1933 Konzentrationslager Death Head (Totenkopf)

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This is a eerie  example of the 1920's Model DWM (Deutsches Waffen Und Munitionsfabriken Co) Manufactured commercial gun converted to a Police Pistole-08 sometime after 1933 .  With no chamber date to indicate military contract year of production only the Crown N (Nitro Proof) tells us it is pre-1930's production. The Death's Head (Totenkoft) is very rarely seen displayed in this manner and it was passed down two generations as taken from a guard by a member of the the U.S. Seventh Army's 45th Infantry Division on April 29th, 1945 upon the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. This a very difficult Luger for the collector to achieve.   (1512)

NOTE: Photographs taken today with the high mega-pixel camera show more than we sometimes can see with the human eye. Magnified close-ups show us tool marks and natural surface conditions that one normally doesn't see in the ordinary handling of the weapon.  Photographs are copyrighted, all rights reserved, any extraction, reproduction or display of gun pictures without the express consent of the Phoenix Investment Arms is strictly prohibited. Thank you for your cooperation.  Please visit Legal (tabbed) for Conditions of Sale.


August von Mackensen; German field marshal.  A type of irregular light horsemen were already well established by the 15th century in medieval Hungary. On the eve of World War I there were still Hussar regiments in the British (including Canadian), French, Spanish, German, Russian, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Romanian and Austro-Hungarian armies. In most respects, they had now become regular light cavalry, recruited solely from their own countries and trained and equipped along the same lines as other classes of cavalry. Hussars were however still notable for their colorful and elaborate parade uniforms. The German Imperial units had adopted the Death-head (Skull-Totenkopf) as their symbol and this is probably the origin in German units. Below: German Hussars on the move.


This is chambered for 9mm and has a standard 4" barrel (100mm) fixed sights and walnut grips.   This Parabellum started out as a commercial gun manufactured in the 20's from left over WWI parts  when the war stopped.  The extractor is marked "Geladen" on the left side and the safety is marked "Gesichert" with the safe position being downward. The absence of proof marks or even police proofs; only the mandatory Crown N (Nitro) proof keeps it in the pre-Nazi proofed guns or guns purchased by the SS who had their own procurement system.

The Death head (Totenkopf) was carved into the headspace of this Parabellum.  This was not a factory issue but was probably done by members of the early SS Police units associated with the Nazi party when Himmler divided the regular patrolmen from the internal party police units.   RIGHT UP:  Looking up you can see the serial numbers are hidden on the side place and locking lever which is customarily indicative of a commercial and not military are gun.

The bottom of the barrel is blank which suggests the barrel has been change out. The Luger vs. the C96 Broomhandle permitted a barrel exchange while the latter did not. The suffix "q" points us at a war time frame. The gun may have been made with a 7.65 barrel and then converted to police work with the application of 9mm barrel. The serial number and the suffix are matched throughout the gun and on the magazines which are numbered in the police configuration with the Arabic 1, 2 etc., for additional magazines instead of the "+" marking. The magazines are the type III extruded but have no manufacturers marks or proofs although they match the gun.

The the front and rear display the serial number on the frame (front) and last two digits of the toggle. Original grips are finely cut diamond shaped checkering made from walnut or in some cases beech wood. These grips are serial numbered to the gun. The original firing pins were marked with the serial number and  when manufactured the original grips were marked to the gun.  Since firing pins and grips wear and break it is not unusual to find unmarked firing pins or replacement grips.

Above you can see the sear safety of the police version of the gun. marked with the sear safety. On this Luger you can see the sear safety probably fully installed at the original time of production. This was the invention of Ludwig Schiwy, during the '20's a gunsmith and the owner of F.W. Vandry & Company, Berlin. It consisted of a spring-steel bar on the top of the trigger plate which spring down into a recess in the sear bar, locking the mechanism, if the trigger plate was removed.  


The German worked camps were designed to provide labor to the increase demands of the growing war material requirements. This objection was thwarted under the control of the SS who started the war collecting criminals, gypsies, Jews and other 'undesirables' to make way for Germanic pure settlements. 

Totenkopfverbände SS assigned to  Nazi concentration camps, Nazi Germany maintained concentration camps (in German Konzentrationslager, or KZ) throughout the territories it controlled. The term was borrowed from the British concentration camps of the Second Anglo-Boer War.

