Gun Control in Nazi Germany

Note: I’m not so sure about victim disarmament in National Socialist Germany. I’ve read claims – mostly by national socialists, I will admit – that the Hitler gun laws were less restrictive than those they replaced. Since I’m both unable and disinclined to check for myself, I will suspend judgement. What I always do find striking, however, about the persecution of the Jews is not whether and to what extent they were disarmed, but how easy they were to find. Without vast other changes in cultural outlook, I fail to see what the average Jew could have done with a handgun. Without identity cards, most of them could have kept their heads down. The hatted and bearded ones could have been done over. The others would have been as hard to round up as the homosexuals. We need guns to protect ourselves from crime, and to make us feel better about ourselves. We protect ourselves from the State by keeping it short of data about us. SIG

Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and “Enemies of the State” by Stephen P. Halbrook, Independent Institute, 2014, 364 pp.

There is no shortage of theories or writings related to the rise of the Third Reich and the subsequent Holocaust. Stephen Halbrook’s 2013 book, Gun Control in the Third Reich offers a compelling and important account of the role of gun prohibition in aiding Hitler’s 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 Hitler’s ability to disarm targeted groups, particularly the Jews. The rapid pace with which Hitler disarmed the populace in Germany is startling. Halbrook’s account is gripping, thorough, and full of legal documentation, leading the reader through the sometimes-daily changes in gun prohibitions that furthered Hitler’s agenda. Ultimately, the prohibitions enacted by the Nazi regime led to monopoly control of firearms by the Nazis and eliminated the ability of many groups in society to defend themselves. A similar progression in contemporary society related to government control of firearms and the firearms industry is a concern of many gun owners in the United States today.

In Part I of the book, a chaotic post-WWI Germany is the backdrop, a time when there were no established policies or laws pertaining to firearm ownership. Concern about firearms not being turned in after the war and conflict between extremist groups and the government led to the implementation of gun control laws. However, well-meaning clauses in the laws were subsequently used to provide the government with complete control over gun ownership, creating registries of gun and ammunition ownership, which ultimately fell into the hands of the Nazis. These lists were methodically used to disarm citizens. Through the first three chapters of the book, Halbrook does a masterful job of detailing the ever-changing gun control policies, ranging from the most extreme (execution on the spot) to the postured ‘relaxation’ of gun control laws that allowed possession of very expensive long arms that would not be affordable for the majority of the population.

Part II of the book opens with the naming of Hitler as chancellor of Germany at the end of January 1933, and the immediate utilization of the Weimar gun control policies to begin the Nazi campaign to seize arms and eradicate the so-called “enemies of the state” (all of whom were tagged as Communists). As a result, less than a month later, Hitler and Göring convinced President Hindenburg that an emergency decree was needed, which ultimately gave the Nazis the ability to eliminate constitutional assurances of liberty and free speech, a free press, the ability to assemble, and the right to privacy in personal communications. Furthermore, search and seizure of homes was authorized. This carte blanche for search and seizure essentially became the modus operandi of the Third Reich.

By the end of March, Hitler had succeeded in passing the “Enabling Law” which gave him the ability to create laws as he wished, with no requirement for consultation. Following this, the confiscation of weapons escalated. Municipal governments were informed that military weapons and ammunition had to be surrendered by the end of March. The Jews were targeted next, with a large raid in East Berlin on April 4, 1933. Jews were not forbidden to own firearms until 1938, but the raid led to confiscations and arrests. The 1928 Firearms Law was utilized to identify the so-called enemies of the state, locate them, interview them, and subsequently confiscate their weapons, thereby increasing Nazi control and eliminating private ownership of firearms from the majority of society.

