Lessons from Nazi Gun Control

By CTD Blogger published on in General

A guest post by Stephen P. Halbrook, Ph.D., J.D.

Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress in April about an idea he had directed the Department of Justice to investigate: a requirement that gun owners wear electronic bracelets that would enable only registered owners to activate their firearms. Some critics, focusing on abusive surveillance powers, have called it Orwellian.Gun Control in the Third Reich

But one needn’t look to fiction to be wary: History offers numerous examples of well-intentioned policies to control crime that have had disastrous consequences. In my new book, Gun Control in the Third Reich, one particularly horrific case study begins in Germany during the tumultuous early 1930s.

In 1932, Alfred Flatow, the three-time gold medalist in gymnastics at the 1896 Olympics, complied with a gun-registration requirement that Weimar officials hoped would reduce the threat posed by extremist groups. The former athlete dutifully registered three handguns, but this didn’t spare him. The government warned that gun-ownership records must be stored securely so they wouldn’t fall into the wrong hands. It failed to consider that only law-abiding citizens would register, whereas political extremists and criminals would not.

In 1933, the ultimate extremist group, led by Adolf Hitler, seized power and immediately set about using gun-registration records to identify, disarm and attack “enemies of the state,” a euphemism for all political opponents. Police conducted search-and-seizure operations for guns and “subversive” literature in Jewish communities and working-class neighborhoods.

By fall 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, who was Jewish, walked into a Berlin police station to comply 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 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 happened, an unrelated event provided just the rationale the Nazis 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 for Kristallnacht, the Night of the Broken Glass, a carefully orchestrated Nazi onslaught against the entire Jewish community in Germany.

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. Under SS head Heinrich Himmler’s decree, an estimated 20,000 Jews were thrown into concentration camps for violating gun laws or just for being Jewish.

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 was starved to death.

None of this is to claim that Eric Holder or today’s proponents of gun control are totalitarians in waiting. But this frightening saga is a reminder of good intentions gone horribly wrong. And unless we let the lessons sink in, we will dishonor honorable people such as Alfred Flatow — and millions more whose suffering we should never forget.


Stephen P. Halbrook

Stephen P. Halbrook is the author of Gun Control in the Third Reich. Photos courtesy of The Independent Institute.

Stephen P. Halbrook, Ph.D., J.D., is Research Fellow at The Independent Institute and author of the books Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and Enemies of the State,The Founders’ Second Amendment, and Securing Civil Rights, the latter two of which were cited in the U.S. Supreme Court cases of District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago. His earlier Amici Curiae Brief in Heller on behalf of 55 members of the Senate, the Senate President, and 250 members of the House of Representatives was also cited. Dr. Halbrook is also the author of the book, That Every Man Be Armed: The Evolution of a Constitutional Right (Independent Institute). 

This essay is reprinted with permission of The Independent Institute.

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Comments (51)

  • Anti-Gun Measures Don’t Work


    […] Arms, by Stephen P. Halbrook. See other Shooter’s Log coverage of Gun Control in the Third Reich here and […]


  • Dr Dave


    Won’t even cloud the value of it by adding anything
    Dr Dave


  • Mc Ruger


    Thanks G-Man. Your post should be published for all to read.
    The saddest part of all of this is that the demise of the nation is not natural evolution of a country. It is deliberate, by design based on a warped values and lack of respect for the things that made America Great. I once wrote a posting for another site discussing the values I could take from our present administration to provide guidance to young people. It is sad to say that the examples provided by our president are only; lie to get ahead, lie to get elected, never take responsibility for anything, claim you didn’t know, we have a right to a free ride and success is bad. Are these the traits and principals Americans will carry into the future?
    Your last statement is so profound and anyone with an ounce of common sense and reason should be able to see now more than ever the true reason for the 2nd Amendment. I pray that people see the light before that need for that amendment is tested.


  • G-Man


    @ Mc Ruger and Dr. Dave: I can see Mc Ruger and Dr Dave have a handle on the woes of this Nation, so what I have written below is in addition to their astute assessment.

    Mc Ruger previously wrote, “It is very sad and I fear getting it back will take more than getting people to vote.” While Dr. Dave also wrote, “No one cares about getting involved anymore that is why it has mutated like it has over 200+ years.”

