This Nazi Luger helped pay for my son’s Bar Mitzvah


Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer

After learning of the passing of Jewish war hero Edward Shames on Sunday morning, I was amazed to learn of how he honored his son’s Bar Mitzvah.  After Germany surrendered, Shames and his men of Easy Company entered Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest where Shames managed to acquire a few bottles of cognac, with labels indicating they were “for the Fuhrer’s use only.”

He would use the cognac to toast his oldest son’s Bar Mitzvah.

This reminded me of another story, where a Jew turned something symbolic of the Nazis into a tribute to another son’s Bar Mitzvah. That story and that son are both mine.

I originally told this story on Facebook on January 27th, 2017, the day before my son Max’s Bar Mitzvah at Central Reform Congregation.

This is a true story that I tell on the eve of a young man’s Bar Mitzvah.

The Bar Mitzvah ceremony is an age-old tradition that marks the transition from childhood to adulthood and signifies a time in a young Jewish person’s life when he is old enough to read from the Torah after learning and studying the principles of the Jewish religion.

The Luger is a German-produced handgun that has existed for more than a century but is perhaps more widely known as the preferred sidearm of Nazi officers.

So how is the Bar Mitzvah and a Nazi Luger linked? From the research we’ve done on this particular Luger, it most likely belonged to an SS officer during World War II and the Holocaust. It was probably captured by an American GI, as the holster is not German issue, but rather U.S. Army.

After the war, Lugers became sought-after items, and this particular Luger ended up in the possession of my family where it remained in a safe deposit box for more than 40 years. I have childhood memories of my brother and I traveling to the bank to see the Luger.

Recently this Luger came into my possession. After thinking long and hard about what to do with this symbol of Nazi hatred, I decided to honor the memory of Adolf and his followers by using their weapon to help pay for a young Jewish man’s Bar Mitzvah.

I do this action in honor of the millions of Jewish boys and girls who did not reach the age of 13 and enjoy this beautiful right of passage. And to the Nazi who once grasped this weapon in his hand and pointed at a Jewish child, your gun just made one young man’s Bar Mitzvah possible. I hope somehow your soul now knows this.

Thanks for reading,