Part III of the book details episodes of enforcement and expansion of gun prohibition by Hitler’s regime. To mark the one-year anniversary of Hitler’s power, the Law for the Reconstruction of the Reich was passed in January 1934, which centralized control over police and led to the replacement of the SA (Sturm Abteilung or Brownshirts) with the SS. Upon President Hindenburg’s death, Hitler assumed the presidency as well, allowing him the ability to rule by decree. Hitler could now declare laws at will and there was no right of appeal for those arrested. The military pledged allegiance to Hitler and the citizenry was instructed to follow Hitler’s decrees.

Confiscated firearms were redistributed to the police and concentration camp guards. The number of searches and arrests continued to escalate, and with the adoption of the Nürnberg Laws in September 1935, Germans or those with ‘kindred blood’ were decreed as citizens, leaving the Jews without citizenship and consequently, without civil rights. A new weapons law was drafted in November that would also forbid Jews from operating in the firearms industry. Though not yet enacted, the draft opened the door for the stealing of the gun manufacturing company, Simson & Co., by Hitler, who claimed that the Jewish owners were guilty of fraud. Additional accounts are given of exploitation of various incidents to further the Nazi campaign against the Jews.

Nazi Party control of the use and ownership of firearms was quickly implemented and far-reaching, with refinements to the Weapons Law continuing over the next few years. Eventually, in April 1938, Jews were required to register their personal assets if valued at over 5,000 marks. Just a few months later, Jews were required to register at local police stations to receive identification cards. Jews began to flee Berlin and other parts of Germany, as they were able.

In the concluding section of the book,Reichskristallnacht (Night of the Broken Glass) is detailed. Jews had been systematically disarmed, and their identity and locations were now on file with local police. It was simply a matter of time before the full shift into deportation and extermination of the Jews would begin. Records support that a campaign to arrest legally registered Jewish owners of firearms was now underway, along with the push by the Nazis to pressure Jews to flee Germany.

The complete confiscation of weapons held by Jews at this point was sparked by the November 7, 1938 assassination attempt of a German diplomat, supposedly by a Polish-Jewish teenager at the embassy in Paris. The Night of the Broken Glass came in the following few days. All Jewish weapons (including such things as letter openers) were confiscated, and all Jewish organizations were deemed illegal. With the Jews disarmed, Hitler’s plans could proceed with a defenseless populace. The majority of the non-Jewish German population was stunned by what had transpired but too afraid to protest. Isolated cases of resistance remained, such as the now well-known case of Oskar Schindler. When deportations commenced in October 1941, the possessions of the Jews were searched by the Gestapo for anything of value, and completed the disarming of the Jews. The dangers of silent witness are now well known.

As has been well documented, Jews were methodically attacked, their homes, businesses, and synagogues ransacked and burned. Upward of 30,000 Jews were arrested. Any Jews resisting arrest were ordered shot on the spot. Attacks on the Jews were to be carried out by the SA, with no interference by police. Jews arrested were to be sent to concentration camps for up to 20 years. The pogrom was so thorough that nearly all age appropriate, Jewish adult males in Stuttgart had been arrested. With the population afraid and disarmed, Hitler could proceed with little worry about resistance. The Court reinforced that there was no judicial review needed for activities of the Gestapo.

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 citizen’s rights, enabled Hitler’s 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.

Note: The views expressed in Daily Articles on are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.

Comment on this article. When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Comment Policy.

Audrey D. Kline, Ph.D., is associate professor of economics at the University of Louisville, College of Business. You can email her at audrey.kline See Audrey D. Kline’s article archives.

You can subscribe to future articles by Audrey D. Kline via this RSS feed.


17 responses to “Gun Control in Nazi Germany

  1. The “well documented” “slaughter of millions of innocent Jews” – is simply parroting seventy-year old World War two Jewish authored wartime atrocity propaganda, that does not have a shred of valid proof in support, but that has taken on all the vestments of a quasi-religious accademic dogma; used to distract from the reality that the Judeo-Communist ruthless slaughter of nearly one-hundred million innocent non-Jews under their Soviet regime is actual fact, as is also the slaughter of millions of innocent non-Jews by the World War Two Judeo-Allied forces; historical events which unfortunately people are “disinclined to check for themselves”.

