“To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens” – Adolf Hitler, 1933.
When supporters of private gun ownership look to justify their position, they often refer to the quote above that is attributed to Adolf Hitler. They interpret this quote as Hitler’s statement of intent for Germany, that he would assume absolute control of the nation by making citizens turn in their guns. This is matched with the premise that private gun ownership is a means by which the people can defend themselves against tyranny. Whilst this is not necessarily an incorrect position to hold, the justification that ‘Hitler disarmed Germany’ is simply not true.
It is important to note before we examine this issue that private gun ownership is a vital part of a free society. When the people in charge have guns and the people being ruled do not, clearly the former have a free reign to abuse the latter in whatever which way they like. This sentiment is held most dear in America of course, but Europe could learn a lot from this – most European governments have enacted strict gun control legislation since the second world war, yet many people haven’t realised that this maybe, just maybe, part of their plan to change Europe against the will of the people with as little resistance as possible.
After WWI came to an end, Germany was in a state of lawlessness and revolution. The streets were awash with armed battles between the communists and the nationalist freikorps, even the social ‘democrats’ saw a piece of the action. In 1920, the victorious allies instructed the puppet Weimar government to disarm German citizens to restore law and order. The government signed into law a piece of legislation requiring all citizens to surrender their arms entirely – of course in practise, this was not enforceable, but the intent was there. There was a complete ban on the sale of new firearms and ammunition, so the armed conflicts eventually fizzled out, although many Germans still had weapons left over from the war.
In 1928, the Weimar government introduced legislation relaxing slightly the laws regarding firearms. The laws required registration of all firearms, with a total ban on public carry still in place – new firearms had to be registered and were monitored closely, but Germans were once again allowed to buy and sell handguns. Rifles and other weapons were still heavily restricted.
The elections of November 1932 made the NSDAP the largest party in the Reichstag, but short of an overall majority. In January 1933, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany after an agreement between the National Socialists and other right-wing groups in the parliament, as well as the Centre Party. Fresh elections were called for March, which were contested by all political parties – these elections took place after the Reichstag Fire that was started by a Dutch Communist. Hitler actually had the option to ban the Communist Party from taking part in the upcoming election, but wanted to win over their support in the long run so did not do this. The National Socialists won an astounding victory, carrying 48% of the popular vote and receiving over 10,000,000 more votes than the second placed party, the Social Democrats. (The point here is this: look, there was no tyranny to defend against, guns or no guns. The German people voted for these guys!)
After the Enabling Act (23rd March 1933) which gave executive power to the Chancellor and his cabinet, the governing nationalists used firearms registration lists to track down weapons belonging to known communists, and confiscated them. Interestingly, no new firearms legislation was passed. Even in 1935 with the enactment of the Nuremberg Laws, no person or group were restricted from buying or possessing firearms. Even though there had been ongoing tensions between the regime and the Jewish community of Germany, many Jews owned weapons and continued to be allowed to do so.
The only piece of gun legislation at all to be enacted by the National Socialist government came in 1938. The registration laws of 1928 were amended to loosen the restrictions on firearms, not tighten them. In fact, the following changes were made:
- De-regulation of buying, selling and the possession of rifles, shotguns and ammunition.
- Handguns were easier to buy and own – now anybody with a hunting license, member of the NSDAP or state employee could buy, sell and carry a handgun at any time.
- Gave greater discretion to local authorities for permitting the use of firearms by minors.
- Extended the permit period from 1 year to 3 years.
Between 1938 and the Nazi’s removal from power in May 1945, no new gun legislation was brought in. The only restrictions came from the Minister of the Interior on 11th November 1938, who issued a decree regarding Jewish ownership of firearms:
On Nov. 11, 1938, the German minister of the interior issued “Regulations Against Jews Possession of Weapons.” Not only were Jews forbidden to own guns and ammunition, they couldn’t own “truncheons or stabbing weapons.”
So no, sorry conservatives, Hitler did not take guns off his people. That is purely a myth based on something that Hitler may or may not have said in 1933 – in actual fact, he probably would have loved your second amendment!
The only other theory regarding that quote on disarming citizens is that he said it in 1942, when looking back upon the conquest of western Europe, but alas, that is one which we shall probably never know.