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Saar Region or Saar Area
Protectorate of France
1947‚Äď1956 ‚Üí
Flag Coat of arms
Borders of post-WWII Germany (1949). The Saar is in purple.
Capital Saarbr√ľcken
Government Republic
Historical era Cold War
 - Established December 15, 1947
 - WEU referendum October 23, 1955
 - Saar Treaty October 27, 1956
Currency Saar mark, Saar franc

The Saar Protectorate was a German borderland territory twice temporarily made a protectorate state. Since rejoining Germany in 1957, it is the smallest Federal German Area State (Flächenland), the Saarland, in contrast to the city states Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen. It is named after the Saar River.

After World War I and World War II, the state was forcibly made a protectorate by the victorious allies as part of a policy of "industrial disarmament" and re-settlement of peoples mandated on the new German governments. The Saar protectorate was a short lived post-World War II protectorate (1947-1956) partitioned from defeated Nazi Germany; it was administered by France.


The region about the Saar River and its tributary valleys is a geographically folded, mineral rich, strongly ethnically German, economically important, heavily industrialized area. It possesses a well developed transportation infrastructure that was one of the centres of the Industrial Revolution in Germany and which, like the Ruhr Area, fuelled the German war industries from during the early 1800s to the end of WWII. Like the nearby Ruhr valley, it was heavily bombed by the allies as part of the strategic bombing campaigns.

Territorially, the protectorate corresponds to the current German state of Saarland, which it became known after it was returned to West Germany in January 1, 1957. After World War II, a policy of industrial disarmament and dispersal of industrial workers was officially pursued by the allies until 1951 and the region was made a protectorate under French control in 1947. Cold War pressures for a stronger Germany allowed renewed industrialization, and the French returned control of the region to the government of Federal Republic of Germany in 1957.


The region had previously been occupied by France during the Napoleonic Wars, when it had been included in the First French Empire as the département Sarre between 1798 and 1814. As almost all of the local population is ethnically German, this resulted in strong anti-French sentiments.[citation needed].


Post-World War I

Under the Treaty of Versailles the post-World War I, the Saar area was occupied jointly by the United Kingdom and France. In 1920 Britain and France established a nominally independent occupation government in an area disentangled from the Prussian Rhine Province (main part) enlarged by two Bavarian districts (Homburg and St. Ingbert), ceded from the Palatinate. This was sanctioned by a 15 year League of Nations mandate: Saar (League of Nations). However, the Saar's coal industry, the dominant industry in the region at the time, was nationalized and directly administered by France.


German stamp in honor of the end of the protectorate

On 13th January 1935, a plebiscite held in the territory at the end of the 15-year term, resulted in 90.7 percent of voters cast their ballot in favour of a return to Germany, and 0.4 percent voted for union with France. Others (8.9%) favoured the third option of a continued British-French occupation government. After several years of political agitation and maneuvering by Chancellor Adolf Hitler for the re-union of the Saarland with the German Reich (R√ľckgliederung des Saarlandes) it was reincorporated in 1935. Its area was not redivided among the Prussian Rhine Province and the Bavarian Palatinate, but united with the latter as the Gau of Saar-Palatinate (Saarpfalz). In 1942 it was renamed Westmark (Western Boundary) of the Reich. This renaming intended its terrotorial enlargement by parts of German-occupied French Lorraine which, however, did not materialise.

Post-World War II

In July 1945, two months after World War II had ended in Europe, the allied forces were redeploying from the areas they had conquered into their respective zones of occupation. On 10 July 1945 US forces left the Saar area and French troops established their occupational administration. On 16 February 1946 France disentangled the Saar area from the allied zones of occupation and established the separate Saar Protectorate, which was no longer under the joint allied jurisdiction by the Allied Control Council for Germany.

The French policy towards the native population in the formerly German Saar was completely different from that of the powers ruling the Former eastern territories of Germany east of the Oder-Neiße line, which were also out of the jurisdiction of the Allied Control Council. France refrained from expelling the Saar population (ethnic cleansing) as France generally had not agreed to the expulsions approved by the Potsdam agreement, decided without France, which therefore strictly refused to absorb war refugees and post-war expellees, who were denied return to their homes, in the French Saar protectorate or the French zone.[1] However, native population, returning after Nazi-imposed (political and Jewish refugees) or war-related relocation (evacuation from air raids), was allowed to enter the areas under French control. France aimed at winning the Saar population for a future annexation.

The principal reason for the French desire for economic control of the Saar was the large coal deposits. France was offered compensation for the return of the Saar to Germany: the treaty permitted France to extract coal from the Warndt coal deposit until 1981.

With effect of July 20 the same year 109 municipalities of the Prussian Rhine Province within the French zone were added to the Saar. By 18 December 1946 customs controls were established between the Saar area and allied occupied Germany. By further territorial redeployments between the Saar Protectorate, constituted in early 1947, and neighbouring Rhineland-Palatinate, a new state established on 30 August 1946 in the French zone, - first on 8 June 1947 and in 1949 - 61 municipalities returned to Germany while 13 other municipalities were ceded to the Saar Protectorate followed by one further Palatine municipality incorporated into the Saar in the latter year.[2]

In the speech Restatement of Policy on Germany, given in Stuttgart on September 6, 1946, the U.S. Secretary of State James F. Byrnes stated the U.S. motive in detaching the Saar from Germany as "The United States does not feel that it can deny to France, which has been invaded three times by Germany in 70 years, its claim to the Saar territory".

