Nazi Repression of Firearms Owners
President Bill Clinton has come
out in favor of the registration of all law-abiding American gun owners.
"People ought to have to register guns like they register their cars,"
he said.1 Already, the Clinton-Gore administration
is misusing the national instant check system to retain the identities of
firearms purchasers. Government records on gun owners supposedly protect
1. All firearms and
ammunition, hand grenades, explosive devices and other war
materiel are to be surrendered.
Imagine that you are sitting in a movie house in Germany in May 1940. The German Weekly Newsreel comes on to show you the attack on Holland, Belgium and France. The minute Wehrmacht troops and tanks cross the Dutch border, the film shows German soldiers nailing up a poster about 2-ft. by 3-ft. in size. It is entitled "Regulations on Arms Possession in the Occupied Zone" ("Verordnung über Waffenbesitz im besetzen Gebiet").6 The camera scans the top of the double-columned poster, written in German on the left and Flemish on the right, with an eagle and swastika in the middle. It commands that all firearms be surrendered to the German commander within 24 hours. The full text is not in view, but similar posters threatened the death penalty for violation.
The film shows artillery and infantry rolling through the streets as happy citizens wave. It then switches to scenes of onslaughts against Dutch and Belgian soldiers and Hitler's message that this great war would instate the 1000-year Reich. A patriotic song mixed with the images and music of artillery barrages, Luftwaffe bombings and tank assaults compose the grand finale.
France soon fell, and the same posters threatening the death penalty for possession of a firearm went up everywhere. You can see one today in Paris at the Museum of the Order of the Liberation (Musée de l'Ordre de la Libération). A photograph of the poster is reproduced here, including a translation in the sidebar.
There was a fallacy to the
threat. No blank existed on the poster to write in the time and date of posting
so one would know when the 24-hour "waiting period" began or ended.
Perhaps the Nazis would shoot someone who was an hour late. Indeed, gun owners
even without guns were dangerous because they knew how to use guns and tended to
be resourceful, independent-minded persons. A Swiss manual on armed resistance
stated with such experiences in mind:
German poster from occupied France imposing the death penalty for not turning in all firearms and radio transmitters within 24 hours. For translation, see the text at upper left. From the Musée de l'Ordre de la Libération, Paris. Photo by Philippe Fraysseix, Paris.
Ordinance Concerning the Possession of Arms and Radio Transmitters in the Occupied Territories1) All firearms and all sorts of munitions, hand grenades, explosives and other war materials must be surrendered immediately.
Delivery must take place within 24 hours to the closest Kommandantur [German commander's office] unless other arrangements have been made. Mayors will be held strictly responsible for the execution of this order. The [German] troop commanders may allow exceptions.
2) Anyone found in possession of firearms, munitions, hand grenades or other war materials will be sentenced to death or forced labor or in lesser cases prison.
3) Anyone in possession of a radio or a radio transmitter must surrender it to the closest German military authority.
4) All those who would disobey this order or would commit any act of violence in the occupied lands against the German army or against any of its troops will be condemned to death.
The Commander in Chief
of the Army
"Should you be so trusting and turn over your weapons you will be put on a 'black list' in spite of everything. The enemy will always need hostages or forced laborers later on (read: 'work slaves') and will gladly make use of the 'black lists.' You see once again that you cannot escape his net and had better die fighting. After the deadline, raids coupled with house searches and street checks will be conducted."7
Commented The New York Times about the interrelated rights that the Nazis destroyed wherever they went:
"Military orders now forbid the French to do things which the German people have not been allowed to do since Hitler came to power. To own radio senders or to listen to foreign broadcasts, to organize public meetings and distribute pamphlets, to disseminate anti-German news in any form, to retain possession of firearms--all these things are prohibited for the subjugated people of France ."8
While the Nazis made good on the threat to execute persons in possession of firearms, the gun control decree was not entirely successful. Partisans launched armed attacks. But resistance was hampered by the lack of civilian arms possession.
