Saar Protectorate

The Saar Protectorate (German: Saarprotektorat [ˈzaːɐ̯pʁotɛktoˌʁaːt]; French: Protectorat de la Sarre), officially Saarland (French: Sarre), was a French protectorate and a disputed territory separated from Germany. On joining the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG/West Germany) in 1957, it became the smallest "federal state" (Bundesland), the Saarland, not counting the "city states" (Stadtstaaten) of Berlin, Hamburg, and Bremen. It is named after the Saar River.

Saarland (German)
Sarre (French)
Coat of arms
Anthem: Saarlandlied[1]
Germany in 1946
  •   Saar Protectorate
StatusDisputed territory of West Germany
French protectorate[lower-alpha 1]
and largest city
49°14′N 7°0′E
Common languages
Secular state
Demonym(s)Saarlander or Saar
GovernmentUnitary parliamentary republic
French Representative 
Gilbert Grandval[lower-alpha 2]
Charles de Carbonnel[lower-alpha 3]
Johannes Hoffmann
Heinrich Welsch
Hubert Ney
Historical eraCold War
16 February 1946
15 December 1947
23 October 1954
23 October 1955
27 October 1956
 Joined West Germany
1 January 1957
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Gau Westmark
Today part ofGermany

The region around the Saar River and its tributary valleys is a geologically folded, mineral-rich, ethnically German, economically important, and heavily industrialized area. It has well-developed transportation infrastructure, and was one of the centres of the Industrial Revolution in Germany. Around 1900, the region formed the third-largest area of coal, iron, and steel industry in Germany (after the Ruhr Area and the Upper Silesian Coal Basin). From 1920 to 1935, as a result of World War I, the region was under the control of an international organization i.e. League of Nations as the Territory of the Saar Basin. In 1935, Nazi Germany established its full sovereignty over the territory.

Geographically, the post-World War II protectorate corresponded to the current German state of Saarland (established after its incorporation into West Germany as a state on 1 January 1957). A policy of industrial disarmament and dispersal of industrial workers was officially pursued by the Allies after the war until 1951. The region was made a protectorate from French military occupation zone in Germany under French control in 1946. In 1947, Saarland promulgated a separate constitution. Cold War pressures for a stronger Germany allowed renewed industrialization, and the French returned control of the region to the government of West Germany founded on the US-UK-French occupation zones. Historically; it was a disputed territory of West Germany as it was always opposed by the Soviet Union, a member of the Allied Control Council (ACC) i.e. the "Four Powers" ruling entire Germany and a country occupying Germany.


The region had been previously annexed by France (Bailiwick of Sarrelouis, 1685) and occupied during the Revolution (1790–1798) and the Napoleonic Wars, when it had been included in the First French Empire as the Sarre department between 1798 and 1814.

Post-World War I

Under the Treaty of Versailles, the Saar was initially occupied by combat units from the United Kingdom and France. In 1920, Britain and France established a nominally independent occupation government for the League of Nations mandate of the Saar: the greater part of the area under its control was carved out of the Prussian Rhine Province and was supplemented by two Bavarian districts (Homburg and St. Ingbert) taken from the Rhenish Palatinate. This was sanctioned by a 15-year League of Nations mandate which stationed League of Nations troops from Italy, Sweden, and the United Kingdom in the Saar until 1935. The Saar's coal industry, the dominant industry in the region at the time, was nationalized and directly administered by France, in compensation for the destruction of French mines by the retreating Germans in 1918.


On 13 January 1935, a plebiscite held in the territory at the end of the 15-year term, resulted in 90.7% of voters casting their ballot in favour of a return to Germany, and 0.4% voting for union with France. Others (8.9%) favoured the third option of a continued British–French occupation government. After political agitation and manoeuvring by Chancellor Adolf Hitler for the re-union of the Saarland with the German Reich (Rückgliederung des Saarlandes) it was reincorporated in 1935. Its area was not redivided among the Prussian Rhine Province and the Bavarian Palatinate, but united with the latter as the Gau of Saar-Palatinate (Saarpfalz). In 1942 it was renamed Westmark (Western March), as it was planned to be expanded to incorporate parts of German-occupied French Lorraine which, however, did not materialise.

Post-World War II

View of steel and ironworks in the Saar, c.1950

In July 1945, two months after World War II had ended in Europe, the Allied forces were redeploying from the areas they had conquered into their respective zones of occupation. On 10 July 1945, US forces left the Saar and French troops established their occupational administration. On 16 February 1946, France disentangled the Saar from the Allied zones of occupation and established the separate Saar Protectorate, which was de facto no longer under the joint Allied jurisdiction by the Allied Control Council for Germany.

French officials deported a total of 1,820 people from the Saar in 1946 and 1947, most of whom ultimately were allowed to return.[2] However, France had not agreed to the expulsions approved (without input from France) in the Potsdam agreement by the Allies, so France refused to accept war refugees or expellees from the eastern annexed territories in the Saar protectorate or the French zone.[3] However, native Sarrois returning from Nazi-imposed removals (e.g. political and Jewish refugees) and war-related relocations (e.g. evacuation from air raids) were allowed to return to the areas under French control. France aimed at winning over the Saar population for a future annexation.

