The Belief That Hitler Took The Germans' Guns Away, And Jews Could Have Been Saved Had They Been Armed
The NRA has successfully instilled this piece of propaganda in the minds of millions of Americans. There are even groups of American Jews who tout it as well. Here are a few articles on the subject:
"Jewish Firearms Group Compares Bloomberg Gun Control to Genocide, Nazis"
A new inflammatory open letter from the Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership advocacy group addressed to Mayor Michael Bloomberg argues that "'[g]un control' actually (and historically) means letting government, whether benign or ruthlessly evil, disarm certain sectors of society and allow others to remain armed." The sectors of society in question, according to the JPFO, have too often been Jewish, going directly against the teachings of the tradition, which tells its believers "that righteous self-defense is not only permissible but an obligation." According to the cited Talmud Sanhedrin, "If a murderer comes for you, strike him down first." The group goes on to compare gun control to Nazi policies and warn of genocide, arguing that Bloomberg is trying to "mimic" leaders like Hitler and Stalin.
Rabbi Dovid Bendory writes:
Additionally, you are no doubt aware that the Jewish people have been at the wrong end of the gun barrel for far too long. America is one of the few countries in the world where Jews are entitled to embrace firearms as the most practical means of our own self-defense. And you would strip us of the right to defend ourselves? With all due respect, Mr. Mayor, this is shameful.
Mayor Bloomberg, have you studied Jewish history? Are you aware that the Nazis disarmed Jews prior to Kristallnacht and that those same Nazi gun laws are the foundation of the U.S. Gun Control Act of 1968? Are you aware that Senator Thomas Dodd asked the Library of Congress to translate the Nazi Gun Control Laws into English for him, and that he incorporated language from these laws into the Gun Control Act of 1968 that he authored? How can it be that you, a Jew, are enforcing Nazi-inspired laws? (See "Gateway to Tyranny")
Tyrants like Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao "pioneered" the bloody trail of "gun control" in the 20th Century. Why do you so thoughtlessly, in effect, mimic the insidious actions of these monsters?
Earlier, the group links to a "Genocide Chart," in which gun control laws are linked to mass killings, in order to demonstrate that, "Without the personal firearm as an 'equalizer,' the stronger will always control the weaker."
Their extreme position also includes this handy handbill (see link)
Even made Urban Legends web site
The FAQ entry, which is duplicated in the archive of urbanlegends.com, notes the main problems with the supposed quote. First, the quote itself has changed over the years. Some versions start by saying, "This year will go down in history!" Others say, "1935 will go down in history!" (The former still has a 1935 date attached as a supposed reference.) That, in and of itself, doesn't prove anything, but it's a warning sign.
Another warning sign is the way the citation is generally messed up. The reference date isn't even close to a major public speech by Hitler. Furthermore, the texts of Hitler's various speeches have been checked, and no sign of this quote can be found.
An examination of the Berliner Tageblatt (reasonably close to "Berlin Daily") for the cited date shows that the page referred to was the paper's arts and culture page. There was no reference to a Hitler speech anywhere in the paper that day, or on days close to it.
The name given, Eberhard Beckmann, doesn't seem to correspond to anybody who was in a position to write introductions of this nature. While a person of that name was found, and he did indeed write introductions, said introductions were for photography books and he worked for a German broadcaster after World War II.
OK, so the quote and cite are screwed up. What about the supposed law itself? Well, as described in the FAQ, 1935 "has no correlation with any legislative effort by the Nazis for gun registration." (Nor, for that matter, does 1936, the year you mention in your question.) Indeed, there was no need for the Nazis to pass a law like that, because the earlier Weimar government had already passed gun registration laws. When I asked Cramer about his reasearch, he said, "The laws adopted by the Weimar Republic intended to disarm Nazis and Communists were sufficiently discretionary that the Nazis managed to use them against their enemies once they were in power." In other words, they didn't need to pass additional laws. The Nazis did pass a weapons law in 1938, but that only added restrictions to the previous law, especially for Jews and other "non-citizens."
Cramer also told me that since the publication of Firing Back, the quote has morphed again (more indication of it being an urban legend, not reality) and now has a more detailed date and location cite. He asked a friend in Germany to check out this new (mis)information. As we might have expected, the quote was not to be found.
Cramer further noted that although gun control laws helped the Nazis suppress political dissidents and round up German Jews for extermination, "they weren't the major part of the process." Later, when they invaded Eastern Europe, Cramer says the Nazis did indeed benefit from the inability of their victims to fight back. But that is tangential to the (un)reality of this quote.
Some gun proponents like this quote because it compares current gun control attempts to those of the Nazis. But as the pro-gun FAQ cited above freely concedes, "This quotation, however effective it may be as propaganda, is a fraud." Instead of propagating a falsehood, Cramer says he encourages people to read a book by Jews for Preservation of Firearms Ownership on "the curious parallels between the U.S. Gun Control Act of 1968 and the 1938 Nazi weapons control law." But that's another issue altogether.
