Allied occupation of the Rhineland

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Allied occupation of the Rhineland after the First World War
Administration and occupation of the West German territories during the so-called "break-in" at the end of 1923

The Allied occupation of the Rhineland was a consequence of the First World War , in which the German Reich suffered a military defeat against the Allied and Associated Powers . In the Compiègne armistice of November 11, 1918, the provisional Reich government had to consent to withdraw all German troops from the western front behind the Rhine. Instead, troops from the victorious powers France , Belgium , Great Britain and the USA occupied the areas on the left bank of the Rhine and three bridgeheads on the right bank of the Rhine, each with a 30 kilometer radius around Cologne , Koblenz and Mainz . At the beginning of 1919 another bridgehead followed with a radius of 10 kilometers around Kehl . Furthermore, the areas on the left bank of the Rhine and all regions on the right bank with a distance of 50 km from the Rhine became a demilitarized zone for all German armed forces. The Versailles Treaty of 1919 repeated these provisions, but limited the presence of the foreign troops to 15 years until 1935. From 1920, the administration of the Allied occupation zones was subordinate to the Interallied Rhineland Commission based in Koblenz. The purpose of the occupation was, on the one hand, to provide France with security from another German attack, and, on the other hand, to have a guarantee for the reparation obligations of the German Reich. After this had apparently been achieved with the Young Plan, the occupation of the Rhineland was ended prematurely on June 30, 1930.


In the unilateral peace negotiations that began in Versailles in January 1919 without German representatives, the French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau sought a Rhine border for his country: all areas on the left bank of the Rhine were to be separated from the state association of the German Reich and to form one or more sovereign states, the to join France as their ally. This is the only way to gain security from Germany, which has invaded the territory of its western neighbor four times in just 100 years:

The idea of creating such a security glacis came from Chief of Staff Ferdinand Foch . But Clemenceau was unable to assert himself with this idea against his allies. US President Woodrow Wilson advocated the peoples' right to self-determination , which he himself propagated and which should not be denied to Germans either; British Prime Minister David Lloyd George assessed the danger that a future Germany would pose much less and warned against weakening it too much:

  • On the one hand, you need a strong German Empire against the new threat to Bolshevik Russia ,
  • on the other hand, a Germany that has significantly reduced its territory is probably not in a position to pay the reparations that the victorious powers wanted to impose on it. As a compromise, the "Big Three" finally agreed on a temporary occupation of the areas on the left bank of the Rhine including three bridgeheads around Cologne, Koblenz and Mainz, which was to end fifteen years after the treaty came into force (January 10, 1920).

In return, the Americans and British agreed to sign a guarantee treaty: Should the German Reich ever attack France again, the two Anglo-Saxon powers would join the war on its side. Under these conditions, Clemenceau agreed to limit the occupation: after five years the British zone of occupation around Cologne was to be evacuated and the American zone of occupation around Koblenz after ten years, and finally the French zone around Mainz after fifteen years. As a prerequisite for the evictions, it was stipulated that the German Reich would fulfill the peace treaty and meet its payment obligations on time. This changed the function of the occupation: from an instrument to weaken Germany it had become a bargaining chip for the German reparation obligations to be paid .

Time of occupation

The period of occupation actually began in January 1919. French , British , Belgian and, initially, American troops were involved. Between the bridgeheads Koblenz and Mainz there was a narrow strip of unoccupied area (the " Free State of Bottleneck "), as well as between Koblenz and Cologne. Because the USA had not ratified the Versailles Treaty, its zone of occupation was taken over by the French occupation forces on January 24, 1923. In 1922 US General Henry Tureman had wrested Marshal Foch's concession to preserve Ehrenbreitstein Fortress . As a result of the Versailles Treaty, it was actually supposed to be razed together with the other works of the Koblenz Fortress . Because of rampant smuggling activities , the neighboring "Bottleneck Free State" was occupied by the French from February 1923 to November 1924.

Devastation in Aachen city hall after the storming by the separatists on October 21, 1923

Since the German Reich did not make reparation payments in a satisfactory amount, French and Belgian troops also occupied the Ruhr area from January 11, 1923 , the ports of Wesel and Emmerich on February 12, and areas on the right bank of the Rhine between and around the bridgeheads from February 25 Cologne, Koblenz and Mainz ( burglary area ). During this time, the French occupying power supported separatist efforts to establish an independent Rhenish Republic within the German Reich. This met with considerable resistance not only from the Allied allies. In autumn 1923, at the height of the German inflation , these separatists tried to establish a Rhenish Republic in Aachen and a Palatinate Republic in the south of the occupied territory. The Palatinate belonged to this time to Bayern. The occupation of the burglary area was gradually lifted after the London Conference of August 1924, in the areas on the right bank of the Rhine as early as November 17, 1924 and in the Ruhr area on August 16, 1925.