With effect from 20 July 1946, 109 municipalities of the Prussian Rhine Province within the French zone were added to the Saar Protectorate. By 18 December 1946 customs controls were established between the Saar and allied occupied Germany. By further territorial redeployments between the Saar Protectorate, constituted in early 1947, and neighbouring Rhineland-Palatinate (a new state established on 30 August 1946 in the French zone), 61 municipalities returned to Germany, while 13 other municipalities were ceded to the Saar Protectorate between 8 June 1947 and 1949, followed by one further Palatine municipality incorporated into the Saar in the latter year.[4]

In the speech Restatement of Policy on Germany, given in Stuttgart on 6 September 1946, the US Secretary of State James F. Byrnes stated the US's motive in detaching the Saar from Germany as "The United States does not feel that it can deny to France, which has been invaded three times by Germany in 70 years, its claim to the Saar territory".

Constitution of Saarland 1947/48

On 16 July 1947 the Saar mark replaced the Reichsmark as legal tender in the Saar Protectorate, followed by the integration of the Saar into the French currency area on 15 November the same year. While only French franc banknotes circulated from 1954 on, Saar franc coins, designed similar to French coins, were issued too. On 15 December 1947 the Saar was constituted by its constitution as the Saarland, with an elected government under the control of the French high commissioner Gilbert Grandval. December 1947 had severe flooding along the Saar river, water higher than in the past 150 years, with extensive relief efforts undertaken. On 23 March 1948 the customs union with France was confirmed, taking effect on 1 April.

Initially, a policy of industrial disarmament was pursued in Germany by the Allied powers (see industrial plans for Germany). As part of this policy limits were placed on permitted production levels, and industries in the Saar were dismantled as they had been in the Ruhr, although mostly in the period before the detachment (see also The 1949 letter from the UK Foreign minister Ernest Bevin to the French Foreign minister Robert Schuman, urging a reconsideration of dismantling policy). This policy was quickly reversed in mid-1946 or early 1947.

France's attempts to internationalize the Ruhr (see International Authority for the Ruhr) were abandoned in 1950 when, in the face of Cold War pressures in Europe, the French government took an historic step in deciding that the only viable political model for the future lay in European integration. This resulted in the Schuman Declaration,[5] a plan drafted for the most part by Jean Monnet. The plan put forward a rapprochement between France, Germany, and other European countries wanting to participate. As a first step, France and Germany were to agree to pool their markets for coal and steel, following the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC).[6] With the participation of West Germany in the ECSC, agreement on termination of the International Authority for the Ruhr came into force on 25 June 1952.[7] However, France delayed the return of the Saar.

Under French rule, pro-German parties[8] were initially banned from contesting the elections. Much support was given to the Mouvement pour le Rattachement de la Sarre à la France, a Francophile movement founded by Saar exiles in Paris in early 1945, with many of the exiles having returned after the war. However, in the general election of December 1952, 24% of the voters cast blank ballots in support of banned pro-German parties (while the majority still voted for one of the legal parties who wanted the Saar to remain autonomous).

Referendum and becoming a state of West Germany

In the Paris Agreements of 23 October 1954, France offered to establish an independent "Saarland", under the auspices of the Western European Union (WEU), but a referendum held on 23 October 1955 rejected this plan by 67.7% to 32.3% (out of a 96.5% turnout: 423,434 against, 201,975 for) despite the public support of West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer for the plan. The rejection of the plan by the Sarrois was interpreted as support for the Saar to join the Federal Republic of Germany.[9]

100 Saar franken coin

On 27 October 1956 the Saar Treaty established that Saarland should be allowed to become a state of West Germany, as provided by its Grundgesetz constitution art. 23, and so Saarland did on 1 January 1957. West Germany agreed to the channelization of the Moselle. This reduced French freight costs in the Lorraine steel industry. West Germany also agreed to the teaching of French as the first foreign language in schools in the Saarland; although no longer binding, the agreement is still in the main followed.

The treaty also stated that economic union with West Germany was to be completed by 1960, with the exact date of the replacement of the Saar and French franc by the Deutsche Mark being kept a secret called "Day X" (Tag X). Although the Saar became a state of West Germany (as Saarland) on 1 January 1957, the franc remained legal tender in Saarland until 6 July 1959. Thus on that date the Kleine Wiedervereinigung (little reunification) was completed, after more 13 years of separation.

As a footnote to the creation of the European Union, the territorial dispute over control of the Saarland was one of the last between member states and led to the European flag being given a politically neutral ring of twelve stars rather than the originally proposed 15 (one of which was to represent a nominally independent Saar as a member of the Council of Europe).[10]


The first elections for the parliament of the Saar protectorate were held on 5 October 1947, with four parties being allowed, the Christian People's Party of Saarland (CVP), the Social Democratic Party of Saarland (SPS), the Democratic Party of Saarland (DPS) and the Communist Party of Saarland (KPS). The first Landtag passed the law establishing the constitution of the Saarland on 15 December 1947. The most successful party, the CVP under Johannes Hoffmann formed the first government with the SPS.

