Alsace, German Occupation in WW2 (1940 – 1944)


ALBUM – German Occupation of Alsace in WW2

Summary

Alsace (Elsaß) is an area in eastern France on the German border. The rich agricultural and industrial region changed hands between France and Germany several times over the last few centuries. In May/June, 1940, early in World War 2, Nazi Germany invaded western Europe, taking Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and much of France, including Alsace. The Germans annexed Alsace and occupied the region until the Allies liberated Strasbourg on Nov 23, 1944.

Fast Facts

Region: Western Europe
Group: German Occupations
Classification: Military Occupation
Prior Regime: Republic of France
Key Dates:
  1940, May 10–Jun 25 – The Fall of France, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg
  1940, Nov 30 – Alsace is officially annexed into the Reich
  1942, Jan – Alsace residents designated as German citizens.
  1942, Aug 25 – Germany began forcibly inducting men from Alsace and Lorraine into the German Army
  1944, Nov 23 – Alsace liberated with the Allied re-taking of Strasbourg
Following Regime: Republic of France
First Stamp Issued: 1940, Aug 15
Scott Catalog: France, Alsace, Issued under German Occupation (N27 – N42)
Pick Catalog: France R-135-140 (currency for all occupied areas)

History of the German Occupation of Alsace

Police regulate traffic at Schlettstadt, Alsace 1940
Alsace is a rich agricultural and industrial area of eastern France with a long history dating back to the Roman Empire. For centuries it was part of the Holy Roman Empire until parts were taken by France in the mid 1600’s. Strasbourg, the key city of Alsace, was finally annexed into France in 1681 by Louis XV.

With the defeat of France in the Franco Prussian War and the creation of the German Empire, France was forced to cede Alsace along with Lorraine to Germany in 1871. The area remained an integral part of Germany until their defeat in World War 1. Alsace and Loraine where returned to France after war, in the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.

With the success of the invasion of Poland in 1939, Nazi Germany turned their eyes westward. Finally, on May 10, 1940 German forces began their assault on Belgium and the Netherlands, as a precursor for invading France. After just six weeks, German forces had taken the lowland counties of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, as well as much of France including Alsace. The French and the Allies were crushed, with the taking of Paris on Jun 13th and the overall surrender of France on June 22, 1940. Hitler added to the humiliation by insisting that the documents be signed on the same railway car used when Germany had surrendered in 1918.

After the occupation, Hitler enacted a series of “secret laws” which officially annexed Alsace and Lorraine into Germany. On Mar 22, 1941, Alsace was joined with Baden to form a single administrative unit called Gau Baden-Alsace. This was followed by a proclamation on Jan 1, 1942, that all residents of Alsace and Lorraine were considered as German citizens, requiring them to learn and use German. French and Alsatian languages were outlawed. Beginning on Aug 25, 1942, authorities instituted a forced draft of into the Nazi army. About 130,000 men from the Alsace and Lorraine were conscripted, most being sent off to the Eastern front to fight the Russians. More than a third of those drafted never returned.

As the war continued, the Allies eventually regrouped their forces and, the battle for Europe turned. On Jun 6, 1944, the Allies launched “Operation Overlord”, or better known as the Battle of Normandy, to begin retaking France. Bitter fighting continued as allied forces pushed the eastward. The Allies retook Paris on Aug 25th, 1944, and eventually German forces were pushed out of Alsace with the liberation Strasbourg on Nov 23, 1944.

After the war, Alsace was returned to the Republic of France.

Stamps

ALBUM
After the invasion and occupation of France in June, 1940, French stamps continued in use until replacements were issued. On Aug 15, 1940, occupational authorities overprinted “Elsaß” in black, onto German Hindenburg stamps and released them for sale. Sixteen denominations from 3pf to 100pf were issued.

The same stamps, with different overprints, were issued for Lorraine (Aug 21, 1940) and Luxembourg (Oct 1, 1940). Stamps of Alsace, Lorraine and Luxembourg were valid in all regions including Germany proper.

“Elsaß” stamps remained valid until Jan 1, 1942, when they were replaced with stamps of the German Reich.

Banknotes

In 1939, the Germans issued currency to be used in all occupied areas (Belgium, Denmark, Greece, France, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Soviet Union, Yugoslavia). This includes Alsace. The 6 notes were issued in the following denominations: 50 pfennigs, 1, 2, 5, 20, 50 mark. This currency was used until Alsace and Lorraine were annexed into Germany on Jan 1, 1942.

Links

Alsace-Lorraine from Wikiwand
The Fall of France from the BBC
Alsace from Wikipedia
Story about the Draft of Alsace solders from WW 2 Today
Occupational Issue 1940-45 Western Europe from bills-bunker.de
Alsace from Stamp Collecting World

This entry was posted in German Occupations, Military Occupations, Western Europe, WW2. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Alsace, German Occupation in WW2 (1940 – 1944)

  1. John C. says:

    In late 1944, Germany launched some counterattacks in the area, reinforcing the idea that is was their territory and not just occupied France. Not sure more fighting would have enamored them with even German locals. Specially with their own sons off in Russia.

    Interesting the first stamps were long dead Hindenburg rather than Hitler. Good post.

    • Michael says:

      Hi John, welcome to DCStamps.
      When I write these articles, I try and weigh what to include and what to leave out. I want to keep them short, but informative. The time during the occupation was probably very chaotic for the people in the region, as they were probably just trying to keep their heads down and survive. I also read that some of those drafted went voluntarily, but most did not. However, the families of any “draft dodgers” were forcibly relocated eastward to Poland, which was a huge incentive to join.

      I too wondered why they used the Hindenburg stamps, but couldn’t find the reason. Maybe one of our German experts will have the answer.
      Michael

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