesson would be lost on all too many.

No comments: