On June 10, 1944, four days after D-Day, troops of the 4th SS Panzer Regiment surrounded the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane, in central France. The troops surrounded the village, ordered the people to assemble in the village square, and shot those who tried to flee.
The National Socialist forces put women and children on one side, men on the other. The men were confined in six locations, faced down by heavy machine guns. The SS troops set off an explosion then gunned down the men, aiming for the legs before finishing them off at point blank range and setting the dead and dying on fire.
The SS troops locked the women and children in the village church, filled with black smoke from an exploding gas cannister. The Germans threw in grenades, shot indiscriminately, and set the victims on fire. The rest of the village was then looted and set ablaze.
The attackers killed 245 women and 207 children, including six below the age of six months. The 196 men killed included seven Jewish refugees from other parts of France. Out of the 648 people murdered in the village, only 50 could be identified. One woman survived by jumping from a window of the church, breaking her leg and taking a bullet from a Nazi soldier. She lost her husband, son, two daughters, and a grandson only seven months old.
The massacre of Oradour-sur-Glane, the worst atrocity in Nazi-occupied France, was a reprisal for attacks by the French Maquis or Résistance. This mass murder, and the oppression of a nation, were enabled by the systematic disarming of the French people. Stephen P. Halbrook wrote about it in Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France: Tyranny and Resistance, the first scholarly work on the subject.
Pierre Laval, prime minister in 1935, decreed the registration of firearms for the first time in modern French history. The registration was “aimed at firearms owners at large and did not focus on those responsible for fomenting political violence.” The main effect “was to enhance the power of government over the citizens.” Little did anyone anticipate that “just five years later, France would be conquered by Nazi Germany.”
When the Nazi forces invaded France in May of 1940, the Stalin-Hitler Pact was in force. The powerful French Communist party opposed the war against Hitler and “encouraged friendship with Germans when they occupied Paris.”
In June of 1940, Pierre Laval was deputy prime minister in the government collaborating fully with the Nazis. The previous month the government issued a decree demanding the surrender of all firearms and radio transmitters, on penalty of death. The French were also subject to the death penalty for failing to denounce someone who possessed guns.
As Halbrook shows, few French supported the resistance before the roundups of Jews in July 1942 and the obligatory service declaration in February 1943. After that, support increased and the allies parachuted arms to the Maquis, who still lacked firepower. They trained teens to shoot, and French civilians battled Nazis in Paris with any rifles and pistols they could find.
One French fighter shot a pistol through his pocket and took out two German sentries. Jewish partisans ambushed a German train shouting “Wir sind Juden! Wir sind Juden!” As Maurice Bernsohn explained, “We pounced on them, I tearing a revolver from the belt of a German major,” and he kept the gun “to this day.”
Halbrook also tells the story of Hélène, a young Jewish woman who helped others escape the firing squads. “She was arrested in March 1944 and deported to Auschwitz and Belsen-Belsen,” Halbrook writes, “where she would die just days before the camp was liberated in 1945.” Many others perished in the struggle to liberate Paris.
Pierre Laval’s crusade for a “gun-free France” wound up aiding the murderous National Socialist tyranny that slaughtered the 648 at Oradour-sur-Glane, hardly the only site of Nazi massacres.
Halbrook is also the author of Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and “Enemies of the State.” Before the Nazis took power, the author notes, the liberal Weimar Republic sought to register, regulate and prohibit firearms. A 1926 order demanded surrender of all firearms and a 1926 Bavarian law barred Gypsies from owning guns.
When the National Socialist German Workers Party took power in 1933, they grabbed the registration records of the Weimar Republic. Nazi official Wilhelm Elfes ruled that weapons belonged only in the hands of the organs of the Reich and the states. In the National Socialist view, nobody needed a firearm for self-defense when the police protected society and sport shooting and hunting were not a “need,” as determined by the government.
Halbrook shows how the National Socialists denied access to firearms to anyone not an adherent of National Socialism. The purge included the Stahlhelm, a veterans group critical of the Nazi regime, and all “unreliable” types, with German Jews a primary target.
In 1896, Albert Flatow won first place in gymnastic events at the Olympic games in Athens. In 1932, Flatow registered three handguns as required by a decree of the Weimar Republic. On October 4, 1938, the Nazis arrested the Olympic champion for possession of the firearms he dutifully registered in 1932. His arrest report stated that “arms in the hands of Jews are a danger to public safety.”
Flatow was turned over to the Gestapo and died of starvation in Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in December 1942. For Halbrook, the lesson is obvious.
“A disarmed populace that is taught that it has no rights other than what the government decrees as positive law is obviously more susceptible to totalitarian rule and is less able to resist oppression.” On the other hand, “an armed populace with a political culture of allowed constitutional and natural rights that they are motivated to fight for is less likely to fall under the sway of a tyranny.” Jump ahead to 2022 and the lessons should be obvious.
Five years ago, few envisioned that the White House would be occupied by the addled puppet of the hate-America left. In the style of the composite character David Garrow described in Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama, Biden ignores Islamic terrorism and targets his domestic opposition. Anyone less than worshipful of the Biden Junta is proclaimed a “domestic terrorist” or “violent extremist,” code for Trump voters and anyone who dares question the 2020 election.
Conservative Christians, Jews, and patriotic Americans are disfavored groups and relentlessly demonized. It disturbs the Biden Junta that these Americans have Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms.
The Biden Junta exploits mass shootings by criminals to call for a ban on “assault weapons,” a reference to the AR-15. Fully automatic weapons are already banned, but as Halbrook explains, the semiautomatic AR-15 enjoys “common use” protections under the Second Amendment. Such firearms are “typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes” and “chosen by American society,” not the government.
Joe Biden is now spouting nonsense about 9mm bullets, which hints at a ban on handguns. If embattled Americans thought that the Democrats’ endgame is to disarm the people it would be hard to blame them. A disarmed public would be more vulnerable to the sway of a tyranny and attacks such as Oradour-sur-Glane.
That mass atrocity was followed by a National Socialist propaganda campaign claiming that the villagers initiated the battle, that the men of the village died during the fight, and the women and children died from an explosion in a Résistance ammunition dump. To adapt the Cecil Eby title, the victims were caught between the bullet and the lie.
This is what can happen when the people with all the power have all the guns. Moving forward, the struggle is all about memory against forgetting. “Vive la France libre! Vive l’Amérique libre!”