In the 1930's it was a very fluid times with the Communists and Bolsheviks wanting to impose a style of Soviet Communism  lead by under-employed partisans who strove for anarchy and resisted the German order of the Nazi Party.

The first Nazi concentration camps were hastily erected in Germany in February 1933 immediately after Hitler became Chancellor and his NSDAP was given control over the police through Reich Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick and Prussian Acting Interior Minister Hermann Göring.  Used to hold and torture political opponents and union organizers, the camps held around 45,000 prisoners by 1933. There was a difference between concentration camps and extermination camps.


The emblem on the barrel is not roll stamped but is carved in relief and an engraving.  The ominous symbol must have cost the owner to have it engraved but undoubtedly the prestige made it worth it.

It is entirely subjective to give any Luger a rating of excellent or fine, just as it is to declare it xx% blued or strawed. Few Lugers are out of the box new and these are premium priced. Bluing percentages is like Beauty, in the eye of the beholder.  We strive to provide pictures so you can judge for yourself if the gun meets your criteria.

Above there are no proofs on the barrel, none on the extractor or first toggle link only the 2nd toggle link on the rear.  Truly it began as a commercial gun and ended it's career in the hands of an SS soldier.

Left:  There are no proofs which is consistent with a commercial version of the Parabellum.  Right: We can see the extractor marked Geladen and the small Crown N commercial Nitro proof.   Above the breechblock there is a raised signal marked Geladen to tell the shooter that the gun is loaded.  This can be felt in the dark so all one had to do was release the safety  and the noise of cocking the gun did not give the shooter away.  


Only about 3,000 inmates remained in the camps when in 1934–35 Heinrich Himmler's SS took full control of the police and concentration camps throughout Germany. It was then that Hitler allowed Himmler to start using the camps' facilities and personnel to purge German society of so-called "racially undesirable elements" such as Jews, criminals, homosexuals, and Romani people (Gypsies, who were thought to spread diseases in their travels across Europe.)

The Warsaw  Ghetto after the uprising January 18, 1943 -April 28, 1943. The Warsaw Ghetto was established by the German Governor-General Hans Frank on October 16, 1940 in an area of Warsaw primarily occupied by Polish Jews. Frank ordered all Jews in Warsaw and its suburbs rounded up and herded into the Ghetto. At this time, the population in the Ghetto was estimated to be 400,000 people, about 30% of the population of Warsaw.

Heinrich  Himmler, Reichsführer of the Schutzstaffel (SS), a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) of Nazi Germany during a visit to the Dachau work camp in 1936.

The German military devoted an unusual effort in manpower and rolling freight to move criminals, partisans  and others considered threats to the state to work or concentration camps. It was very well organized and staffed.  Note how many officers were present to ensure the transport of French criminal prisoners to the camps.

LEFT: Note the SS soldier with the SD diamond patch on his left sleeve. In 1936, the state security police were consolidated and placed under the central command of Reinhardt Heydrich, already chief of the party Sicherheitsdienst (SD), and named Sicherheitspolizei. The SD had vast power. It could involve itself in any aspect of someone’s life if they believed that that person was potentially “an enemy of the state”.  The SD had the power of summary executions of persons believed to be a threat to the Nazi Regime.



There are no manufacturers marks on the holster so it was most like a private contract. While some parts appeared died there was some attempt to remove the die so it would fit the 1937 uniform change from black to feldgrau (grey-green) for the LSSAH and SS-VT which had adopted a closed-collar field uniform for combat wear, which with the outbreak of war became the standard uniform of what would soon be the Waffen-SS and  Sicherheitsdienst (SD). 

Although production of the Parabellum was stopped in 1942 there were still orders placed by the Police and SS units and with these came the order for holsters and equipment.  this is a very unusual holster that was produced late in the war probably prior to April 1945.  The SS Runes were probably applied by the user as was the Skull of the Totenkopf by a fanatical Nazi. The stitching is still white and not died so the coloring came from another source, the leather is flexible and fully functional.  This is a rare holster.

The only identification marks are the date, and what appears to be an "8" in two place; significance unknown.
The loading tool has no proof marks but does have a serial number on the back as the police numbered their loading tools. This tool does not match the serial number of the gun but was considered an expendable tool.