On 16 July 1947 the Saar mark replaced the Reichsmark as legal tender in the Saar Protectorate followed by the integration of the Saar into the French currency area on November 15 the same year. While only French franc banknotes circulated from 1954 on Saar franc coins, designed similar to French coins, were issued too. On 15 December 1947 the Saar was constituted by its constitution as the Saarland, with an elected government under the control of the French high commissioner Gilbert Grandval. On 23 March 1948 the customs union with France was confirmed, taking effect on 1 April. In July the same year the Sarrois nationality replaced the German nationality of the Saar population.

From 1945‚Äď51, a policy of industrial disarmament was pursued in Germany by the Allied powers (see industrial plans for Germany). As part of this policy limits were placed on permitted production levels, and industries in the Saar were dismantled as they had been in the Ruhr, although mostly in the period before the detachment (see also the 1949 letter from the UK Foreign minister Ernest Bevin to the French Foreign minister Robert Schuman, urging a reconsideration of dismantling policy).

Under the Monnet Plan France attempted to gain economic control of the German industrial areas in its assigned zones, especially areas with large coal and mineral deposits, such as the Ruhr area (in the British zone) and the Saar area. Similar attempts to gain control of, or permanently internationalise, the Ruhr (see International Authority for the Ruhr) were abandoned in 1951 when France rejected the traditional aims of European hegemony predicated upon European enemity. In the face of U.S. and Soviet domination of Europe the French government took a historic step in deciding that the only viable political model for the future lay in European integration; this resulted in the Schuman Declaration in 1950, a plan drafted for the most part by Jean Monnet. The plan put forward France and Germany as the core of a new Europe, requiring a rapprochement and the establishment of close ties between the two states. As a first step France and Germany were to agree to pool their coal and steel resources (see European Coal and Steel Community). German participation in the plan was contingent upon a return of full political control of German industry to the western Federal Government of Germany. However, France delayed the return of the Saar in the hope of cementing its economic control over the region.

As had been the case from 1920 to 1935, postage stamps were issued specially for the territory from 1947‚Äď1959 (see postage stamps and postal history of the Saar).

Under French rule, pro-German parties were initially banned. Much support was given to the Mouvement pour le Rattachement de la Sarre à la France, a francophile movement founded by Saar exiles in Paris in early 1945, with many of the exiles having returned after the war. However, a French annexation did not gain the support of a majority of the Sarrois. In the general election of December 1952, a clear majority expressed support for the parties who wanted the Saar to remain autonomous, although 24% cast blank ballots in support of banned pro-German parties.

Independence Referendum and Unification with Germany

In the Paris Agreements of 23 October 1954, France offered to establish an independent "Saarland", under the auspices of the Western European Union (WEU), but a referendum held on 23 October 1955 rejected this plan by 67.7% to 32.3% (out of a 96.5% turnout: 423,434 against, 201,975 for) despite the public support of West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer for the plan. The rejection of the plan by the Sarrois was interpreted as support for the Saar to join the Federal Republic of Germany.[3]

100 Saar franken coin

On October 27, 1956, the Saar Treaty established that Saarland should be allowed to join West Germany, as provided by its Grundgesetz constitution art. 23, and so Saarland did on January 1, 1957.

The treaty also stated that economic union with West Germany was to be completed by 1960, with the exact date of the replacement of the Saar and French franc by the Deutsche Mark being kept a secret called "Day X" (Tag X). Although the Saar joined West Germany (as Saarland) on January 1, 1957, the franc remained legal tender in Saarland until July 6, 1959.

Germany had to agree to the channelization of the Moselle. This reduced French freight costs in the Lorraine steel industry. Germany was also made to agree to the teaching of French as the first foreign language in schools in the Saarland; although no longer binding, the agreement is still in the main followed as the practice is well-established.

On 6 July 1959 the Kleine Wiedervereinigung (small reunification) was completed, after 14 years of separation.

As a footnote in the overall settlement of a Franco-German conflict dating back to the Napoleonic Wars by the creation of the European Union and the process of European integration, the territorial dispute over control of the Saarland was one of the last between member states. Resolved in 1956, it led to the European flag being given twelve stars rather than the originally proposed 15 (one of which was to represent a nominally independent Saar). [3]


The Saar competed in the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, and the Saarland national football team participated in the qualifying section of the 1954 FIFA World Cup, but failed to qualify after coming second to the West German team, but ahead of Norway. Helmut Schön was the manager of the Saarland team from 1952 until Saarland became a part of West Germany in 1957.[4]

See also

  • Saar, a League of Nations governed territory (1920-1935)
  • Sarre, a d√©partement of France (1798-1814)
  • Saar River
  • Monnet Plan plan for the detachment of German industrial regions for the benefit of France
  • Kehl directly annexed to France


  1. ^ Cf. the report of the Central State Archive of Rhineland-Palatinate on the first expellees arriving in that state in 1950 to be resettled from other German states. [1]
  2. ^ Hans-Peter Schwarz, "Konrad Adenauer: a German politician and statesman in a period of war" p.489, (Books.Google)
  3. ^ [2]

Further reading

External links

Simple English


Protectorate of France

‚Üź File:Flag of Germany (1946-1949).svg
1947 ‚Äď 1956 File:Flag de-saarland ‚Üí
File:Flag of File:Wappen Saargebiet.gif
Flag Coat of arms
Capital Saarbr√ľcken
Government Republic
 - Established December 15, 1947
 - WEU referendum October 23, 1955
 - Saar Treaty October 27, 1956
Currency Saar mark, Saar franc
Saar was the name of the Saarland after World War Two, when it was under French control. It became part of West Germany in 1957.

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