The customs border which was created did not prevent the trade of goods between France and Prussia, and it did not act as a barrier to the population living along the border.
The border was not an obstacle to local trade, and farmers who had land either side of the border crossed the border without any problems. For those living close to the border, crossing it was part of their daily lives. During industrialization , foundries in Lorraine used coal from the mines in the Saar region, and the migration of workers in both directions increased.
Thus, the border was very permeable, and it constituted little or no obstacle to economic and familial ties and contact. Close economic ties, particularly between the metal industries of the two countries, were a strong motivating factor in Germany's annexation of the Lorraine territories after its victory over France in It can be assumed that an autochthonous Saar-Lor-Lux economic region existed in the decades before the First World War. For the local population, the new French-German border was not a barrier because it was an open border. Passports were only required during the years of the diplomatic crisis — caused by General Georges Ernest Boulanger — [ ].
A majority of the population rejected the incorporation of the territory into the German Empire. In spite of this general tendency, there were nonetheless considerable differences between Lorraine , Upper Alsace and Lower Alsace, between the towns and the countryside, and between Catholic and Protestant sections of the population.
The protest against the annexation was strongest in Lorraine, and weakest among the Protestant rural population of Lower Alsace. In Metz, the proportion of Germans rose by 15 per cent between and , in which year they constituted nearly half of the civilian population of the city.
The fundamental opposition of broad sections of the population to incorporation into the German Empire only began to decline significantly from the s onward.
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After the temporary escalation of French-German tensions due to the policies and ambitions of the French General Boulanger, which had one last time raised hopes of the territory being returned to France, a sober acceptance of the status quo emerged. From this point, there was an increasing tendency to adapt to developments in the German Empire, which was demonstrated, among other things, by the Reichstag elections, in which German-friendly candidates were able to prevail in Alsace-Lorraine for the first time. Besides the disillusionment caused by the outcome of the Boulanger Crisis, the measures of the German imperial government in Alsace-Lorraine also played a role in this development.
Exceptional regulations and special laws which had been in force up to then, which were designed to compensate for the loss of the traditional link with France, were revoked. Maintaining ties with France became more difficult because, among other things, foreign citizens now needed a visa to enter France.
German laws and regulations, such as the German trade regulations and the laws on workers' insurance, which manufacturers and other prominent people in Alsace-Lorraine had campaigned against for a long time, were introduced. Finally the Kulturkampf , which had strongly alienated the Catholic clergy in Alsace-Lorraine from the German Empire, ended, and the German government now engaged with the Catholic population to a far greater degree. The entry into adulthood of a new generation also promoted integration. The Reichstag election in was the first in which a cohort of people were entitled to vote who had passed through the German school system and who were largely unaffected by the French past of the older generation.
This resulted in a pronounced reduction in the hostility towards the German higher schools. The primary school teachers, most of whom were natives of the imperial state Reichsland of Alsace-Lorraine, also gradually changed their mind-set from pro-French to German liberal. Furthermore, the government sought to reconcile the population to Germany by investing extra resources in the annexed territory. While the degree of autonomy in Alsace-Lorraine was less than in all other states of the empire, 51 large improvements were made in this regard — particularly with regard to the right of self-administration of the cities — at the end of the century.
As the capital of the state of Alsace-Lorraine, it had become a political, administrative and economic centre. It was intended that the university would support the process of integration and spread the influence of German culture into France. Gustav Schmoller — , who was rector of the university from to , clearly described this aim during the celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of the university in For this reason, the university was provided with extra material and personnel resources, which far exceeded those available to the other German universities.
These were talented, hard-working young professors, who identified strongly with the German national cause. However, not all professorships were filled with new men. Of the native-Alsatian lecturers of the academy which had been dissolved, 12 were employed in the new faculties, including the first rector of the new university, the Germanophile Protestant theologian Johann Friedrich Bruch — It was hoped that he would symbolize the connection between the old and the new.
Seminar courses gained in importance relative to lectures, which made the university very attractive to students. The other German universities quickly sought to emulate this new model. In order to gain acceptance among the native population and to promote the assimilation of that population into the broader German public, the study of Alsatian history and literature, and the Alsatian dialect were promoted at the new university.
Without feeling German themselves, the inhabitants of Alsace and Lorraine nonetheless increasingly accepted the fact that they belonged to the German Empire. They also developed a strong regional identity and campaigned for more autonomy. However, this progress was destroyed by the uncompromising policy of Germanization adopted by the German administration during the First World War.