    Truer words were never spoken by anyone.

    People no longer invest the time to truly comprehend the essence of each issue that impacts their daily lives before voting. And even those that think they do, aren’t nearly as prepared as they think they are; and so unbeknownst to themselves, they unwittingly fail to attain the necessary knowledge needed to vote appropriately for the issues at hand.

    Most regrettable is their lack of desire to fully commit to the sacrifices required in anticipation of the long-term ramifications required when voting on some of the more important issues.

    Instead, our society has morphed into a culture that prides itself upon immediate gratification. There are volumes that could be written to express what caused the downfall of our country leading up to this moment in time, but at its core, it simply comes down to the true loss of fundamental values.

    The loss of such values is an unfortunate side effect instilled into our youth by our liberal controlled and socialized education system and media machine that spreads the belief into accepting one’s self-induced right to intrinsic freedom without regard for any boundaries.

    The principal behind all civility and freedom requires we maintain some form of reasonable self-control and restraint within our system of freedom. In other words – certain natural boundaries of respect and dignity are required in order that we maintain success in this experiment we call “Liberty” and “Freedom”.

    No law can ever force a society to have such self-control; it can only punish a person after the loss of their self-control has already caused its damage. Instead, one must be encouraged to learn and achieve a personal desire towards the civility required to maintain the natural boundaries needed for “Freedom” to flourish. Obviously such education should occur at a very young age and well before the legal system ever gets involved.

    One very precious source that instilled in us the necessary decency, civility, and understanding needed for natural boundaries throughout the creation of our great Nation was accomplished through religion. But over-interpretation by liberals of the “Separation Clause of Church and State” has ensured the removal of every last vestige of God from all things public. This includes our socialized school systems where children spend one-third of their day for eighteen of the most impressionable years of their life, which are now completely void of any religion and God.

    No one wants to admit it, but even if God does not exist, the concept taught in religion makes for better people. And so without the moral respect and dignity once instilled by the goodness of religion, natural civil boundaries have decayed from a state of “Freedom”, and instead have been translated into a state of “Free-for-All” where anything goes. The result is a warped society that is confused into celebrating all things unnatural and perverted as they misinterpret their “Freedoms” for a “Free-for-All”.

    So while liberal society is hard at work fighting to give every single class of people their right to a selfish and perverted “Free-for-All” lifestyle, no one seems to understand that it is impossible to give every warped class of persons all these additional rights without imposing upon or completely removing the previous rights of another. It is simply an impossible feat. And thus the natural boundaries required for real “Freedom” no longer exist and our Nation has degraded into a state of dissention creating classes that are pitted against one another.

    So for those of us that managed to keep our dignity in check and God in our hearts, every successive day becomes a never ending battle of LOST rights as we are forced to fight the filth and corruption from spilling into our homes and our children’s lives while TV bombards us with the disgusting half-naked images of corrupted children like Miley Cyrus twerking against the crotch of a man twice her age during primetime award shows.

    Just as disgusting, we are forced to explain to our children why the president sanctions the non-productive homosexual marriages of gay people that physically have no ability to pro-create while at the same time is in strict defiance of the natural boundaries necessary for those that do pro-create.

    How is a parent expected to teach their children to always respect the letter of the law while our president looks the other way as millions of illegals flagrantly violate our border laws, and once here, spit on our Constitution and burn our flag that we teach our children to respect?

    How exactly does a parent explain to their teens the senseless death of a federal agent by a gun the president authorized into the hands of the Mexican Cartel while at the same time advocates disarming law abiding citizens? Worse is the inability to explain the lack of justice for his high crimes.

    But the epitome of all explanations – how does one explain to their children why this excuse for a man was elected twice, all while we attempt to teach our teens strong morals towards earning their way through hard work and integrity, yet the president uses welfare to appeal to a lower class of voter with free hand-outs paid for off the backs of hard working parents.

    It is absolute insanity and utter madness with no end in sight… when one finally realizes the totality of what has actually become of our society and where it is headed, they have no choice but to succumb to the simple realization that guns in the hands of the citizenry is the last line of defense which is holding it all together.


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