Friday, October 2, 2009

Border Issues and the Paris Peace--Ninety Years Ago

We will be doing quite a bit more of looking into the border changes upon which the Paris Peace decided. Much German territory was given to neighboring states. In several cases, however, the local people were given a hand in the decision--even though these lands represent a small percentage of all the territorial changes on Germany's borders.

Today, I want to get this issue on the board by means of short list, really. We will have to keep this border issue on our radar for some time to come.

The Versailles Treaty provided for many border changes in the case of Germany, all of them detaching regions from Germany and giving these regions to a neighboring country. In five or six cases, depending on how one counts it, the Treaty provided for referenda, border plebiscites, in which voters would vote for Germany or for Denmark, for example. I have already discussed a couple of these earlier this year on the blog, but for today, I just want to do some listing.

The Saarland, a district on the Franco-German border

Eupen-Malmédy, a small district on the Belgian-German border

North Schleswig/South Jutland, a sizeable region on the Danish-German border

Upper Silesia, and large and industrially significant region on the Polish-German border

Allenstein (southern East Prusssia)
a county on Germany's northeast, continguous to Marienwerder

Marienwerder, (eastern West Prusssia)
a county on Germany's northeast, continguous to Allenstein

In each of these cases, the Allies occupied the district for some amount of time and oversaw the "vote." In the Eupen-Malmédy case, the region was actually transferred provisionally to France, and a "consultation of the population"--in the event, not really a vote--took place in the period from January 26, 1920, to July 23, 1920. The vote was not secret, and indeed, represented a kind of individual objection collection: individuals were required to fill out forms with their name on them, often under the threat of expulsion and other disadvantages. Not surprisingly, the "consultation of the population" confirmed the Allied decisions to give the region to Germay.

As everyone knows, the Saarland was also a different sort of case, since the plebiscite was postponed. This sizeable region (a whole German Bundesland today, though a small one) was occupied by the British and actually ruled by the French as a mandate for a stated term of fifteen years. This mini-powerhouse of coal, steel, and ceramics production was obviously quite attractive to the French, but fifteen years of French administration seems to have made few inroads. The referendum was finally held in the Nazi years (1935) but under strict obversation by the Allies. The Saarlanders voted overwhelmingly in favor of Germany (90.3%).

The other four regions were all settled from 1919 to 1922. In these cases, there was a clear Allied occupation, much interaction with the opposite country (Poland or Denmark), and fairly clearcut votes. The two neighboring East and West Prussian districts went in excess of 90% for Germany. In Schleswig and Upper Silesia, the vote was much more even, with results we will looking at carefully.

OK. With that short overview, I will stop. More later.

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Design of a Violent Century by Hunt Tooley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.