If you think the gun legislation laws of Germany caused the Holocaust or made it possible, please note the following:
German Gun Laws from 1919 to 1938
German laws concerning firearms went through a series of modifications following World War I. Most of these modifications occurred prior to the Nazi rise to power. Some of these laws were very strict regarding firearm production and ownership, as the German government worked to 1) comply with the Treaty of Versailles and 2) deal with the threat of violent overthrow (like the failed Nazi coup attempt in 1928). When the Nazis came to power in 1933, they also similarly enacted laws which limited or denied firearms to those groups who threatened them, but then reduced or lessened general restrictions as their power solidified. In general, German laws regulating firearms became less strict from 1919 forward (from no firearms to regulated firearms), and this includes the period of Nazi rule.
Contrary to popular political rhetoric and social media memes, the 1938 Weapons Act (the “Nazi Weapon Law of 1938”) in reality significantly reduced gun regulation for the general population in Germany and Austria. However, Jewish Austrian-German nationals were banned from owning any firearms by the 1938 Regulations Against Jews’ Possession of Weapons.
German Humiliation and Anti-Jewish Scapegoating
It is essential to take into consideration the context of post World War I Germany when thinking about the Holocaust. During this period, the intense insecurity, anxiety, and anger following Germany’s humiliating defeat became even more deeply attached to pre-existing anti-Jewish sentiment. For nearly two thousand-years, European Christians had scapegoated and persecuted Jews in varying degrees of intensity, and Protestant Germany had one the worst histories in this regard.
In the post World War I years, the popularization and rationalization of blaming Jews for Germany’s problems was a key element of the Nazi message of nationalistic pride. Hitler’s promises of restoring the national honor of Germany—full of confidence, charisma, and hate—were extremely popular and effective. When Hitler rose to power, it gave the Nazis the institutional, legal, and military capability to engage in the systematic murder of millions, with very little opposition from German citizens (whether they owned weapons or not). Hitler was not ruling over a populace that opposed him.
The Might of the German Military
It is also important to remember that armed resistance did take place, but it did not stop the German military.
No nation (except, perhaps, Japan) had the combined power, competency, and effectiveness of the German military at the beginning of World War 2. It is mind boggling to think about how quickly German forces defeated and overwhelmed what would have been considered real armies (notably, the English and Russian forces), and in this perspective a Tiger or Panzer tank makes rifles and handguns look like a silly form of self-defense. This isn’t hypothetical. We have real examples. When Germany invaded Poland, the Polish cavalry was still on horseback, and when they rode out against the modern tank cavalry of Germany, it surprises no one now how quickly they met defeat. At the time, this was armed cavalry against armed cavalry, trained military against trained military. It’s just that the technology and level of firepower was so completely unequal. Another example is the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, where 300 German soldiers were killed but over 7,000 Jews died in the battle (after which another 42,000 of those remaining in the Ghetto were sent to extermination and concentration camps). In addition, when members within the German military attempted to assassinate Hitler and take over the government with military authority (Operation Valkyrie), even they failed in their attempt at armed resistance.
This is not to belittle the actions of resistance or the heroism of those who engaged in such acts. Resistance fighters certainly saved some lives, created diversions that caused the Germans to shift resources and troops, and were a valuable source of pride and morale for those opposing the Nazis—but it did not stop the German military nor the Holocaust.
What is truly disturbing is that Hitler didn’t need to implement gun-control to accomplish the murder of millions, he just had to rationalize hatred. More disturbing is that the materials the Nazis produced about the Jewish people are very similar in content to many of the memes, social media posts, and the political rhetoric about Muslims and refugees today.
Here is an example of Nazi anti-Jewish rhetoric:
…mature reflection shows that it is a mistake to take those Jews in a given country and bring them all together in a special federation, regardless of whether they are orthodox, assimilated, or of mixed race, not with the possibility and goal of building a people, but rather to establish a legal minority with rights within a state of a Gentile people. The goal is always for Jews to build their own people, and to separate themselves from a Gentile people. Therefore, one must not promote individual Jews as minority citizens, or some such status, within a Gentile people, but rather move Jews out to build their own people.
Those Jews who for centuries have recognized the battle of the Jewish Question are called to contribute to a real solution, those Jews who recognize that the dream of Jewish world domination has failed, and who are therefore ready to become a people among peoples. Those peoples among whom the question burns the hottest because of the Jewish masses among them are also called [to solve the Jewish Question], particularly the major Western European colonial powers with vast possessions, for it cannot be permitted that a decent solution be prevented by cheap humanitarian slogans.
I could easily replace “Jews” with “Muslims” (or “Arabs”) in the above paragraphs and have an example of conversations or comments that I have heard or read recently. Simply listen to this interview.
Holocausts aren’t about gun control or gun owner rights, they are about ideologies of hate and dehumanization.
Whatever your position on gun regulation is, if you want to stop Holocausts in the future, do everything you can to limit yourself from being controlled by fear, anxiety, and anger. Don’t let politicians or anyone use these emotions to manipulate you into systematic hatred, scapegoating, and dehumanization of others. Challenge even the hint of those notions any chance you get.
To turn a phrase: Gun regulation doesn’t cause Holocausts or genocides, people do.