These German Soldiers have the police emblem on their helmets,  and police buckles on their belt but no SS markings who appear to be detaining an individual to check his papers. Carrying a rifle indicates they were also Waffen Polizei.
German Security Police executing partisans in Poland ( attributed by the photo source).


The inside of the gun is as clean and well maintained as the exterior. you can see all the matching serial numbers on all the small parts and the short sear of the post 1915 models, the thumb safety down (Safe) with the German word Gesichert (safe). 

In October 1932 Carl Walther patented a magazine safety which consisted of a "U" shaped leaf spring with two extensions, fitted into the left side of the frame under the grip. (Seen to the left with the hole drilled in the frame.) One of the extensions fits into the front and lodges behind the trigger while the other end fits through the frame into the magazine well.  With the magazine in place the extension is pushed left and out of the path of the trigger. Removing the magazine allows the safety to move to the right so the bar moved behind the trigger and prevents it from being pulled.  This system never proved satisfactory so it was discontinued but not after this police frame was drilled for it.  ABOVE RIGHT the rear main axel pin is number with the last two digits of the of the serial number.  In 1932 the Reichswehrministerium issued an order that the rear main axel pin be serial numbered to the gun for all police guns.  Both these modifications place the gun in the 1930's simultaneously with the establishment of the concentration camps.

Some parts give us clues to the date of this gun (A) In 1932 the Reichswehrministerium issued an order that the rear main axel pin be serial numbered to the gun.  (B) The grips are walnut and numbered to the gun. (C) the early Crown N Nitro proof which only appears on the breach block. (D) The Sear safety which when the side plate is removed drops a pin into the sear itself and stops the gun from being fired (a Police specification). (E) Last two digits of the serial number on the trigger. (F) Modification for the magazine safety (1932) that wasn't installed because it was cancelled probably placing the issuance of this gun on or about 1933.


In the early days of the NSDAP, Julius Schreck, (Left) the leader of the Stabswache (Adolf Hitler's bodyguard unit), adopted the Totenkopf to his unit. This later grew into the Schutzstaffel (SS), which continued to use the Totenkopf as insignia throughout its history. As they had done with the Swastika, and the "Stechschritt" (Goose-Step March): the Nazis adopted the Totenkopf from the historical tradition and used it for their own purposes, leaving it marked with a stigma that has continued to the present day.

It is important to note that the SS "Death's Head" symbol has some differences to the original German (Prussian) Totenkopf, the original being much more archaic in appearance (see images above), with the SS version appearing more realistic. Moreover, the Prussian Totenkopf could face left or right in half-profile, but usually it was shown en face. The SS Totenkopf, on the other hand, was always facing left in half-profile.

 Jewish prisoner pointing out a German Concentration Camp Guard although his rank and SS patches have been  removed and only his wound badge remains.

Above RightTheodor Eicke (17 October 1892 – 26 February 1943) was an SS-Obergruppenführer (German General), commander of the SS-Division "Totenkopf " of the Waffen-SS and one of the key figures in the establishment of concentration camps in Nazi Germany. In the Night of the Long Knives after the capture of  SA Chief Ernst Röhm, Hitler gave him the choice to commit suicide or be shot. When Röhm refused to kill himself, he was shot dead by Eicke (together with his adjutant, SS-Obersturmbannführer Michael Lippert, on 1 July 1934. Shortly thereafter, Himmler officially named Eicke chief of the Inspektion der Konzentrationslager (Concentration Camps Inspectorate or CCI) and promoted him to the rank of SS-Gruppenführer in command of the SS-Wachverbände.  SS-Obergruppenführer Eike was killed in Russia during an aerial reconnaissance in his Storch

American's summarily executing the guards, (some wounded soldiers from the Red Cross hospital in background) while filming the incident at Dachau in 1945. The American officer who halted the shooting was Lt. Col. Felix Sparks, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment.


This gun and its historical significance makes it a very difficult gun to obtain.  After two generations of preserving this concentration camp gun the descendents called it a "blood gun" and no longer wanted to be associated with it.  This gives the historical collector an opportunity to own a unique piece of history in a full rig. We reserve the right to withdraw this offered for any in-store or gun show sale without notice.   Any questions to



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© Copyright 2001-2016  Phoenix Investment Arms Inc.


© Copyright 2001-2009  Phoenix Investment Arms Inc.


© Copyright 2009  Phoenix Investment Arms Inc.