During its advance into the Saarland in , the French army had made it clear that it considered itself to be in enemy territory. However, from the very beginning of negotiations in Versailles , France sought to secure ownership of the Saarland. French Minister President Georges Clemenceau — spread the myth that there had been a petition signed by , French natives of the Saarland requesting the incorporation of their region into French national territory.
However, this did not elicit a favourable reaction from the population. Instead, the anti-Prussian campaign of the French strengthened the identification of the population with Germany. As most industrial production in Lorraine was dependent on coal, even connections to German mines in the Rhineland and Ruhr region were not severed during the interwar period.
However, German steel producers had to import the ore they required from Sweden and Spain. In the Saarland referendum held on 13 January , The ambitions of the French were not only frustrated in the Saarland. In Lorraine and, in particular, in Alsace, the initial enthusiasm regarding re-incorporation into France was quickly replaced by disappointment. The almostyear separation had resulted in a divergence in political, cultural and ideological development.
After , the city of Metz, for example, suffered as a result of the dominant role which Nancy now played in the economic and political landscape of Lorraine. This was illustrated by the fight for the retention of municipal self-administration and the local authority system of Though France abandoned this plan relatively quickly, the episode nonetheless resulted in a movement calling for autonomy in the former German territory. On 8 June , a manifesto of the Heimatbund demanded utmost autonomy in order to protect the rights of the population of Alsace-Lorraine. The autonomy movement in Alsace included a small Germanophile group which viewed autonomy as just a first step towards a full return to Germany.
This group gained supporters primarily in the Protestant milieu in northern Alsace, and it was later receptive to the "blood and land" propaganda of the National Socialists. The German authorities spared no efforts to highlight the superiority of German culture, in the hope of winning the native population over for Germany.
As in the decades after , there were plans to make Strasbourg University a model university and a "stronghold of German thought against the Romance west", 78 this time under the aegis of the NSDAP and the SS. Anrich was both a National Socialist and engaged in the field of Westforschung western research which was conducted at Germany universities between and In various publications, he had criticised French efforts to establish hegemony.
These policies were directly supervised by the Gau authorities, specifically the cultural advisor of the Department of Education and Propaganda, and they promoted music and theatre in particular. There were plans to place the theatre in Strasbourg on a par with Berlin and Vienna. In , it was converted into a state theatre and underwent substantial modernization. Ingolf Kuntze — was brought from Berlin to be general director. Hans Rosbaud — was hired as general musical director of the reorganized and augmented orchestra. The salaries of the artistic staff at Strasbourg theatre were considerably higher than those at most German theatres, and were comparable with those in Berlin and Vienna.
French citizens were dismissed from the theatre company, which consisted primarily of Germans, with some Alsace natives. Initially, the theatre attracted a German audience, but the interest of native Alsatians in the theatre quickly rose. The repertoire of the theatre was re-Germanized, with preference being given to classical German plays and German operas.
The mid-20th century
In this way, the Strasbourg theatre quickly gained a very high standing in the German theatre world. But this did not distract from the deportation of numerous Jewish residents or the political and social impositions which resulted from the annexation of the territory by the Hitler dictatorship.
Intermittent or intensive cooperation between leaders of the Alsace-Lorraine autonomy movement and the National Socialists resulted in the idea of autonomy appearing compromised after Only an apolitical regionalism remained.
Positive economic development and integration into French political development further promoted this integration. After , French plans for the Saar region were supported by a group of Saarland exiles, who had founded the Mouvement pour la Liberation de la Sarre MLS in Paris in early and who returned to the Saar region very soon after its liberation.
However, the French government primarily took the route of economic integration. The mines of the Saar region were placed under French administration; the customs border was moved to the eastern border of the Saar region; and the French currency was introduced. By relinquishing reparations or the dismantling of industrial equipment, the French authorities were able to persuade Saarland politicians to cooperate with the French occupiers. However, the MRS saw economic integration as only a first step on the path to total incorporation into France. The French military governor had to repeatedly reprimand the MRS, though he also used the organization for his own aims.
However, the new parties did not pursue the aim of complete incorporation into France. Instead, the Saarland followed a path to political autonomy with retention of the economic union with France.
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The government of the Saarland which was established in consisted mainly of former exiled Saarland natives. In , the Saarland became an associate member of the Council of Europe. In , it joined the Coal and Steel Pact. However, the other Allies refused to agree to a definitive Saar statute granting autonomy to the region before a peace treaty had been concluded.
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