In 1941, U.S. Attorney General Robert Jackson called on Congress to enact national registration of all firearms.9 Given events in Europe, Congress recoiled, and legislation was introduced to protect the Second Amendment. Rep. Edwin Arthur Hall explained: "Before the advent of Hitler or Stalin, who took power from the German and Russian people, measures were thrust upon the free legislatures of those countries to deprive the people of the possession and use of firearms, so that they could not resist the encroachments of such diabolical and vitriolic state police organizations as the Gestapo, the OGPU, and the Cheka."10
Rep. John W. Patman added: "The people have a right to keep arms; therefore, if we should have some Executive who attempted to set himself up as dictator or king, the people can organize themselves together and, with the arms and ammunition they have, they can properly protect themselves ."11
Only two months before the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Congress enacted legislation to authorize the President to requisition broad categories of property with military uses from the private sector on payment of fair compensation, but also provided:
"Nothing contained in this Act shall be construed?
"(1) to authorize the requisitioning or require the registration of any firearms possessed by any individual for his personal protection or sport (and the possession of which is not prohibited or the registration of which is not required by existing law), [or]
"(2) to impair or infringe
in any manner the right of any individual to keep and bear arms ."12
At the time of the Nazi attack on Jews known as Night of the Broken Glass, Heinrich Himmler, head of the Nazi SS and Police, ordered Jews disarmed. People's Observer (Völkische Beobachter), November 10, 1938.
Jews Forbidden to
Meanwhile Hitler unleashed killing squads called the Einsatzgruppen in Eastern Europe and Russia. As Raul Hilberg observes, "The killers were well armed . The victims were unarmed."13 The Einsatzgruppen executed 2 million people between fall 1939 and summer 1942. Their tasks included arrest of the politically unreliable, confiscation of weapons and extermination.14
Typical executions were that of a Jewish woman "for being found without a Jewish badge and for refusing to move into the ghetto" and another woman "for sniping." Persons found in possession of firearms were shot on the spot. Yet reports of sniping and partisan activity increased.15
Armed citizens were hurting the Nazis, who took the sternest measures. The Nazis imposed the death penalty on a Pole or Jew: "If he is in unlawful possession of firearms, or if he has credible information that a Pole or a Jew is in unlawful possession of such objects, and fails to notify the authorities forthwith."16
Given the above facts, it is not difficult to understand why the National Rifle Association opposed gun registration at the time and still does. The American Rifleman for February 1942 reported:
"From Berlin on January 6th the German official radio broadcast?' The German military commander for Belgium and Northern France announced yesterday that the population would be given a last opportunity to surrender firearms without penalty up to January 20th and after that date anyone found in possession of arms would be executed.'
"So the Nazi invaders set a deadline similar to that announced months ago in Czechoslovakia, in Poland, in Norway, in Romania, in Yugoslavia, in Greece.
"How often have we read the familiar dispatches 'Gestapo agents accompanied by Nazi troopers swooped down on shops and homes and confiscated all privately owned firearms!'
"What an aid and comfort to the invaders and to their Fifth Column cohorts have been the convenient registration lists of privately owned firearms - lists readily available for the copying or stealing at the Town Hall in most European cities.
"What a constant worry and
danger to the Hun and his Quislings have been the privately owned firearms in
the homes of those few citizens who have 'neglected' to register their
During the war years the Rifleman regularly included pleas for American sportsmen to "Send a gun to defend a British home. British civilians, faced with the threat of invasion, desperately need arms for the defense of their homes."18 Indeed, The New York Times carried the same solicitations. After two decades of gun control, British citizens now desperately needed rifles and pistols in their homes, and they received the gifts with great appreciation. Organized into the Home Guard, armed citizens were now ready to resist the expected Nazi onslaught.
Resistance to Nazi oppression was hampered by the lack of civilian arms possession. One of the most notable exceptions was the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943, which began with a few incredibly brave Jews armed with handguns. They were able to temporarily stop deportations of Jews to Nazi extermination camps.
With so many men and guns sent abroad to fight the war, America still needed defending from expected invasions on the East and West coasts, domestic sabotage, and Fifth Column activity. Sportsmen and gun clubs responded by bringing their private arms and volunteering for the state protective forces.19
Switzerland was the only country in Europe, indeed in the world, where every man had a military rifle in his home. Nazi invasion plans acknowledged the dissuasive nature of this armed populace, as I have detailed in my book Target Switzerland: Swiss Armed Neutrality in World War II (Rockville Center, New York: Sarpedon Publishers, 1998).