The Myth of Nazi Gun Control
By N. A. Browne
A commonly heard argument against gun control is that the National Socialists of Germany (the Nazis) used it in their ascent to and maintenance of power. A corollary argument is sometimes made that had the Jews (and presumably the other targeted groups) been armed, they could have fought off Nazi tyranny. This tract seeks to counter these misassumptions about Nazi gun control.
Gun control, the Law on Firearms and Ammunition, was introduced to Germany in 1928 under the Weimar regime (there was no Right to Arms in the Constitution of 1919) in large part to disarm the nascent private armies, e.g. the Nazi SA (aka "the brownshirts"). The Weimar government was attempting to bring some stability to German society and politics (a classic "law and order" position). Violent extremist movements (of both the Left and Right) were actively attacking the young, and very fragile, democratic state. A government that cannot maintain some degree of public order cannot sustain its legitimacy. Nor was the German citizenry well grounded in Constitutional, republican government (as was evidenced in their choices at the ballot box). Gun control was not initiated at the behest or on behalf of the Nazis - it was in fact designed to keep them, or others of the same ilk, from executing a revolution against the lawful government. In the strictest sense, the law succeeded - the Nazis did not stage an armed coup.
The 1928 law was subsequently extended in 1938 under the Third Reich (this action being the principal point in support of the contention that the Nazis were advocates of gun control). However, the Nazis were firmly in control of Germany at the time the Weapons Law of 1938 was created. Further, this law was not passed by a legislative body, but was promulgated under the dictatorial power granted Hitler in 1933. Obviously, the Nazis did not need gun control to attain power as they already (in 1938) possessed supreme and unlimited power in Germany. The only feasible argument that gun control favored the Nazis would be that the 1928 law deprived private armies of a means to defeat them. The basic flaw with this argument is that the Nazis did not seize power by force of arms, but through their success at the ballot box (and the political cunning of Hitler himself). Secondary considerations that arise are that gun ownership was not that widespread to begin with, and, even imagining such ubiquity the German people, Jews in particular, were not predisposed to violent resistance to their government.
The Third Reich did not need gun control (in 1938 or at any time thereafter) to maintain their power. The success of Nazi programs (restoring the economy, dispelling socio-political chaos) and the misappropriation of justice by the apparatus of terror (the Gestapo) assured the compliance of the German people. Arguing otherwise assumes a resistance to Nazi rule that did not exist. Further, supposing the existance of an armed resistance also requires the acceptance that the German people would have rallied to the rebellion. This argument requires a total suspension of disbelief given everything we know about 1930s Germany. Why then did the Nazis introduce this program? As with most of their actions (including the formation of the Third Reich itself), they desired to effect a facade of legalism around the exercise of naked power. It is unreasonable to treat this as a normal part of lawful governance, as the rule of law had been entirely demolished in the Third Reich. Any direct quotations, of which there are several, that pronounce some beneficence to the Weapons Law should be considered in the same manner as all other Nazi pronouncements - absolute lies. (See Bogus Gun Control Quotes and endnote .)
A more farfetched question is the hypothetical proposition of armed Jewish resistance. First, they were not commonly armed even prior to the 1928 Law. Second, Jews had seen pogroms before and had survived them, though not without suffering. They would expect that this one would, as had the past ones, eventually subside and permit a return to normalcy. Many considered themselves "patriotic Germans" for their service in the first World War. These simply were not people prepared to stage violent resistance. Nor were they alone in this mode of appeasement. The defiance of "never again" is not so much a warning to potential oppressors as it is a challenge to Jews to reject the passive response to pogrom. Third, it hardly seems conceivable that armed resistance by Jews (or any other target group) would have led to any weakening of Nazi rule, let alone a full scale popular rebellion; on the contrary, it seems more likely it would have strengthened the support the Nazis already had. Their foul lies about Jewish perfidy would have been given a grain of substance. To project backward and speculate thus is to fail to learn the lesson history has so painfully provided.
The simple conclusion is that there are no lessons about the efficacy of gun control to be learned from the Germany of the first half of this century. It is all too easy to forget the seductive allure that fascism presented to all the West, bogged down in economic and social morass. What must be remembered is that the Nazis were master manipulators of popular emotion and sentiment, and were disdainful of people thinking for themselves. There is the danger to which we should pay great heed. Not fanciful stories about Nazi's seizing guns.
Even people who are pro-gun, or pro-self defense, and not NRA-based, believe this garbage.
I've seen references to, and bumper stickers stating, that Hitler took all the guns away from law abiding Germans in 1936. The inference is that this led to the disarming of the populace and its fall into a dictatorship. I've read extensively about the Third Reich and have never seen a mention of this. Did he effect total gun control in Germany, or is this a bit of modern fiction to lend weight to the gun-lover crowd?
— John Greenwood, Jacksonville, Florida
The quote you are talking about is something along the lines of the following:
This year will go down in history! For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future!
The reference is usually given as a speech by Adolf Hitler--alternatively, some say it was in Mein Kampf, but that is easily checkable and proven false--with citation information as follows (all parenthetical material in the original):
"Abschied vom Hessenland!" ["Farewell to Hessia!"], ['Berlin Daily' (Loose English Translation)], April 15th, 1935, Page 3 Article 2, Einleitung Von Eberhard Beckmann [Introduction by Eberhard Beckmann].