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As is well known, after the WW2 ended, the U.S. imposed a strong program of demilitarization to Germany.

Can anybody explain the reason why the "antique guns and swords from the Franco-Prussian War"—to which Edward Norman Peterson refer in the book "The American Occupation of Germany: Retreat to Victory"—made part of that demilitarization program.

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I ask because I don't understand how these weapons could pose a danger for the U.S.

Note: From my country I don't have free access to the book cited in the question and this is the reason why I didn't post a more expanded quote.

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Perhaps the Americans didn't want the Germans using them for propaganda purposes? Just a guess, but I'll look for a definitive answer. –  American Luke Aug 17 '13 at 20:27
    
I suspect it was fear of another SA-like movement arming itself with WW-II relics, as the original SA armed itself with WW-I relics. –  Pieter Geerkens Aug 17 '13 at 20:47
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Same happened all over Europe. No difference was made based on the age of weapons, ALL were banned. Hence in for example the Netherlands it is to this day illegal to own something like a musket or black powder pistol, a dirk or saber, or a bow unless you have a special permit and/or the weapon has been visibly made impossible to use (a thick lead plug extending from the barrel, the blade bent double, etc.). –  jwenting Aug 18 '13 at 3:15
    
@jwenting in France "Category 8" (Historical firearms; firearms which have been designed before 1880 and black-powder guns. (Excepted the firearms using black-powder metallic cartridges)) is not prohibited. –  spyder Aug 20 '13 at 5:48
    
@spyder then France is an exception. In most other countries, any and all firearms are prohibited unless visibly and permanently rendered disabled (and in some, even then a permit is needed and hard to get). –  jwenting Aug 20 '13 at 9:33

2 Answers 2

Consider the value that Allied strategists placed on the insurgent movements in Europe. While Germany occupied territories like France the Allies saw great value in providing the people with even rudimentary firearms like the FP-45.

Once the position is reversed and now the Allies are acting as occupiers on foreign soil the logic would be obvious. Particularly obvious to the Americans, whose founding doctrine saw "the right to keep and bear arms" as a core element of preserving an equality between ruled and ruler.

Next consider that these "antique" weapons had seen instances of effective use in WW1 and weren't far from what some of the Russian defense forces had used on the Eastern Front to stop the German invaders.

Finally... I know that this parallel has a very limited application, but I find it interesting that arms left over from the Franco-Prussian war would have been 70 years old at that time, and we're approximately 70 years past WW2. It seems a vast strategic mistake for a modern occupying power to say "let them keep their old tech weapons, what good are AK-47s in this day and age?"

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An interesting perspective. 70 years ago, Prussian rifles wouldn't have seemed so ancient. –  LateralFractal Oct 17 at 22:44

It was a bureaucratic requirement with a psychological basis that was exploited to provide a looting opportunity for American soldiers.

Firstly, you have to understand that the Occupation authorities did not see peace as the complete objective. They wanted to "re-educate" the entire German population to become peaceful and non-warlike, the opposite of what was perceived as Prussian "militarism" responsible for the war. Millions of German survivors were forced into "re-education" and "de-nazification" programs of various types.

Part of the mentality of this effort was to outlaw all weapons of any kind to prevent even the thought of war. Just to give you a sense for it, English-speaking allied soldiers literally went through German libraries (the few that were not burnt down), removed any book they could find that had the word "krieg" in it, collected the books in piles and destroyed them1.

Allied soldiers who were participating in the occupation enthusiastically enforced these "no-weapons" rules, because antique firearms were interesting to them, and in many cases very valuable. The rule gave them the excuse to loot museums and private homes and seize antiques for their own collections. Many German antiques you see auctioned by Sotheby's or Christie's even today, including guns, are items looted from Germany during the war.

1. Read No Evil - Time Magazine

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Do you have a link for the Allied book burning claim? –  LateralFractal Oct 17 at 21:54
    
No, I had a friend who was posted to Germany after the war and he said that's one of the things they had to do. –  Tyler Durden Oct 17 at 22:06
    
Since it's tangential to your answer, do you want keep it in? I'm thinking one the existing primary sources on the denazification program would serve just well. –  LateralFractal Oct 17 at 22:08
    
@LateralFractal Why don't you worry about your answer and I'll worry about mine. –  Tyler Durden Oct 17 at 22:31
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Sure. It was just a suggestion to tighten up the answer a little, considering how incendiary (pun intended) book burning claims are. A friend of a friend of mine found Nazi UFOs in Berlin basements. –  LateralFractal Oct 17 at 22:39

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