The chemical company Hoechst in Frankfurt-Höchst ( Frankfurt-Nied was already outside the occupation border) was under French administration from 1918 to 1930 and had to transfer parts of its production as benefits in kind to a reparations account. The Badische Anilin- und Sodafabrik ( BASF ) in Ludwigshafen am Rhein was also administered by French from 1918 to 1930, but important processes could be outsourced to the subsidiary Ammoniakwerk Merseburg ( Leunawerke ) in the unoccupied province of Saxony in good time . During this time, the employees tried to remove operating documents from the French.

Economic problems in connection with the French occupation troops in the Wiesbaden area led to this zone being handed over to the British Army on the Rhine on December 30, 1925.

"Black Shame"

Some of the occupation forces came from the French possessions and colonies in Africa , such as the Turkos and the Tirailleurs sénégalais . On the German side, the deployment of black African soldiers in Europe by France had already been denounced as an affront and "betrayal of the white race" during the First World War . Contemporary racism hardly perceived “black Africans” as human beings. Under the catchphrase “Black Shame”, their presence in the occupation troops aroused particular outrage among the German public. Numerous posters, caricatures, speeches, colportage novels and parliamentary submissions were produced, depicting how black African soldiers who were accused of having an increased sex drive raped German women . This campaign, which sometimes had pornographic features in the drastic depiction of imagined sexual violence , ran from the beginning of the occupation in 1919 to its end in 1930, the climax was in the years 1920/21: the satirical magazine Kladderadatsch published on May 30, 1920 Election of the first Reichstag on their title page a drawing showing a brown-black gorilla with a French uniform cap dragging a white, statue-like woman. The caption read: "The black terror in Germany". Another example is a medal minting by Karl Goetz , which shows the caricatured head of an African soldier on one side and a (German) woman tied to a tree-sized phallus under the title "The Black Shame" . In 1925, in the second volume of his program paper Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler described the French stationing of “ Negroes ” in the Rhineland as a targeted strategy by “ Jews ” in order to “ destroy the white race they hated, both culturally and politically , through the inevitably resulting bastardization To fall high and rise to their masters themselves ”. It is also known Erwin Reuschs Wahlplakat for DNVP to the general election 1928 , which showed a wulstlippigen Africans in French uniform, staring threatening a Rheinlandschaft. The slogan: “ Locarno ? Vote German national! ”, Should mobilize voters against the understanding policy of Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann .

At that time, the authorities recorded a total of 385 Afro-German occupation children. The total number has been estimated at 500 to 800 in recent research. They were discriminated against as " Rhineland bastards " or "black shame ", and from 1937 many of them were illegally forcibly sterilized "under the strictest secrecy" . The exact number of victims is not known. The historian Reiner Pommerin assumed that all of the 385 children recorded were forcibly sterilized.


French troops leave Trier-West in June 1930.

The five-year occupation zone around Cologne had already been evacuated with a one-year delay in January 1926 as a result of the Locarno treaties . After the German Reich had consented to the Young Plan , which provided for German reparations payments until 1988, the French, British and Belgians believed they could forego the pledge of the Rhineland occupation entirely. At the two Hague Conferences in August 1929 and January 1930 they agreed to withdraw their troops prematurely from the Rhineland. The ten-year occupation zone (including Koblenz) was evacuated in November 1929 - on June 30, 1930, all occupation troops withdrew from the Rhineland (five years earlier than provided for in the Versailles Treaty ) with the evacuation of the fifteen-year "Mainz Zone" . Then there were bloody accounts with separatists who had cooperated with the French.

