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The Saar Protectorate was a German borderland territory twice temporarily made a protectorate state. Since rejoining Germany in 1957, it is the smallest Federal Germanmarker Area State (Flächenland), the Saarlandmarker. It is named after the Saar Rivermarker.

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 Germanmarker governments. The Saar protectorate was a short lived post-World War II protectorate (1947-1956) partitioned from defeated Nazi Germany; it was administered by Francemarker.

The region about the Saar Rivermarker 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 Saarlandmarker, 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 Frenchmarker 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 Germanymarker 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. .

Post-World War I

Under the Treaty of Versailles the post-World War I, the Saar area was occupied jointly by the United Kingdommarker and France. In 1920 Britain and France established a nominally independent occupation government, which was sanctioned by a 15 year League of Nations mandate: Saar . However, the Saar's coal industry, the dominant industry in the region at the time, was nationalized and directly administered by France. French nationalists coveted the region for its mineral wealth and industrial potential. The French administration of the German region did not succeed in garnering local support to become part of France.


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 as the Gau of Saar-Palatinate (Saarpfalz). In 1942 it was renamed Westmark (Western Boundary) of the Reich.

Post-World War II

After World War II, the Saarland came under French administration as the Saar Protectorate.

Before detachment from Germany the French enlarged the territory by adding 109 municipalities from the Rhineland Palatinatemarker to it.

In the speech Restatement of Policy on Germany, given in Stuttgartmarker 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".

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 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 Monnetmarker. 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 West Germanmarker government. However, France delayed the return 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. 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.

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. Instead, the people of the Saar opted for the return of the Saar to the Federal Republic of Germany.

100 Saar franken coin

On October 27, 1956, the Saar Treaty established that Saarland should be allowed to rejoin West Germanymarker, which it 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 introduction of the Deutsche Mark being kept a secret called "Day X" (Tag X). The currencies used in the Saar were the Saar mark, introduced in 1947, and the Saar franc, on par with the French franc, introduced in coins in 1954. Although the Saar rejoined West Germany (as Saarlandmarker) on January 1, 1957, the German mark was not valid in Saarland until July 6, 1959.

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

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.

Germany had to agree to the channelization of the Mosellemarker. 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.

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). [123173]


The Saar competed in the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinkimarker, 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.[123174]

See also

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


Further reading

  • Jacques Freymond, "The Saar Conflict, 1945-1955", Stevens, London, 1960.

External links

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