Saar status referendum, 1935

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A map of the Territory of the Saar Basin (colored in purple).

A referendum on territorial status was held in the Territory of the Saar Basin on 13 January 1935. Over 90% voters opted for reunification with Germany, with 9% voting for the status quo as a League of Nations mandate territory and less than 0.5% opting for unification with France.

Background[edit]

After the end of World War I, the Saar territory was separated from Germany and administered by the League of Nations.[1] During this time, France was given control of the Saar's coal mines.[2] After 15 years of League of Nations administration, a referendum was scheduled to take place in the territory.[1]

Campaign[edit]

While all important political groups in the Saar supported the Saar's return to Germany before Adolf Hitler and the Nazis came to power, opponents of Nazism in the Saar began having doubts and misgivings about a return of the Saar to Germany after Hitler's rise to power.[3] Due to Hitler's oppression of their German counterparts, Communists and socialists in the Saar supported a continuation of the League of Nations administration and a delay in the plebiscite until after the Nazis were no longer in power in Germany.[3] Meanwhile, Roman Catholics in the Saar were divided in regards to returning to German rule.[3] In order to achieve victory in this referendum, the Nazis resorted to "a mixture of cajolery and brutal pressure".[4] In 1933, Sarah Wambaugh, one of the members of the Plebiscite Commission, stated that complaints of a Nazi "reign of terror" were made by non-Nazi Saarlanders and by the foreign press.[5] These complaints included allegations that the Nazis engaged in intimidation, "espionage, secret denunciations, kidnappings ..., ... interception of letters and telegrams, [and] listening-in to telephone conversations", among other things.[5] In response to all of this, the Saar Governing Commission had to "promugulat[e] several restrictive decrees for the maintenance of public order".[6] In November 1934, fearing armed intervention by France, the Nazi German government reduced its belligerency and changed its tactics.[7] As a part of this, Joseph Burckel, Hitler's commissioner for the Saar, banned the wearing of uniforms within a 25-mile zone along the Saar frontier between 10 January 1935 and 10 February 1935.[7] In addition, Burckel also banned meetings, parades, and processions in this area.[7] Likewise, Jacob Pirro, the Nazi leader in the Saar, told his followers to obey the strictest discipline and implemented harsh penalties for any infractions.[7]

Results[edit]

In the referendum, voters were asked whether the Saar should remain under League of Nations administration, return to Germany or become part of France.[1] To the surprise of neutral observers as well as (to some extent) the Nazis themselves, over 90% voted in favour of reuniting with Germany.[8] Every voting district saw at least 83% of voters support returning the Saar to German rule.[8] Meanwhile, despite Georges Clemenceau's previous claim that there were 150,000 Frenchmen in the Saar, less than 1% of voters supported the annexation of the Saar by France.[8][9]

Choice Votes %
Unification with Germany 477,089 90.73
Status quo 46,613 8.87
Unification with France 2,124 0.40
Invalid/blank votes 2,161
Total 527,987 100
Registered voters/turnout 539,542 97.99
Source: Direct Democracy

Aftermath[edit]

Following the referendum, the Council of the League of Nations decided that the Saar should return to Germany.[8] The Saar once again became part of Germany on 1 March 1935,[8] with Josef Bürckel as Reichskommissar. In 1936 it was incorporated into the Gau of Pfalz (Palatinate) to form the Gau Pfalz-Saar (renamed Saarpfalz in 1937 and Westmark in 1940).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c M G Callagher. "The Saar Plebiscite, 1935". Moodle.kkc.school.nz. Retrieved 2014-05-02. 
  2. ^ "The Saar plebiscite". History Today. 1935-01-13. Retrieved 2014-05-02. 
  3. ^ a b c Russell, Frank (1951). The Saar Battleground And Pawn (1 ed.). Palo Alto, California: Stanford University Press. p. 88. 
  4. ^ Russell, Frank (1951). The Saar Battleground And Pawn (1 ed.). Palo Alto, California: Stanford University Press. p. 91. 
  5. ^ a b Russell, Frank (1951). The Saar Battleground And Pawn (1 ed.). Palo Alto, California: Stanford University Press. p. 89. 
  6. ^ Russell, Frank (1951). The Saar Battleground And Pawn (1 ed.). Palo Alto, California: Stanford University Press. p. 90. 
  7. ^ a b c d Russell, Frank (1951). The Saar Battleground And Pawn (1 ed.). Palo Alto, California: Stanford University Press. p. 96. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Russell, Frank (1951). The Saar Battleground And Pawn (1 ed.). Palo Alto, California: Stanford University Press. p. 104. 
  9. ^ "LESSONS OF THE SAAR » 25 Jan 1935 » The Spectator Archive". Archive.spectator.co.uk. 1935-01-25. Retrieved 2014-05-02.