Imperial Territory of Alsace-Lorraine

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Locator map of Alsace-Lorraine in the German Empire

The Imperial Territory of Alsace-Lorraine (German: Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringen) was a territory of the German Empire from 1871 until 1918/19, when it was forcibly reverted to France through the Treaty of Versailles. It's capital was Straßburg.


Flag of the Reichsland Elsaß–Lothringen (1871–1918)
Coat of arms (1871–1918)

The territory of Alsace and Lorraine was under Germanic (Franks) and German (Holy Roman Empire) over 1,000 years. Straßburg, the capital of Alsace, became a French city in 1681, after the conquest of Alsace by the armies of Louis XIV, although it was officially considered by the French until 1789 as a foreign province (province à l’instar de l’étranger effectif) with a customs border. The French did not trust the city, that spoke German and practiced German culture. The Duchy of Lorraine (Herzogtum Lothringen) came to France 1766 in accordance with the Treaty of Vienna (1738).

In 1871, after the German victory in the Franco-Prussian War, the territory was reunited with the new, the second German Empire. The German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm I, sided with Prussian Army commander Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, other Prussian generals and other officials who argued that a westward shift in the French border was necessary for strategic military and ethnographic reasons. Creating a new Imperial Territory (Reichsland) would achieve this goal.

In November 1918, after Kaiser Wilhelm II consented to abdication, the de facto independent Republic of Alsace-Lorraine was founded. On 17 October 1919 the independent Republic was dissolved and, in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles, placed under French rule. France divided Alsace–Lorraine into the départements of Haut-Rhin, Bas-Rhin, and Moselle. The German language and the German culture was from now on actively suppressed by the French.


After the German victory of the Battle of France in the spring of 1940, Alsace and Moselle were not formally annexed by National Socialist Germany. Through a series of laws which individually seemed minor, Berlin took de facto control of Alsace-Lorraine, and many Alsatians-Lorrainians were allowed to join the Wehrmacht as volunteers, notably the author of "The Forgotten Soldier", known by the pseudonym Guy Sajer. During the occupation, Moselle was integrated into a Reichsgau named Westmark and Alsace was amalgamated with Baden. Beginning in 1942, people from Alsace and Moselle were made German citizens by decree of the German government. Beginning in October 1942, young men of Alsace-Lorraine were inducted into the German armed forces. Ultimately, 100,000 Alsatians and 30,000 Mosellans were enrolled, many of them to fight against the Soviet Red Army, on Germany's Eastern Front. Most of those who survived the war were interned in Tambov in Russia in 1945. Many others fought in Normandy against the invasion of the Allies as part of the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich (2. SS-Panzer-Division „Das Reich“), not to be confused with the foreign volunteers of the Waffen-SS.


Oberpräsident des Reichslandes Elsaß-Lothringen
Nr. Name Tenure begin Tenure end
1 Eduard von Moeller 1871 1879
Kaiserlicher Statthalter in Elsaß-Lothringen
1 Edwin Karl Rochus Freiherr von Manteuffel 1879 1885
2 Chlodwig Carl Viktor Fürst zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, Prinz von Ratibor und von Corvey 1885 1894
3 Hermann Ernst Franz Bernhard Fürst zu Hohenlohe-Langenburg 1894 1907
4 Karl Leo Julius Graf von Wedel 1907 1914
5 Nikolaus Michael Louis Johann "Hans" von Dallwitz 1914 1918
6 Rudolf Schwander 1918 1918