  • 1947–1952: Johannes Hoffmann (CVP), first term
  • 1952–1955: Johannes Hoffmann (CVP), second term, resigned after the Saar statute failed in the referendum
  • 1955–1956: Heinrich Welsch (independent), led the government till the end of his term
  • 1956–1957: Hubert Ney (CVP), resigned after the reunification due to party quarrels



  • Gilbert-Yves-Edmond Grandval 30 Aug 1945 10 Jan 1948 (takes office 7 Sep 1945)

High Commissioner of the French Republic in the Saarland

  • Gilbert-Yves-Edmond Grandval 10 Jan 1948 5 Mar 1952

Chiefs of the diplomatic mission of the French Republic in the Saarland

  • Gilbert-Yves-Edmond Grandval 1 Jan 1952 8 Jul 1955
  • Charles-Marie-Eric de Carbonnel 8 Jul 1955 27 Oct 1956


The Saar competed in the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, and the Saarland national football team participated in the qualifying section of the 1954 FIFA World Cup, but failed to qualify after coming second to the West German team, but ahead of Norway.[11] Helmut Schön, later World and European champion with West Germany, was the manager of the Saarland team from 1952 until Saarland became a part of West Germany in 1957.[12]

The Amateurliga Saarland was the local league within the German Football League System. 1. FC Saarbrücken took part in the first ever European Cup in 1955.

Postage stamps

Postage stamps were issued specially for the territory from 1920 to 1935, and from 1947 to 1959 (see postage stamps and postal history of the Saar).

See also


  1. Revilla, Angel David (11 December 2017), Saar Protectorate Patriotic Song (1945–1957) - "Land der Saar", archived from the original on 13 December 2021, retrieved 7 February 2021
  2. Long, Bronson (September 2015). No Easy Occupation: French Control of the German Saar, 1944-1957 (First ed.). Rochester, New York: Camden House. pp. 44–47. ISBN 978-1-57113-915-3.
  3. Cf. the report of the Central State Archive of Rhineland-Palatinate on the first expellees arriving in that state in 1950 to be resettled from other German states. "Blick in die Geschichte - Jubiläum #15.04.0". Archived from the original on 21 August 2009. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  4. Hans-Peter Schwarz, Konrad Adenauer: a German politician and statesman in a period of war, p489
  5. EUROPA.EU An official website of the European Union. "The Schuman Declaration – 9 May 1950".
  6. Britannica (21 May 2021). "Schuman Plan".
  7. United Nations. "Statement of Treaties and International Agreements Registered or filed and recorded with the Secretariat during June 1959" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 September 2015.
  8. The parties in favour of a reunification of the Saar with Germany were the Christian-Democratic Union of the Saar (CDU-Saar), the German Social Democratic Party (DSP) and the Democratic Party of the Saar (DPS). Whereas the DSP, on 26 October 1946 first founded as Democratic Association of the Saarland (DVS, Demokratische Vereinigung des Saarlandes) and reorganised and officially registered as the DPS on 28 February 1947, only turned into a pro-German party, earning it the party ban on 21 May 1951, the DSP, inofficially formed on 28 February 1947, and the CDU-Saar, inofficially formed in 1952, promoted the reunification from the beginning and could thus only register officially in May 1955. On 3 September 1955 the three parties formed the united election list called Heimatbund. Cf. Rainer Freyer, "Die Parteien im Saarland 1945-59", on: Saar-Nostalgie: Erinnerungen an frühere Zeiten im Saarland, retrieved on 20 February 2014.
  9. "Results of the referendum on the Saar Statute (23 October 1955)". Saarländische Volkszeitung. Saarbrücken. 24 October 1955. p. 10. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
  10. Murphy, Sean (25 January 2006). "Irish Chiefs: Memorandum on the Role of Irish Chief Herald Slevin in the Design of the European Flag". Archived from the original on 23 April 2007. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
  11. Ashdown, John (2 June 2010). "World Cup 2010 special: part two – Have any player-managers ever appeared at a World Cup?". The Guardian.
  12. Courtney, Barrie (20 May 2004). "Saar - List of International Matches and Line-Ups". Retrieved 8 November 2011.

Further reading

  • Jacques Freymond, The Saar Conflict, 1945-1955. London, Stevens, 1960.


  1. Saarland was an independent government within the economic sphere of the France; France was responsible for defence and foreign affairs (cf. Preamble of Saarland's Constitution).
  2. Military Governor (1945–1947), High Commissioner (1947–1953), Ambassador & Chief of the Diplomatic Mission (1953–1955).
  3. Ambassador & Chief of the Diplomatic Mission.
  4. French franc with German markings.
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