    Included in the latter group would be the actual war-crime holocausts of the 250,000 to 400,000 innocent German civilians murdered in cold-blood in Dresden during a few hours, and also the countless innocent Japanese victims of the Jewish atomic bombs.

    • This is not a blog on which sceptical doubts regarding the holocaust are welcome. Please desist from further comment.

      • That is sadly quite correct. We’d love to allow people to say stuff such as it didn’t happen, or that it was someone else’s fault, or that it was a scam to rob the “palestinians” (whoever those might be) but we can’t, sorry.

        Apart from the fact that the Nazis documented it themselves in detail, we’d get into trouble with the Authorities here: and then you’d have to find somewhere else, Paul, to post stuff like that.

    • I do not know who “Paul” is, but in any case, he has got his knickers is a twist.

      He might perhaps be under the illusion that he is a “palestinian”, a nation that does not exist. Hence his stuff about Jewish atomic Bombs. I bet 1p I know more about “palestinians” than he does: perhaps he’d care to ask me then?

      Do we rail against “English Gravity” because of Isaac Newton? Do even the GreeNazis execrate “English Global-Warming” because of the fact that the world enjoys electricity from Michael Faraday’s dynamos?

      As to Dresden, (1) we were at war, and the German People had had the opportunity to _not vote for_ the NSDAP in 1933. The tragedy was set then, and the culprit is socialism.
      (1a) Stalin ordered FDR to order Churchill to order Harris to do it (He didn’t want to go: his solders’ war was “over” – as they put it then.) I’m not saying it was a good act to comply with the fascist Nazi President F D Roosevelt’s wish, but what would any of us have done at the time, without the benefit of the Mirror Of History that we now have 70 years on?
      (2) It wasn’t a “few hours – it was about 40 minutes, owing to “effective concentration of the Bomber Stream” on a very clear aiming point”. By early 1945, the Allies had worked out how to obliterate entire cities effectively, unlike earlier on.
      Do you blame us then, Paul, or do you blame the murdering psychopaths that brought he poor German People to such a pass of disaster?
      (3) The modern German authorities estimate the casualties as “25,000-30,000.”

  2. I am in general agreement with Sean’s preface. I find people talking about guns against the State a trifle foolish. The only time guns work against the State is if you are in a position to fight a civil war. If on the other hand you hope to use them to fight some local action, the State will kill you.

    We live, for now, in democratic countries. If ever opposition to the State becomes sufficient that there would be sufficiently unified will among the people to overthrow it by violent means, they would not need to, since they could just vote their preferred persons in at an election. That they (we) have not done this is because there is no unified popular will against the State. There is a great deal of complaint about it, but the complainers are in multiple entirely oppositional factions and very few want to overthrow the State itself, they simply want it changed in some way- more liberal, more conservative, more socialist, or simply better managed by better people.

    Guns against the State in these situations ends with a Waco, not liberty.

  3. Paul Marks

    Ian you are mistaken – the state does not tend to be heroic and violence resistance tends mess up “orderly administration” (which especially the German state likes). Dropping policies that lead to this sort of “trouble” is the natural response.

    As for Waco – why not also mention Athens Tennessee where the public reacted to a rigged election by taking their arms (guns and explosives) and overthrowing the corrupt local government by force.

    Even Waco led to severe PR problems for the government (in spite of Hollywood rushing out propaganda films to support the Clinton Administration) – a lot of policy ideas that were very much “in the works” were quietly dropped after Waco (although the collectivists still want to do such things as ban home schooling by religious groups – they still have not yet done so
    Recently (not a huge distance from Athens Tennessee) a German family were due to be deported back to Germany (where their children would be abducted by the state – and the parents thrown into prison if they resisted).

    The Obama Administration was very keen on punishing these religious home school people – and was only too happy that the German government would do its dirty work for it (remember the Obama Administration only likes immigrants if they vote Democrat – the media is the same).

