Sep 9, 2013
In the final days of the First World War, several members of the German General Staff, led by General Erich Ludendorff, refused to admit that they had lost the war. They planned a bold final attack against the Royal Navy. However the war-weary German sailors mutinied at Kiel, the main German port. Soon workers and members of the trade unions joined the sailors' mutiny and a full-blown revolt sprang up. The revolution spread throughout Germany, and within a few days, the Imperial Monarchy had been overthrown and Soviet revolutionaries began to take control around the country.
Roughly 15,000 citizens of Alsace and Lorraine were serving in the Kriegsmarine at the time, and had joined the rebellion in Kiel. They thought that this would be a good time to get a revolution going back home in Alsace-Lorraine, an area between France & Germany which has been fought over for a several centuries, and traveled back to rouse the populace.
On 8 November 1918, the Proclamation of Councils by the Bavarian Soviet Republic was aired in Strassberg, the capital of Alsace, and the next day, thousands of rioters and demonstrators showed up in Kleber Square to welcome the first insurgents back from Northern Germany. A train controlled by the revolutionaries was blocked at the Kehl Bridge by a Loyalist commander and fired upon. One of the returning seamen was killed, but his redoubtable compatriots took Kehl before moving onto Strassberg.
The revolutionaries established the Council of Strassberg Soldiers and occupied the city. Red Soviet flags were raised across the city. The Council of Strassberg Soldiers was later replaced by the Council of Workers & Soldiers which was presided over by the leader of the Brewery Workers' Union. From Strassberg, the Revolution spread across Alsace-Lorraine. Soviets were established in the nearby cities of Haguenau, Mulhouse, and Colmar. In Metz, the insurgents occupied the city hall and raised a makeshift Soviet banner that they had made from a coloured-in Ottoman flag.
The same day, Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated and Germany was declared a Republic in a speech by Philipp Scheidemann, Germany's Finance Minister, from the Reichstag. Alsace-Lorraine had been an Imperial territory since it was won by Prussia back in 1871 after the Franco-Prussian War, and was administered directly under the Kaiser. Having no State Government like other German states, the withdrawal of the Kaiser caused even greater chaos and a gaping vacuum of power.
On 11 November, the Armistice ending the Great War was signed. The Diet of Strassberg proclaimed Alsace-Lorraine as an independent Republic, and the Landtag was reorganized as the Council of Alsace-Lorraine, and assumed the roles of sole legal authority, Stattgalter ('Steward'), & Foreign Ministry.
The Alsatian Republic did not last long, however. After only 11 short days of independence, Alsace-Lorraine was occupied the French military, losing its newly-won freedom and being returned to the Centralized French System. All the proclamations issued by the Strassberg Soviet were immediately nullified, strikes were forcibly terminated, and protestors were arrested. The French government also lost no time initializing an intense Francification program that included deporting all Germans who had moved there after 1870, forcing French upon the largely German-speaking populace, and suppressing German-language newspapers. In less than 20 years, this extreme Francification would pave the way for Alsace-Lorraine’s comparatively smooth integration into the Third Reich.
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