President Paul von Hindenburg visited many cities in the Rhineland in 1930 after the withdrawal of the Allied troops on the occasion of the liberation celebrations and triggered a wave of national enthusiasm. The national liberation ceremony took place on July 22, 1930 in Koblenz. The day ended with the capsizing of a makeshift bridge (38 dead). The real liberator of the Rhineland, the Reich Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann (1878–1929), who died on October 3, 1929 , whose patient and compromise policy of understanding had led to the withdrawal of the Belgian and French soldiers, was only marginally considered. There was also no thanks from the government for the punctual evacuation. Instead, she had a three-mark and a five-mark piece minted with the Arndt quote : "The Rhine - Germany's river, not Germany's border". This could be understood as a demand for a border revision and caused considerable irritation in France . The Rhineland celebrations are interpreted in historical research as a clear alienation between the two countries or as the "end of the Locarno era".

This enthusiasm led in the further course of 1930 to the fact that many sports and commemorative plaques, souvenir plates, sports trophies, etc. with the addition “Liberation year 1930”.

In accordance with the Versailles Treaty - and also in accordance with the Locarno Treaties, in which the German Reich voluntarily approved the demilitarization of its national territory west of a line drawn 50 km east of the Rhine in 1925 - this area remained a demilitarized zone in the following years until Hitler fell under the rule this treaty was occupied by the Wehrmacht on March 7, 1936 .


See also

Web links

Commons : Allied occupation of the Rhineland  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Peter Krüger : The foreign policy of the republic of Weimar . Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1985, pp. 494 ff. And 484-496.
  2. ^ Also on the following see Raymond Poidevin and Jacques Bariéty, France and Germany. The history of their relationships 1815–1975 , CH Beck, Munich 1982, pp. 301–397; Henning Köhler , November Revolution and France. French policy on Germany 1918–1919 , Droste, Düsseldorf 1980, pp. 189–269.
  3. ^ For example, Jacques Bainville, Journal 1927–1935 , Paris 1949, p. 185.
  4. Part XIV of the Treaty of Versailles of June 28, 1919 , as viewed on December 1, 2010.
  5. a b c Dieter Lück: Occupation of the Rhineland . In: North Rhine-Westphalia. Landesgeschichte im Lexikon , 1st edition, Patmos, Düsseldorf 1993, pp. 341–343.
  6. ^ The Separatist Movement 1923 in the German Historical Museum LeMO , accessed on August 23, 2010.
  7. Ernst Bäumler: Die Rotfabriker - Family history of a global corporation . Piper, Munich 1988, p. 250 ff.
  8. Werner Abelshauser : BASF - a company history . CH Beck, Munich 2002, p. 195 ff.
  9. Another swear word was "Black Shame".
  10. Also on the following see Iris Wigger: «The Black Shame». Africans in propaganda of the 1920s . In: Gerhard Paul : The Century of Pictures, Vol. 1: 1900-1949 . Special edition for the Federal Agency for Civic Education, Bonn 2009, pp. 268–275.
  11. ^ Kladderadatsch: Uni Heidelberg Archive . 1920, p. 317.
  12. ^ Billie Milman: Borderlines: genders and identities in war and peace, 1870-1930 . Routledge, 1998, p. 229 f.
  13. ^ Adolf Hitler: Mein Kampf , Verlag Franz Eher Successor, 851. – 855. Edition, Munich 1943, p. 357. Christian Koller : " Massacred by savages of all races". The discussion about the use of colonial troops in Europe between racism, colonial and military policy 1914–1930 , Steiner, Stuttgart 2001, p. 248.
  14. ^ The poster on the website German History in Documents and Pictures (DGDB) , accessed on September 11, 2013.
  15. Reiner Pommerin : Sterilization of the Rhineland Bastards. The fate of a colored German minority 1918–1937 . Droste, Düsseldorf 1979, p. 72; Sandra Maß: On the history of colonial masculinity in Germany 1918–1964 , Cologne 2006, p. 282.
  16. Reiner Pommerin : Sterilization of the Rhineland Bastards. The fate of a colored German minority 1918–1937 . Droste, Düsseldorf 1979, p. 84. Further references on the complex in the lemma “ Rhineland bastard ”.
  17. Klaus Reimer, Rhineland Question and Rhineland Movement (1918–1933). A contribution to the history of regionalist aspirations in Germany , Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Las Vegas 1979, p. 409 f.
  18. ^ Franz Knipping : Germany, France and the end of the Locarno era 1928–1931. Studies on international politics in the initial phase of the global economic crisis , Oldenbourg, Munich 1987, pp. 143–148; Philipp Heyde: The end of the reparations. Germany, France and the Youngplan 1929–1932 , Schöningh, Paderborn 1998, pp. 86–90.