Eupen & Malmedy, Belgian Occupation – post ww1 (1919 – 1920)

ALBUM – View my Belgian Occupation of Eupen & Malmedy album

Fast Facts

Region: Western Europe
Group: Post WW1 Occupations
Classification: Military Occupation
Prior Regime: German Empire
Key Dates:
  1918 – British occupy Eupen and Malmedy
  1919, Jun 28 – Eupen and Malmedy ceded to Belgium under Treaty of Versailles
  1920, Jan 26-Jul 23 – “Plebiscite” held on whether to return territories to Germany
  1920, Sept 20 – Eupen, Malmedy and Sankt-Vith annexed by Belgium
  1925 – Eupen, Malmedy and Sankt-Vith fully incorporated into Belgium
Following Regime: Separate areas of Eupen and Malmedy
Scott Catalogue: (Germany, Occupations) 1N18 – 1N24
Pick Catalogue: none
Currency: 100 Pfennig = 1 Mark


View of the town of Eupen, 1920s
View of the town of Eupen, 1920s
After the defeat of the German Empire in World War 1, the terms of surrender were ultimately agreed and codified in the Treaty of Versailles, signed on 28 June, 1919. The terms of the treaty required Germany to give up territory to neighbours in Europe as well as all of its foreign colonies in Africa and Asia. In the East Prussia area: a large portion of land would be given to the newly independent Poland, Danzig (Gdansk) would become a Free City, Memel (Klaipėda) was made a protectorate of the League of Nations (although Lithuania occupied and annexed the region in 1923), and Allenstein and Marienwerder were allowed to have a vote (or plebiscite) to determine whether they would become a part of Germany or Poland. To the north, Schleswig would conduct a plebiscite to determine whether it would be part of Denmark or Germany. To the West, Eupen and Malmedy would go to Belgium, Alsace and Lorraine would become part of France, and Saar would be administered by the French for the League of Nations, and referendum would be held 15 years later, in 1935 to determine their fate. To the southeast, Upper Silesia and Eastern Silesia also planned to conduct plebiscites to determine their fate.

Eupen and Malmedy (the East Cantons), were districts of the German Empire which were awarded to Belgium in 1920 in the Treaty of Versailles. Historically, there have been little in common between these areas, Eupen is a German speaking region with historic ties to the Habsburgs of Austria and the German Empire, and Malmedy is a French / Walloon speaking district with historic ties to the Duchy of Luxembourg. Both districts were awarded to Prussia, and later the German Empire at the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

At the beginning of World War I, most of the inhabitants of the Eupen and Malmedy districts considered themselves German and fought for the German Empire during the war. As World War I began to draw to close, the Allies conducted negotiations regarding the breakup of the German Empire, and allocation of territories among the victors. The French government was a strong advocate for the expansion of Belgium and supported their claim to reunite the “lost” cantons of Eupen, Malmedy and Sankt Vith to Belgium. This was ratified in 1920 in the Treaty of Versailles and they went to Belgium on a provisional basis. The five year transition was to include a plebiscite (or vote) by the residents on whether they would remain as a part of Belgium.
WEU - Eupen & Malmedy Map

The plebiscite was held between 26 Jan and 23 Jul, 1920. However it was not a secret ballot and inhabitants of the cantons who objected to the annexation had to register (by name) at the village hall. This procedure led to mass intimidation; people were led to believe that anyone objecting to annexation by Belgium would not receive Belgian nationality, but be deported to Germany or at least have their food ration cards taken away. As a result, only 271 people out of 33,726 voted for the region to return to Germany. In 1925, Eupen, Malmedy, and Sankt Vith, fully became part of Belgium.

The very next year, in 1926, Belgium and the German Weimar Republic held secret meetings to discuss the return of the East Cantons to Germany in return for 200 million gold marks. When the talks were discovered, this infuriated the French, and talks were quickly concluded with no agreement.

In 1940 as World War 2 was ramping up, Nazi Germany occupied and annexed the East Cantons back into Germany. Many of the German speaking inhabitants supported the move; however that support dropped significantly when the German Army conscripted most of the male population into the military and most were sent to the Eastern Front. After the war, Belgium reclaimed their sovereignty over the region.


WEU - Eupen & Malmedy StampALBUM
On 15 Jan, 1920, within the Eastern Cantons, seven stamps from the 1915 Belgian definitive series were overprinted “Eupen & Malmedy” and surcharged in German currency. The first 5 stamps of the series, which featured the image of King Albert I, were overprinted and surcharged in black. The last two, which featured views of Belgian cities, were overprinted and surcharged in red..

These stamps were replaced on 20 Mar, 1920, with stamps overprinted (but not surcharged in German currency) individually for Eupen and Malmedy.


German currency initially used, but quickly changed to Belgian currency.


Eupen – Malmedy at Wikipedia
Eupen and Malmedy at Belgium Stamps

This entry was posted in Military Occupations, Plebiscites, Treaty of Versailles, Western Europe, WW1. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Eupen & Malmedy, Belgian Occupation – post ww1 (1919 – 1920)

  1. Wolfgang HULLMANN says:

    Just a minor remark on spelling: “Currency: 100 pfenning = 1 Mark”. Nouns like “Mark” take an initial capital letter; same applies to the first noun, and the ending is “ig”, not “ing” –> “Pfennig”. No plural, by the way, so you say ” Es kostet hundert Pfennig or eine Mark or zehn (10) Mark” (= it costs …). Hope this helps.
    Apart from this tiny mistake, it’s a really interesting website. Might also be interesting to learn what the British did during their short stay in this area. Were they numerous? Where were they accommodated. How did the Germans feel about their presence?
    Greetings from a village close to Eupen,

    • Michael says:

      Hallo Wolfgang
      Welcome to DCStamps
      Thank you for your corrections. Of course you are right, I will try to work my way through and correct these. Actually I do know the correct spelling of phennig, but sometimes in haste, the “ing” from English just creeps in.
      It would be interesting to know more about the various “transitions” of this area between the countries. Actually, I would be interested to know how people feel about it now? I am sure you have lots of information on that.

  2. Jorge Mir says:

    Very interesant informatio about the territories occupied during first years of the 20th century. I collect stamps related to this subject up to the end of 2nd world war, so it is very useful for me. Thanks.

    • Michael says:

      Hi Jorge, welcome to DCStamsps. Glad you enjoy the site and you have found it useful. Feel free to share you collection, as I am sure it is interesting to most.

  3. Asher Laiu YK says:

    This website is extremely reliable.

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