Out of all the acts of armed citizen resisters in the war, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 is difficult to surpass in its heroism. Beginning with just a few handguns, armed Jews put a temporary stop to the deportations to extermination camps, frightened the Nazis out of the ghetto, stood off assaults for days on end, and escaped to the forests to continue the struggle. What if there had been two, three, many Warsaw Ghetto Uprisings?20
The NRA trained hundreds of thousands of Americans in rifle marksmanship during World War II. President Harry Truman wrote that NRA's firearms training programs "materially aided our war effort" and that he hoped "the splendid program which the National Rifle Association has followed during the past three-quarters of a century will be continued."21 By helping defeat the Nazi and Fascist terror regimes, the NRA helped end the Holocaust, slave labor and the severest oppression.
Those tiny pacifist organizations of the era that called for gun registration and confiscation contributed nothing to winning the war or to stopping the genocide. Their counterparts today have nothing to offer that would enable citizens to resist genocide.
Individual criminals wreak
their carnage on individuals or small numbers of people. As this century has
shown, terrorist governments have the capacity to commit genocide against
millions of people, provided that the people are unarmed. Schemes to confiscate
firearms kept by peaceable citizens have historically been associated with some
of the world's most insidious tyrannies. Given this reality, it is not
surprising that law-abiding gun owners oppose being objects of registration.
1. Interview with Bill Clinton, "Good Morning America," June 4, 1999
2. The New York Times, Nov. 9, 1938, 24.
3. Gerald Schawb, The Day the Holocaust Began (New York: Praeger, 1990), 22.
4. The New York Times, Nov. 11, 1938, 1, 4.
5. The Holocaust, Vol. 3, The Crystal Night Pogrom, John Mendelsohn, ed. (New York: Garland, 1982), 183-84.
6. Die Deutsche Wochenschau, No. 506, 15 May 1940, UfA, Ton-Woche.
7. Major H. Von Dach, Total Resistance (Boulder: Paladin Press, 1965), 169. Earlier published as Dach, Der Totale Widerstand (Biel: SUOV, 2nd ed., 1958).
8. The New York Times, July 2, 1940, 20.
9. The New York Times, Jan. 4, 1941, 7.
10. 87 Congressional Record, 77th Cong., 1st Sess., 6778 (Aug. 5, 1941).
11. Id. At 7102 (Aug. 13, 1941).
12. Property Requisition Act, P.L. 274, 77th Cong., 1st Sess., Ch. 445, 55 Stat., pt. 1, 742 (oct. 16, 1941). See. Halbrook, "Congress Interprets the Second Amendment," 62 Tennessee Law Review 597, 618-31 (Spring 1995).
13. Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews (New York: Homes and Meir, 1985), 341, 318, 297.
14. Yitzhak Arad et al. eds., The Einsatzgruppen Reports (New York: Holocaust Library, 1989), ii.
15. Id. At 233, 306, 257-58, 352-53, 368.
16. Reichsgesetzblatt, I, 759 (4 Dec. 1941).
17. The Nazi Deadline, The American Rifleman, February1942, at 7.
18. The American Rifleman, Nov. 1940.
19. E.g., Report of the Adjutant General for 1945, at 23-24 (Richmond, Va., 1946); U.S. Home Defense Forces Study 58-59 (Office of Ass't. Sec. Of Defense 1981).
20. See Rotem (Kazik), Simha, Memoirs of a Warsaw Ghetto Fighter (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), 118-119; David I. Caplan, "Weapons Control Laws: Gateways to Victim Oppression and Genocide," in To Be a Victim: Encounters with Crime and Injustice, eds. Diane Sank and David I. Caplan (New York: Plenum Press, 1991), 310.
21. Letter of Pres. Truman to C.B. Lister, NRA Sec.-Treas.,
Nov. 14, 1945.n
FOR THE SAKE OF OUR CHILDREN - NEVER DISARM !
Children subjected to Government Medical experiments - Auschwitz.
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