A Deeply Sad History of the Last-Ditch German Volkssturm Rifle VG5 or VK98
See the Video Here
Hey guys and welcome to another walk-in Wednesday. This did actually walk in on Wednesday, I got it yesterday and was anxious to open the box. I was pleasantly surprised because this is one of the nicest I've seen. Those of you who are looking at it now and saying what is this? If you watched our videos before, we've actually featured one before.
Looking at the this Gun Twice
It is a VG-5, Volkssturm-5 or VK 98. So it looks like a K98, it doesn't look German, it looks more like a last-ditch Japanese gun when in fact it's a last-ditch German gun. As I said, we already did a video on this, but this was so nice and such a classic gun that I just had to show it to you.
They're very very rare and I'll explain why. If you look at it you do see the resemblance of a K98. In fact the bolt and much of the receiver is very much like the K98. But let's take a look at the differences between this and a K98.
Put them Side by Side
So side-by-side you first notice the butt plate, there is no butt plate. And then this is made with beechwood. It almost looks like it was cut out by a jigsaw puzzle, whereas the K98 was a very beautiful stock. Germans were known for their craftsmanship in making guns. This thing is just a last-ditch, throw it together as cheaply as possible.
More details on this Gun
Moving along you can see that there's no finish on this trigger guard at all or the trigger and then there's no floor plate, none at all, they just removed the floor plate. When we get to this end of the stock you can see there's no barrel band but even just the loop to hold the strap, all they did was take a piece of metal and bend it over. Again very crudely made. If we look at the top you can see the machining on the bolt.
Also the sight, they didn't have the calibered sight for different meters. Basically it was sighted for 100m and that's all you get. You can also see BNZ45 which is the Steyr Factory. I'll say a little bit more about that in a minute. You can see the machining marks throughout the barrel but right here, you see the serial number which is 8100 range.
The last of the last-ditch Guns
They only made a little less than 10,000, so this is one of the last of the last-ditch guns. 8100 range and we do see a firing proof which is a Nazi test eagle. So it was test-fired, however, there are no Waffen stamps. It should not have any Waffen stamps on it because this was not issued to the army. The German army would not have bought this, it was...I don't want to say a piece of junk, it probably shoots just fine but it's not up to the calibre of the German army. However, it was ordered by the Nazi Party and handed out to the Volkssturm. Again I'll go back to that but let's finish looking at this gun.
Let’s look at the Barrel
The barrel, you'll notice it stays really thick other than at the very end because everything was a short cut. They didn't mill the entire barrel they just took it down as far as they needed to and then only milled it down at the very end to the proper size. So basically, it was just saving time not having to mill the entire machine, the entire barrel, just the very end of the barrel. There's no bayonet lug, no sight hood, none of those things are present here. Again, as cheaply and as quickly as possible getting it out the door.
Now this one, most of them don't have a strap. Interestingly this does, have no idea if that was added later or at the time it was assembled but on the reverse of the strap, you can see the maker mark and then it's dated 1944. So it is a late-war strap to go with this last-ditch gun. Just one more thing about it, there's no floor plate. It will however hold five rounds. If you pull the bolt back you can see that you can load five rounds.
And this gun, since it was issued to the Volkssturm, that was basically older men who probably fought in World War I and were not eligible for service and young boys. Actually young boys and girls, literally 14, 15 years old, who were commandeered by Hitler, by the SS, by the authorities, to defend Berlin.
The last-ditch to Defend Berlin
So this was the last-ditch, you have to defend Berlin. They were going up against the Russians who were quite brutal and basically they were either given a Panzerfaust where they get one shot and run or they get one of these rifles where they get five shots and run. And I really do believe they had to be scared to death. The Russians were brutal, mostly killing the boys and they were known to have raped a lot of the women and killing them as well. So I don't want to be too graphic about that but there were atrocities on all sides but the Russians in particular coming into Berlin were very brutal.
So a lot of these young boys and girls and older men they would empty the chamber, drop it and run. That's why these are so rare. The Russians probably captured most of these, they probably didn't keep them. They probably melted them down and reused them, threw away the stocks or used it for firewood but they didn't survive the war. Very few of them came to the United States because they didn't go to the American side very often. So it's rare to find one of these and therefore even though this looks so cheaply made and some people would say it's a junker, these actually sell anywhere from $5,000 - $10,000 and the prices only go up. So it's a fascinating piece of history and very worthy of an advanced collector.
