America's First Freedom - February 2014 - 82

P A R T I N G

S H O T
by

Stephen P. Halbrook

What Made The Nazi Holocaust
Possible? Gun Control

T

his past November marked the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, or the Night of
the Broken Glass, the Nazi pogrom against Germany's Jews on Nov. 9-10, 1938.
Historians have documented most everything about it except what made it so easy to
attack the defenseless Jews without fear of resistance. Their guns were registered and, thus,
easily confiscated.
To illustrate, turn the clock back further and focus on just one victim, a renowned
German athlete. Alfred Flatow won first place in gymnastics at the 1896 Olympics. In
1932, he dutifully registered three handguns, as required by a decree of the liberal Weimar
Republic. The decree also provided that in times of unrest, the guns could be confiscated.
The government gullibly neglected to consider that only law-abiding citizens would
register, while political extremists and criminals would not.
However, it did warn that the gun-registration records must be carefully stored so they
would not fall into the hands of extremists.
The ultimate extremist group, led by Adolf Hitler, seized power just a year later, in
1933. The Nazis immediately used the firearm-registration records to identify, disarm
and attack "enemies of the state," a euphemism for Social Democrats and other political
opponents of all types. Police conducted search-and-seizure operations for guns and
"subversive" literature in Jewish communities and working-class neighborhoods.
Jews were increasingly deprived of more and more rights of citizenship in the coming
years. The Gestapo cautioned the police that it would endanger public safety to issue
gun permits to Jews. Hitler faked a show of tolerance for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin,
but Flatow refused to attend the reunion there of former champions. He was Jewish and
would not endorse the farce.
By fall of 1938, the Nazis were ratcheting up measures to expropriate the assets of
Jews. To ensure that they had no means of resistance, the Jews were ordered to surrender
their firearms.
Flatow walked into a Berlin police station to comply with the command and was
arrested on the spot, as were other Jews standing in line. The arrest report confirmed
that his pistols were duly registered, which was obviously how the police knew he had
them. While no law prohibited a Jew from owning guns, the report recited the Nazi
mantra: "Jews in possession of weapons are a danger to the German people." Despite his
compliance, Flatow was turned over to the Gestapo.
This scenario took place all over Germany-firearms were confiscated from all Jews
registered as gun owners. As this was occurring, a wholly irrelevant event provided
just the excuse needed to launch a violent attack on the Jewish community: A Polish
teenager who was Jewish shot a German diplomat in Paris. The stage was set to instigate
Kristallnacht, a carefully orchestrated Nazi onslaught against the entire Jewish community
in Germany that horrified the world and even the German public.
Under the pretense of searching for weapons, Jewish homes were vandalized,
businesses ransacked and synagogues burned. Jews were terrorized, beaten and killed.
Orders were sent to shoot anyone who resisted.
Schutzstaffel (ss) head Heinrich Himmler decreed that possession of a gun by a
Jew was punishable by 20 years in a concentration camp. An estimated 20,000 Jewish
men were thrown into such camps for this reason or just for being Jewish. The Jewish
community was then held at ransom to pay for the damage done by the Nazis.
These horrific events were widely reported in the American media, such as

Stephen Halbrook is a research
fellow with the Independent
Institute and author of
"Gun Control in the Third
Reich: Disarming the Jews
and 'Enemies of the State'"
(Independent Institute, 2013).

The New York Times. After Hitler launched
World War II, the United States made
preparations in case it was dragged into the
conflict. Just before the sneak attack on Pearl
Harbor, Congress passed a law noting the
Gestapo methods and declaring that the
Second Amendment right to keep and bear
arms may not be infringed by such measures
as registration of firearms.
Kristallnacht has been called "the day the
Holocaust began." Flatow's footsteps can be
followed to see why. He would be required
to wear the Star of David. In 1942, he was
deported to the Theresienstadt concentration
camp, where he starved to death.
One wonders what thoughts may have
occurred to Flatow in his last days. Perhaps
memories of the Olympics and of a better
Germany flashed before his eyes. Did he
have second thoughts about whether he
should have registered his guns in 1932?
Or whether he should have obediently
surrendered his firearms at a Berlin police
station in 1938 as ordered by Nazi decree,
only to be taken into Gestapo custody?
Did he fantasize about shooting Nazis?
We will never know, but it is difficult to
imagine that he had no regrets over his act
of compliance.
Today, gun control, registration and
prohibition are depicted as benign and
progressive. Government should register
gun owners and ban any guns it wishes,
Americans are told, because government
is inherently good and trustworthy. The
experiences of Hitler's Germany and, for
that matter, Stalin's Russia and Pol Pot's
Cambodia, are beneath the realm of
possibility in exceptional America.
Let's hope so.
Still, be careful what you wish for.
This article first appeared in
The Washington Times, Nov. , .
Reprinted with permission.

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America's First Freedom - February 2014

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