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Alsace-Lorraine - the German Period


ALSACE-LORRAINE - THE GERMAN PERIOD Its history under German domination falls into three periods: (1) 1871-90: the Period of Organization.—Atfirst (until the constitution of July 4, 1879) Alsace-Lorraine was organized under decrees issued in Berlin and applied by an Oberprasident; after 1879, by an imperial representative with the powers of a chancellor, or statthalter (Manteuffel, later Prince Hohenlohe Schilling), residing at Strasbourg and assisted by two under-secre taries of state. The administration was organized by the imperial rescript of Dec. 3o, 1871, under para. of which the head of the administration received dictatorial powers. The territory was divided into three administrative districts: Upper Alsace, Lower Alsace, and Lorraine. A formidable army of occupation was maintained, but an autonomous network of railways helped to develop Strasbourg's commercial life. In 1874, an electoral assem bly, or Landesausschuss, was granted, to sit at Strasbourg. Never theless, the inhabitants continued to protest. Hohenlohe's severi ties, and especially his system of passports, strengthened the opposition. The provinces longed for the arrival of the French, in whom the spirit of revenge was kept alive by such frontier incidents as the Schnaebele in 1887, by the "Boulangiste" move ment and Deroulede's (q.v.) "Ligue des patriotes." also FRANCE: History). But in France, at the general elections of 1889, the Republican Party, the advocates of peace, triumphed, while in Germany Bismarck was dismissed in March 1890 by the young emperor, William II., who immediately inaugurated a new policy, abolishing passports, and allowing greater liberality in the granting of perrnis de se jour.

(2) 1890-1902.—Thesecond period was one of calm, of eco nomic development and of material prosperity. The inhabitants of the Reichsland ceased to wage against the empire a necessarily barren opposition; and at the Reichstag elections of 1890 not a single irreconcilable was left. The "autonomist" party itself dis appeared in the elections of 1898. The chief party was the Clerical; beside this, there were the Socialists, and even some German imrigres. The new statthalter, Hohenlohe-Langenbourg (1894), an oldish man, appointed native under-secretaries (Zorn de Bulach, Petri). This was the epoch when the German emperor was coquetting with France. The Alsatians believed it possible to show loyalty to the empire without failing in their allegiance to France. They cajoled their masters (for instance by the recon struction of Hoh-Konigsberg, 1901–o2), but claimed in return liberties equal to those enjoyed by other Germans. These the German Government refused to grant until they had become more than loyal subjects—enthusiastic Germans. This was too much to ask. Meanwhile, the Alsatians complained that they were left with "secondary rights of citizenship." (3) 1902-18.—Thethird period began with an attempt to form a constitution. William II., through the chancellor, von Billow, proposed, by rescript of May 9, 1902, the suppression of the notorious "dictatorship paragraph" (para. Io of the rescript of Dec. 3o, 1871) ; and this was abolished on June g. Now that the press enjoyed more liberty, its power rapidly developed. The presiding minister, M. de Koeller, was able, thanks to his jovial frankness, to direct the Landesausschuss as he would. "Protests" had ceased completely. The process of Germanization made rapid progress in the country districts, chiefly owing to the bad impression made on the Alsatian Clerical Party by the campaign against the Catholic Church initiated by the French Government. The Clerical Party, the strongest numerically of all the Alsatian parties, now formed part of the German Centre Party. The best minds in Alsace, however, worked particularly through the me dium of the Alsatian theatre, the Revue Alsacienne, and lectures were delivered in French to save French culture from extinction, while the desire for a liberal constitution grew stronger every day among the masses.

While the semi-official press, such as the Strassburger Post— the mouthpiece of Pan-Germanism—denounced and maligned everything connected with France, provoking ironical and biting retorts from the Alsatian caricaturists, the Government, \to give a semblance of satisfaction to Alsatian opinion, passed the con stitution of May 31, 1911, through the Reichstag. This estab lished a diet (Landtag) of two chambers, which cancelled each others' activities, while the upper house was entirely subservient to the German Government ; the statthalter was not responsible to them. To counter the "Union nationale alsacienne-lorraine," the Government supported the Socialists and the Centre Party at the elections to the Landesausschuss of Oct. 1911; but the new house although elected with the support of the Government, was soon in conflict with it, on account of the excesses of the Pan-Germanists. A vote of censure was passed upon the Govern ment for their conduct in the notorious incident of Grafenstaden (April the Government demanded the dismissal of the director of the locomotive works on the ground of French intrigues. Germany's preparations for war rendered the German army in Alsace-Lorraine more insolent than ever and the Zabern incident (1913-14), which amounted to an organized militarist insult to things Alsatian, resulted in further votes of censure and finally in the formation of the Ligue pour la defense de l'Alsace-Lorraine (March In spite of the continuous and partially successful efforts of Germany from 1871 to 1914 to assimilate Alsace-Lorraine, the divorce between the Alsatian and the German mentality was thus more complete than ever on the eve of the World War. At its very outset, some 1,000 suspected persons, whose names were on a black list, were arrested. When the German reserve troops entered Alsace to attack France, their officers warned their men that on crossing the Rhine they would enter "hostile territory." At the end of the first year of the War, the German Government, confident of victory, were deciding on the partition of Alsace Lorraine between Bavaria and Prussia immediately on the con clusion of peace, deportations and the confiscation of landed property on the widest scale, and colonization by large numbers of ex-soldiers of Prussian stock. During the four years of the War, the inhabitants of Alsace and Lorraine lived under a reign of terror; they were forbidden to speak French in the streets, num bers were denounced by the gendarmerie, and many deported to Germany; 19,000 persons were still in exile in 1918.

In Sept. and Oct. 1918, the evacuation of Alsace was anxiously awaited, and it was rumoured that the Germans in their rage would leave no stone upon another. Thus, when the collapse of Ger many came, the concessions extorted from the Germans by the fear of reprisals in Oct. 1918 could not prevent the long-pent up feelings of the population from finding enthusiastic outlet, and the French were everywhere welcomed as liberators.

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