    However, local people warned there would be “trouble” if there was an effort to use violence to remove the German family – and the whole thing was quietly dropped).

    As for the general article…..

    Stephen Halbrook is a careful researcher and a good writer – I am sure the book will be well worth reading.

    On the Weimar Republic – YES the National Socialists did build on the foundations the foolish “liberal” Weimar Republic had built.

    The concentration of tax and spend powers in the centre – Germany was far more centralised in the 1920s than it had been in 1914. Foch and “Black Jack” Pershing were correct – the Allies should have marched on Berlin and broken up Germany (restored an independent Bavaria and so on), the failure to do so meant that “peace” was just really a “20 year truce” – Foch even got the timing of the next war of aggression by Germany correct.

    The end of TRIAL BY JURY – again Weimar (just as the origins of “gun control” are in the Weimar Republic – again built on by the Nazis).

    Even the State Political Police (the Gestapo) is a Weimar development – again built on by the Nazis.

    As Hayek and Mises pointed out at the time – modern Progressive “liberalism” has sold out to collectivism, it paves the way for totalitarianism.


  4. Hugo Miller

    1) “….coupled with the decimation of individual citizen’s rights…. ” They weren’t ‘decimated’; they were obliterated. I wish people would stop mis-using this word.

    2) “…This is not a blog on which sceptical doubts regarding the holocaust are welcome….” What is wrong with examination of the facts? That’s what ‘sceptical’ means (as in – with a bit of transliteration – ‘to inspect’). I have no problem with scepticism.

    3) “…However, local people warned there would be “trouble” if there was an effort to use violence to remove the German family –….”. This reminds me of a tragic case following 9/11; a British woman was widowed in the atrocity, and some jobsworth soon spotted that she was now without legal status, as she had been on her husband’s visa. They threatened to deport her. The local Police Chief and Fire Chief offered to take turns sitting shotgun in her porch, saying ‘If they try to deport her they will have to get past us first.’. Her neighbors then demanded of their Senators that the law be changed to enable this poor lady to stay – and it was. Can’t see that happening in Britain somehow.
    There’s now a move afoot to abolish the IRS – can you see anybody calling for HMRC to be abolished here? They do things differently in the States!

  5. Julie near Chicago

    David, kindly don’t ruin a good load of b***s*** with clear, concise statements of the facts. It raises the tone.

    Hugo, I wish to god we could actually manage to abolish the Scourge of the Earth, the IRS.

    I just had a dreadful thought, though … Hitler could well have done such a thing … make him Look Good to the “electorate” … and then just “mandate” the seizure of all of everybody’s assets. –Oh! I don’t mean to suggest, of course, ….!!

  6. IanB–If things have turned shit shaped there is every chance the state will kill you anyway–better to take some with you than die like a dog. If every adult Jew–4 million or so– had killed just one Nazi each that would have totalled more than Germany’s fighting strength. Under those circs, If you want to live you guarantee your death. Die fighting. Remember Solzhenitsyn and how he writes that he and the others in the camps burned with anguish that they had not fought with the Cheka/NKVD thugs who did the 2 am knock. Even without guns they could have kept a pan of boiling water on the stove to throw in their faces, brained them with clubs–stabbed with kitchen knives. Yes they might have been killed or beaten and tortured–but that happened ANYWAY–so always fight. And with guns the shit will run freely down the state thugs legs.

  7. Paul Marks

    A century ago the people of Ulster said they would resist (with FIREARMS) both Dublin and London if there was an effort to FORCE them to live under a “United Ireland”.

    The British government backed down.

    “Jews are not Ulstermen”.

    Jews can (and have) learned to be hard.

    Poets. classical musicians and traders (for business is itself a form of art) get shoved in gas chambers – fighters do not (or at least take some of their enemies with them in death).

