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.

enter image description here

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.

  • Perhaps the Americans didn't want the Germans using them for propaganda purposes? Just a guess, but I'll look for a definitive answer.
    – Luke_0
    Commented Aug 17, 2013 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. Commented Aug 17, 2013 at 20:47
  • 2
    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
    Commented Aug 18, 2013 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
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 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
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 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?"

  • An interesting perspective. 70 years ago, Prussian rifles wouldn't have seemed so ancient. Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 22:44
  • 1
    Nitpick on the last paragraph. There are vast differences between the rifles of the Franco-prussian war (single shot, with black power paper cartridge and fragile component like the needle, deemed obsolete and replaced by the 1900's) and the small-arms of the US troops in 1945. The AK-47 on the other hand is basically as effective as current weapons, and many armies are still using the same design. There were a lot of innovations in gun technology between late-19th and mid-20th century but we have been at a plateau since then.
    – Luris
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 14:24
  • @Luris : take a look at the "liberator pistol", it was also a single-shot pistol, probably with even worse accuracy than a flintlock pistol. Yet it was still deemed useful in WW2 as an insurgency weapon, being cheap to produce and distribute: the goal was for an insurgent to use it to shoot a soldier or policeman at close range from an ambush, and steal his (better) gun. Any single-shot firearm can be used for this purpose, even a 500 year old wheellock.
    – vsz
    Commented Dec 14, 2021 at 7:42

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

  • 2
    Do you have a link for the Allied book burning claim? Commented Oct 17, 2014 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. Commented Oct 17, 2014 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. Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 22:08
  • 3
    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. Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 22:39
  • 1
    @LateralFractal If you are so fascinated by this I suggest reading the so-called "Allied Control Authority Order No. 4" (among others) issued by the occupation authority and other similar dictates. Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 22:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.