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The Guardian article Ken Livingstone faces fresh inquiry over Hitler Zionism remarks quotes Livingstone as saying:

the Nazi government...started selling Mauser pistols to the underground Jewish army

Is this true? Did the government of Nazi Germany sell Mauser pistols to an underground Jewish army?

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    For a sufficient kickback, government workers did, do, and will do an awful lot of things. Why would this be surprising, even if true? – user5341 Jun 23 '17 at 14:27
  • I have no idea why this is even controversial in real life. It's entirely plausible in 1930 that the Nazi party would do things to support a project that got a large number of Jews out of Germany, and that some Jews would accept that help if it coincided with their desires. – DJClayworth Jun 23 '17 at 17:24
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    @DJClayworth controversial or not, it is of historical interest how groups like Haganah and Irgun (or whatever group he means) got their weapons, and separately what weapons they used. – DavePhD Jun 23 '17 at 18:37
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    @user5341 If you've got proof that it happened, but wasn't an official policy, and instead was done illicitly by individual government workers who personally profited from it, that'd be a good answer. The claim is that the Nazi government did it as a body (not individual workers doing it illicitly). – user568458 Jun 23 '17 at 19:49
  • Why would the government be selling the pistols, rather than the Mauser company or its agents? – jamesqf Jun 24 '17 at 4:49
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Paul Bogdanor analyzed Livingstones claims in the Algemeiner - including this one. He names the presumed source of the claim and concludes that it is not based on any conclusive evidence:

This, presumably, is based on a couple of sentences in an early paper by Nicosia:

“The Eichmann-Polkes talks in Berlin also reveal that the Hagana had received shipments of Mauser pistols from Germany in 1935 and 1936. The exact source of these weapons within Germany is difficult to determine; it is certain, however, that some agency in Germany did provide the Hagana with Mauser pistols, and that the police authorities were aware of it.” (Nicosia, 1978: D1266; see also Nicosia, 1985: 63-4)

Nicosia cited two sources: a Nazi report on a conversation between Adolf Eichmann and Feivel Polkes in May 1937, and a book by Efraim Dekel.

Polkes was a Haganah member who offered to spy on his fellow Jews for the SS. When his activities came to light, he was dismissed from all positions in the Haganah. In his meetings with the SS, he pandered to their antisemitism, proposing to supply all sorts of intelligence on the imaginary worldwide Jewish conspiracy. His reported statements to the SS are not a credible source for any historical fact.

Dekel was in charge of Shai, the Haganah Information Service. In his book, he writes that the Haganah received Mauser pistols from a fictitious exporter in 1935. The pistols were hidden in barrels of cement. According to Dekel, “the consignment was shipped from Belgium.” (Dekel, 1959: 53)

So the allegation that the “underground Jewish army” received Mauser pistols from the Nazis comes from two sources: one a would-be Nazi informer of zero credibility who was trying to impress potential SS paymasters, and another who mentioned that the pistols came from Belgium, without even hinting that the arms were sent by the Nazis. The Haganah had agents all over Europe at the time, and the pistols could have been sent by any number of suppliers. Livingstone’s claim is not based on any serious evidence. source: Ken Livingstone and the Myth of Zionist ‘Collaboration’ With the Nazis

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    good find. This the first Nicosia reference: "Zionism in National Socialist Jewish Policy in Germany, 1933-39 ", Journal of Modern History , Vol. 50, No. 4, On Demand Supplement (Dec., 1978), pp. D1253-D1282. jstor.org/stable/1877301?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents which cites to "NA: T-175/R588. Bericht betr. Feivel Polkes, 000437-438. 7.V.37. This fact is verified by Mr. E. Dekel, a former Hagana official, in his book: SHAI : The Exploits of Hagana Intelligence (N.Y., 1959), pp. 50-53." – DavePhD Jun 24 '17 at 10:42
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    "SHAI : The Exploits of Hagana Intelligence " is books.google.com/… . The book says pistols were shipped out of Belgium, but it doesn't make it sound like they originated from Belgium. Hard to read the book in google books. – DavePhD Jun 24 '17 at 10:54
  • It seems Nicosia has two additional sources that Paul Bogdanor isn't acknowledging, including a letter from Mauser-Jagdwaffen GmbH. See my answer. – DavePhD Jun 24 '17 at 13:49
  • Polkes, according to this declassified CIA document, was solely supported by the Nazis. cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/… If Polkes said "daß die von Deutschland bekommenen Mauser-pistolen" it is basically a direct admission by the Nazis that the pistols came from Germany. – DavePhD Jun 26 '17 at 13:29
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According to the PhD thesis of Francis R. J. Nicosia, for the McGill University department of history, GERMANY AND THE PALESTINE QUESTION, 1933-1939:

There is one final, interesting episode involving the Hagana and Germany during the 1930's which emerges from the documents on the Polkes visit to Berlin in the winter of 1937. During his conversations with Eichmann, Polkes referred to Mauser pistols that Hagana had received from Germany earlier: [cites to footnote 2 of page 131]

Im Verlauf der weiteren Unterredung machte er die Bemerkung, daß die von Deutschland bekommenen Mauser-pistolen anlaßlich der Unruhen in Palastina ausserst wertvolle Dienste geleistet hatten.

Mr. E. Dekel, a former Hagana officer, reveals in his study of Hagana intelligence activities that between 1933 and 1935, some 300 barrels of cement were shipped from a fictitious exporter in Belgium ta a fictitious importer in Jaffa, in reality the Hagana. [cites to footnote 3 of page 131] According ta Dekel, about half of the barrels contained, in addition to the cement, 100 lb. containers filled with Mauser pistols and ammunition. Dekel does not indicate the exact source of these arms, but it seems certain that they originated in Germany, as indicated in the Polkes-Eichmann conversations in Berlin in early 1937. The source within Germany remains a mystery. Although most of their records were destroyed during the war, the Mauser-Jagdwaffen GmbH [name underline in original text] has informed this author that the firm did provide the Ministry of the interior with large quantities of model C96, which appeared in 1932.[cites to footnote 1 of page 132]. It is known from Dekel's study that Hagana agents were actively seeking arms and ammunition all over Europe during the-1930's, and from the SS records on Polkes that Hagana agents were active in Germany at that time.[cites to footnote 2 of page 132] While it cannot be determined at this point who exactly, provided the pistols ta the Hagana, it is certain that someone in Germany did, and that the police authorities were aware of it.

Footnotes:

Page 131:

2 NA: T-175/R588. Bericht betr. Feivel Polkes, 000437-438, 7.V.37

3 E. Dekel. SHAI: THE EXPLOITS OF HAGANA INTELLIGENCE (N.Y.: Thomas Yoseloff, 1959), 50-53.

Page 132:

1 Letter from the Mauser-Jagdwaffen GmbH [name underlined in original text] to, the author, 22nd December, 1975.

2 During his meeting with Polkes in Cairo in Detober, 1937, Eichmann revealed that a Hagana weapons-smuggling ring had been uncovered in Hamburg, and that a Hagana agent named Schalomi had been taken into custody. According to Eichmann, Schalomi was held only in order to pressure Polkes into providing information on the Gustoff assassination. See: IfZG: Eichmannprozeß- Beweisdokumente, Nr.2.

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    +1 for following up on the sources, although I'm not sure if they add any more credibility to the claim. As I understand it, Mauser just confirmed that they provided the Ministry of the interior with weapons, but not what happened to those weapons (and Nicosia himself seems to only speculate that the ministry may have been the source of weapons which according to Polkes were delivered to the Hagana, but he doesn't seem to have any evidence for this). The second source is again based on claims by Polkes. – tim Jun 24 '17 at 14:34
  • @tim It seems the pistols came from Germany, that they were originally purchased by the German Interior Ministry, but that it is unknown to what degree, if any, the government was involved in the transfer to Hagana. – DavePhD Jun 24 '17 at 14:47
  • @tim Nicosia seems to be an expert in "the history of modern Germany, the Third Reich, and the Holocaust" uvm.edu/~history/?Page=faculty/… – DavePhD Jun 24 '17 at 14:55
  • I don't doubt the credibility of Nicosia in general, but it doesn't sound like he makes a strong case here. He states that "The source within Germany remains a mystery" and "while it cannot be determined at this point who exactly, provided the pistols ta the Hagana". Because of this, I would say that the part about Mauser selling weapons to the ministry - and the implication that these weapons were then send to the Hagana - is just speculation on his part. Anyway, the important takeaway from this for me is that we don't really know how the weapons ended up there. – tim Jun 24 '17 at 15:07
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    @DavePhD: I don't think the logic follows. A) Mauser company makes pistols, and presumably wants to sell as many as it can. B) Mauser sold some to the German government, but presumably not their entire production. C) Some Mauser pistols were shipped from Germany/Belgium to Israel. Where's the evidence that the B pistols were in fact the C pistols, rather than some from A? – jamesqf Jun 24 '17 at 17:38

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