    Jews have learned to be hard – to be tough. Finally understanding that begging for mercy only gives persecutors amusement – as they murder down to the babies (and the babies also).

    Indeed the Nazis feared this – that if some Jews survived the extermination camps they would come out hard (with hands that reached for rifles – not for musical instruments).

    Both the Nazis and the forces of Islam (and some Nazis went to work for the forces of Islam after World War II, building on the alliance between the Grand Mufti and Mr Hitler) have influenced modern culture.

    Ordinary people can form an army (as they did in the 1940s) and they can take on the armies of nations – and defeat them (as was done in 1947).

    But this means dedicating one’s self to a new art – the Art of War (more important than any other art).

    As that Ulsterman Andrew Jackson showed.

    When a boy he had his face slashed by the sword of a British officer (he had refused to clean the officer’s boots) – and young Andy cried.

    His mother thrashed him without mercy for crying – screaming “boys do not cry, boys FIGHT!”

    Not nice – not nice at all.

    But it produced the man who won the battle of New Orleans – with a rag tag militia.

  8. ‘Guns against the State in these situations ends with a Waco, not liberty.’

    It didn’t when the Feds tried to confiscate Cliven Bundy’s cattle.

  9. Randy on U.S. West Coast

    As an American small-government, pro-2nd-Amendment Constitutional activist, not a full-fledged Libertarian, I’d like to make a couple of comments.

    When one writes, “Guns against the State in these situations ends with a Waco, not liberty”, one is only seeing the short-term, while overlooking a critical factor in the long-term. It matters greatly to understand the numbers. How many gun-bearing people are on each side?

    In the U.S., we have more than 125 million people who possess firearms of all types…versus 0.7 million police and 1.5 million soldiers. Really bad odds for the smaller forces, unless they decide to use WMD’s…after which, those soldiers lose all credibility with many citizens…which means that they can’t afford to do that. And keep in mind that in an existential crisis or general chaos, a large percentage of those police and soldiers will re-align themselves to be true to the Constitution, not the current governments. Remember that those 0.7 million police and 1.5 million soldiers have relatives and friends who would be under attack as “enemies of the state”.

    In fact, soldiers are sworn in, “I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” (Title 10, US Code; Act of 5 May 1960 replacing the wording first adopted in 1789, with amendment effective 5 October 1962). In addition, the UCMJ requires that soldier’s disobey illegal or un-Constitutional orders. For many soldiers, this will cause them to think twice if ordered to engage in mass murder of American citizens; such that many of them will decide that supporting the Constitution is a higher good than obeying a two-term elected President.

    Since the thought of using WMD’s against American cities and towns is almost unthinkable, that leaves small arms against small arms. Having been around thousands of highly skilled “civilians” including ex-military and ex-police, I can assure you that many of these people are as highly skilled or even more highly skilled than the soldiers of the regular army.

    Regarding the issue of fighting when an oppressive government wishes to exterminate you, consider the logistics if the Jews of Europe had killed just 1 German soldier for every 5 Jews killed. The toll would be sufficiently high that the German High Command would likely stop rounding up the undesirables because it would have been causing too much reduction and disruption of German fighting strength. The only way mass roundups make logistical sense is if the undesirables can be rounded up at essentially no cost in blood or treasure. This was much like the German decision not to attack Switzerland, despite the resources that Switzerland possessed. The losses incurred would not prevent the takeover of Switzerland, but it would make such a project too expensive and disruptive of major campaigns elsewhere. The Nazis probably figured that they could deal with Switzerland after all the high priority enemies had been dispatched.

    Note that after WACO occurred in 1993, the public was so disgusted that the governments quickly figured out that they should avoid such blatantly over-reaching activities. And they have not committed any more of those sorts of attacks since then (21 years). Instead they have returned to their SOP of trying to ban firearms one-by-one until they reach a critical mass of almost no firearms in private hands. Since that time, there are more firearms in private hands than ever before (300million to 400million…that we know about; more on that later) and more people taking safety and tactical training and 41 of 50 states that now have either “shall-issue” concealed carry or “Constitutional Carry” (no permit needed, since the Constitution recognizes a natural pre-existing right). Our numbers and influence are growing, not shrinking.

