From Academic Kids

Imperial Province of Elsass-Lothringen (497 Kb)
Imperial Province of Elsass-Lothringen (497 Kb)

Alsace-Lorraine (French: Alsace-Lorraine; German: Elsaß-Lothringen) was the territory originally of the German empire, ceded to Louis XIV by the peace of Westphalia in 1648, but restored by France to the newly-unified Germany under the 1871 Treaty of Frankfurt (which ended the Franco-Prussian War) and restored to France after World War I by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. During World War II, the territory was annexed by Germany as an integral part of the Third Reich.

The territory was made up of 93% of Alsace (7% of Alsace remained French) and 26% of Lorraine (74% of Lorraine remained French). Because of historical reasons, specific legal dispositions are still applied in the territory, now known legally as Alsace-Moselle.

Geographical and historical data

  • Area 14,496 km² (5,597 sq. miles).
  • Population:
Year Population Causes of abrupt changes
18751,531,804Exile of 100,000 to 130,000 people to France and French Algeria after the German annexation
19101,874,0140.58% population growth per year during 1875-1910
19211,709,749Death of young men in the German army,
departure and deportation of German newcomers to Germany
19361,915,6270.76% population growth per year during 1921-1936
19461,767,131Death of young men in the French army,
death of young men forced to enroll in the German army after 1940,
death of civilians and many people still refugees in the rest of France
19992,757,5920.84% population growth per year during 1946-1999


Lorraine was part of the German Holy Roman Empire since the division of the empire of Charlemagne at the Treaty of Verdun in the 9th century, and was acquired by France bit by bit in the 16th and 17th centuries, with formal takeover of the remaining autonomous duchy of Lorraine in 1766 (which was in fact administered by French administration for a half-century already). However, some parts of Lorraine, such as the hometown of Joan of Arc, had always remained French despite the Treaty of Verdun. In 1871, Bismark carved out the eastern part of Lorraine, where people were native West Middle German dialect speakers (speaking various Frankish dialects of West Middle German), and annexed it along with Alsace. Alsace was also a part of the German Holy Roman Empire since the Treaty of Verdun, and was conquered by French kings Louis XIII and Louis XIV in several steps along the 17th century. People here were native Upper German dialect speakers, speaking Alsatian, a dialect of Alemannic (a sub-branch of Upper German). Bismark annexed Alsace with the exception of the town of Belfort and the area around it, now making the French département of Territoire de Belfort, because of the heroic resistance of the town in 1871, and also because the inhabitants there were native French speakers unlike in the rest of Alsace.

The annexed area corresponded to the French départements of Bas-Rhin (in its entirety), Haut-Rhin (except the area of Belfort), and a small area in the northeast of the Vosges département, all of which made up Alsace, and the départements of Moselle (four-fifth of it) and the northeast of Meurthe (one-third of Meurthe), which were the eastern part of Lorraine. The remaining département of Meurthe was joined with the westernmost part of Moselle which had escaped German annexation to form the new département of Meurthe-et-Moselle. This département was maintained even after France recovered Alsace-Lorraine in 1919. The area of Belfort became a special status area and was not reintegrated into Haut-Rhin in 1919 but instead was made a full-status département in 1922 under the name Territoire de Belfort.

The new border between France and Germany was genuinely following the limit between Romance and Germanic dialects, except in a few valleys of the Alsatian side of the Vosges mountains and in the area of Château-Salins (formerly in the Meurthe département) which were annexed by Germany despite the fact that people there spoke French. The reason for it was that German military imperatives, such as establishing the border on the crest line, had prevailed over linguistic considerations. This fact was used in France to denounce the hypocrisy of the annexations, which Germany had justified by the native Germanic dialects of the inhabitants, despite the well-known desire of the people of Alsace-Lorraine to remain French.

French desire to recover the lost provinces, known as Revanchism, was one of the causes of the tragic system of European alliances that led to World War I. However, French Revanchism was not a direct cause of the start of World War I in 1914.

Under the German Empire of 1871-1918, the territory constituted the Reichsland or Imperial Province of Elsaß-Lothringen. The area was administered directly by the imperial government in Berlin, and was granted some measure of autonomy only in 1911. When the area was restored to France, the region reverted to the centralized French system and lost its recently acquired autonomy. However, even today, the territory enjoys laws in certain areas that are significantly different from the rest of France - see the statute of Alsace-Moselle.

The area was again under German administration in 1940-45 during World War II.

Under both periods of German rule, an intense and often harsh policy of Germanization was pursued, with the names of towns and streets being changed and the use of the French language severely restricted. Ethnic Germans were also encouraged to settle in the region, and all inhabitants of military age were subject to conscription into the German army. Those latter policies resulted in some tensions between Alsace-Lorraine and some other parts of France, after Alsace-Lorraine inhabitants conscripted into the German forces were made to engage in repression against French citizens during the Second World War (see for instance the massacre of Oradour-sur-Glane). Young men from Alsace-Lorraine forced to serve in the German Wehrmacht during the Second World War are known as the "malgré-nous" ("the Against-our-will").de:Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringen fr:Alsace-Lorraine nl:Elzas-Lotharingen ja:アルザス・ロレーヌ no:Alsace-Lorraine


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