Backtrack to the BNZ Steyr Factory
So I want to backtrack and just go over one other issue and that is the BNZ Steyr Factory. It was infamous for forced labor. Infamous in that we hear a lot about the Steyr Factory using concentration camp prisoners, also forced labor from other European captured countries that way it happened actually in most of the plants and in fact we did a whole video. We talked about over 2,000 factories were using forced labor. Here's a little bit of information that is in our other video. I recommend you go back and re-watch that video because it sets the stage for all of our Nazi collecting.
See clip from a previous video
There were over 70 Concentration Camps
We all know that six million Jews were interned...six million Jews were killed and more than that were interned in concentration camps. The only ones we really hear a lot about are things like Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau. We can name those off the top of our heads but what I didn't realize until I researched it a bit, there were almost seventy concentration camps throughout Germany and the conquered countries. So over seventy concentration camps, most of whom you've never even heard about they were throughout the entire Third Reich.
And any factory that was set up near one of these camps would have workers brought in. Now the system was very corrupt. You'd have to go to the movie Schindler's List, which I went back and re-watched and it really helped me to watch it a second time because it explained a lot. If from the very beginning Oskar Schindler, they showed him paying bribes to people who were at the camps.
And there was some labor camps, they were all forced labor camps and there were some criminals that were put away in labor camps and these would be like petty theft kinds of things, gypsies were put in concentration camps, homosexuals were put in concentration camps. So there was actually 12 million people that were interned into concentration camps, not just Jews but other people as well. The most people that were rounded up where the Russians. Over five million Russians were rounded up and put into concentration forced labor situations and then Poland was second in terms of the number of people that were interned into these concentration camps or forced labor camps. So on to forced labor.
Back to Schindler’s List
Let's go back to Schindler's List which is a very factual movie. A lot of Hollywood movies have been like juiced up a little bit but what from what I can tell it was extremely factual in terms of what happened. There was a lot of bribes paid, if you remember the concentration camp director who was a brute, he became friends with him. He provided women, money, alcohol, gifts, that was very common. There were over 2,000 factories that used forced labor. So these are household names which I'm not going to name because I'm liable to hear from a lawyer, so I'm not going to name, but household names that you all know used forced labor during the war. Schindler who made pots and pans used forced labour.
Mauser, Kriegoff, Walther, Steyr, basically all the guns we collect, they used forced labor. Nobody was treated well. But you don't hear horror stories about the Walther Factory or the Kriegoff Factory or other factories but you do hear horror stories about the Steyr Factory. And most commonly you will hear horror stories about the coal mines where people were forced to dig in the coal mines and then also for the V2 Rocket Program that was all underground mines and they were forced to dig out the underground mines at the V2 factories. The death rate was extremely high, it was over 50% of the people who worked in there died, whereas I did read that the survival rate in some of the factories was actually like 95%. So there was not as much death.
What was Schindler doing?
Now, I don't want to say there's anything good about forced labor but let's go back and look at Schindler's List again. Schindler was getting people, the Jews, from the concentration camp and keeping them alive by giving them work. If you watch the movie, it shows they were rounding up the women for inspection. And they would regularly, maybe periodically, every month they needed space, so they would march everybody out there, men and women, they would have a doctor who would say you go to this line, extermination, you go to this line to the work camps.
You see the women, it's imprinted in my brain, that they would prick their finger, take the blood and rub it on their cheeks and rub it on their lips to give themselves more of a healthy look, a reddish healthy look instead of the pale ashen look that they actually had. And they did that in order to live another day. And so in some twisted way the fact that these people were taken to a labor camp kept them alive. I'm not justifying any of that, I'm telling you I struggle with those facts. Those are gruesome facts that we have to deal with as collectors but the truth is, a gun or a pot or a pan that was made with forced labor in a way, in an odd strange way, kept someone alive for a little bit longer because they avoided the gas chambers.
He was Actually Saving Lives
So you recognize some clips from Schindler's List and we put that in there on purpose because he was a German industrialist who actually was saving lives by having them work in his factory, rather than being exterminated in the camps. Again it's a horrific practice, certainly should be condemned by all countries, forced labor that is, but still if you think of it in terms of people were working in order to stay alive, it puts a different perspective on it.
Somehow it ended up Here
But I just have to mention that this came from the Steyr Factory in 1945, a last-ditch gun that was used by the Volkssturm, probably shot a few times and then thrown aside. Somehow it ended up here in the United States and hopefully, very soon will go into some lucky collectors private stash.