    I love America’s connection to UK and I am a big Anglophile…except for a few things like your overly restrictive gun control laws, so I hope that you can eventually reinvigorate your right to defend yourself.

  10. Quite so Randy – although if by “West Coast” you mean California (rather than say Alaska) you may have “gun control” regs closer to home to worry about soon.

    As for Waco – as I think I said above, there was a lot of talk of ending Home Schooling (if it was “religious”) before Waco, then that talk went away.

    Government “over reach” (blood soaked over reach) sometimes has consequences – at least in the United States.

    The people push back – or it is feared they might (and not even those propaganda films that Hollywood rushed out just after Waco quietened that fear in “liberal” circles).

    Also people themselves know the truth (if they are near enough) – the Dems have not won any elections in Texas since Waco (they won quite a few before).

    Just as, although the media (and Hollywood and so on) say the Katrina was Bush’s fault, the people in Louisiana itself responded by voting the Dems out of office (and they have lost every election in Louisiana since then).

    Gun grabbing was also discredited by Katrina – State and local (and then Federal) forces, go around gun grabbing left people open to attack by savage criminals.

    Back in the 1930s most people trusted the government – even when around ripping up contracts and stealing gold.

    That trust has worn out – people (whatever their other faults) if Mr Obama does a “never let a crises go to waste” and goes for nation wide gun grabbing (on some excuse or other) he will have a fight on his hands.

    And a lot of the United States Armed Forces might well remember that their oath is the Constitution – NOT to any particular Command in Chief.

    • Randy on U.S. West Coast

      Paul, the situation even in California and other Progressive parts of the West Coast is not at the point of no return, yet.

      In many U.S. states, private party firearms sales have been legal without paperwork until quite recently. The only requirement is that one make a good faith effort to determine that the buyer is not a “prohibited person” as regards prior felonies and other violent crimes.

      The number of firearms that have been sold without such papers, especially in the West, probably approaches 50 million or so.

      I have spoken on 2nd Amendment activism to many hunting clubs and civic firearms owner organizations, often saying to the assembled audience, “I don’t expect all of you to answer any specific questions or raise your hands, but it wouldn’t surprise me much if some of you have firearms that you bought legally, yet have never registered.” The usually response is non-specific, but it is usually a general low giggle from the crowd. No audience has ever had anyone shout out, “We would never do that, it would be improper or irresponsible!”

      So the bureaucrats at this time have little idea where a substantial percentage of the firearms are located. Thus our widespread insistence that universal registration never be implemented. If the bureaucrats don’t know where all the guns are, it will be nearly impossible to swoop down and collect them all in a short time…and if it takes a long time, the people will be on notice that the tyranny is moving, thus giving advance notice of the time to hide their guns.

      Of course, this has nothing at all to do with criminal acquisition of firearms, since they have always obtained most of their guns on the underground market that follows no laws. If you examine U.S. gun control laws you will see that 90% of them do not even target the criminals anyway. The statutes are designed primarily to harass, punish, handicap, and burden the law-abiding citizens in a tangential attack to make firearms ownership expensive and burdensome, so as to reduce the number of people willing to go through the red tape to become a gun owner. Fortunately, this tactic has not worked…lots of people have seen the “gun control hysteria” as a sign that they should buy a gun now, even if they didn’t have much prior interest, since they might not be able to buy any in the future.

  11. Julie near Chicago

    The sensible among us hope you are right, Paul. As you know, some of us are concerned over the present Incumbent’s apparent efforts to make over the military to some version of the Peace Corps.

  12. Paul Marks

    Yes Randy – the vile Cass Sunstein approach.

    Not openly banning something – but making it very difficult and twisted, “Nudge”.