Section V.—Alsace-Lorraine (Art. 51 to 79)
The High Contracting Parties, recognising the moral obligation to redress the wrong done by Germany in 1871 both to the rights of France and to the wishes of the population of Alsace and Lorraine, which were separated from their country in spite of the solemn protest of their representatives at the Assembly of Bordeaux,[Page 183]
Agree upon the following Articles:
The territories which were ceded to Germany in accordance with the Preliminaries of Peace signed at Versailles on February 26, 1871, and the Treaty of Frankfort of May 10, 1871, are restored to French sovereignty as from the date of the Armistice of November 11, 1918.
The provisions of the Treaties establishing the delimitation of the frontiers before 1871 shall be restored.
Note to III, 51
Emphasis was given to the redressing of the stated wrong by dating the retrocession of Alsace-Lorraine to France from the armistice instead of from the entry of the treaty into force, which is stipulated by the final clauses to be the date from which times begin to run. By this language article 51 records, rather than effects, the reversion of Alsace-Lorraine to France.
The National Assembly of Bordeaux met as a newly elected body on February 13, 1871. On March 1 it accepted, 546 to 107, the terms of the Preliminaries of Peace of February 26, 1871 (62 British and Foreign State Papers, p. 59). The definitive treaty of peace signed at Frankfurt on May 10, 1871 and in effect on May 20 is printed at ibid., p. 77, in French, and in English in Hertslet, Map of Europe by Treaty, iii, 1954.
The provisions of this section in many respects are patterned on the conditions imposed by Germany in 1871, thus aiming precisely to abrogate the German regime.
Although admitting that in 1871 Germany had not consulted the wishes of
the people in taking possession of Alsace-Lorraine, the German
delegation demanded that this wrong should not be “replaced by a fresh
and still greater wrong” and asked for a plebiscite, since 87 percent of
the inhabitants belonged to Germany “by virtue of language and customs
Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vi, 829). They must be allowed to
choose freely between union with France, union with Germany as an
autonomous state, and complete independence. There was no justification
for antedating the cession to the date of the armistice or for the
provisions of the treaty dealing with nationality; Germany could not
surrender the eastern half of the bridges over the Rhine or consent to
the incorporation of Kehl in France. Furthermore, France should take [Page 184]over a part of the German
national debt and make a special settlement concerning employment
The Allied reply declared that having accepted the Eighth Point (of the
Fourteen) and signed the armistice, Germany had no right to demand a
plebiscite and that “the population of Alsace and Lorraine has never
asked for it”. The date of cession was also determined by the armistice
p. 944). It was also pointed out that in 1871 Germany had not
assumed any share of the French debt. On the other hand, it had always
been understood that France would accept liability for the local debt of
The German Government shall hand over without delay to the French Government all archives, registers, plans, titles and documents of every kind concerning the civil, military, financial, judicial or other administrations of the territories restored to French sovereignty. If any of these documents, archives, registers, titles or plans have been misplaced, they will be restored by the German Government on the demand of the French Government.
Separate agreements shall be made between France and Germany dealing with the interests of the inhabitants of the territories referred to in Article 51, particularly as regards their civil rights, their business and the exercise of their professions, it being understood that Germany undertakes as from the present to recognise and accept the regulations laid down in the Annex hereto regarding the nationality of the inhabitants or natives of the said territories, not to claim at any time or in any place whatsoever as German nationals those who shall have been declared on any ground to be French, to receive all others in her territory, and to conform, as regards the property of German nationals in the territories indicated in Article 51, with the provisions of Article 297 and the Annex to Section IV of Part X (Economic Clauses) of the present Treaty.
Those German nationals who without acquiring French nationality shall receive permission from the French Government to reside in the said territories shall not be subjected to the provisions of the said Article.[Page 185]
Those persons who have regained French nationality in virtue of paragraph 1 of the Annex hereto will be held to be Alsace-Lorrainers for the purposes of the present Section.
The persons referred to in paragraph 2 of the said Annex will from the day on which they have claimed French nationality be held to be Alsace-Lorrainers with retroactive effect as from November 11, 1918. For those whose application is rejected, the privilege will terminate at the date of the refusal.
Such juridical persons will also have the status of Alsace-Lorrainers as shall have been recognised as possessing this quality, whether by the French administrative authorities or by a judicial decision.
Text of May 7:
Such juridical persons will also have the status of Alsace-Lorrainers as have been recognised as possessing this quality, whether by the French administrative authorities or by a judicial decision.
Note to III, 54
French laws relating to public order were made applicable to Alsace-Lorraine as a whole and without distinction by the law of October 17, 1919.
A French decree of January 11, 1920 regulated the procedure for applying the rules with respect to nationality set forth in the treaty of peace.
The territories referred to in Article 51 shall return to France free and quit of all public debts under the conditions laid down in Article 255 of Part IX (Financial Clauses) of the present Treaty.
In conformity with the provisions of Article 256 of Part IX (Financial Clauses) of the present Treaty, France shall enter into possession of all property and estate, within the territories referred to in Article 51, which belong to the German Empire or German States, without any payment or credit on this account to any of the States ceding the territories.
This provision applies to all movable or immovable property of public or private domain together with all rights whatsoever belonging [Page 186]to the German Empire or German States or to their administrative areas.
Crown property and the property of the former Emperor or other German sovereigns shall be assimilated to property of the public domain.
Germany shall not take any action, either by means of stamping or by any other legal or administrative measures not applying equally to the rest of her territory, which may be to the detriment of the legal value or redeemability of German monetary instruments or monies which, at the date of the signature of the present Treaty, are legally current, and at that date are in the possession of the French Government.
Note to III, 57
An order of the French Premier dated November 26, 1918 retired the German mark as legal tender from December 15 and established an exchange rate of 1.25 francs per mark. This was followed by a law for regularization of the currency on April 23, 1919.
A special Convention will determine the conditions for repayment in marks of the exceptional war expenditure advanced during the course of the war by Alsace-Lorraine or by public bodies in Alsace-Lorraine on account of the Empire in accordance with German law, such as payment to the families of persons mobilised, requisitions, billeting of troops, and assistance to persons who have been evacuated.
In fixing the amount of these sums Germany shall be credited with that portion which Alsace-Lorraine would have contributed to the Empire to meet the expenses resulting from these payments, this contribution being calculated according to the proportion of the Imperial revenues derived from Alsace-Lorraine in 1913.
Note to III, 58
The special convention concerning the treasury of Alsace-Lorraine was concluded at Baden-Baden June 30, 1920 (8 League of Nations Treaty Series, p. 79) and entered into force July 23, 1921. By application of this article and in virtue of articles 1–5 of that convention the Reparation Commission fixed the amount at 33,000,000 gold marks. Payment of the sum was treated as arrears by article 8, A, c, of the Finance Ministers’ Agreement of January 14, 1925.[Page 187]
The French Government will collect for its own account the Imperial taxes, duties and dues of every kind leviable in the territories referred to in Article 51 and not collected at the time of the Armistice of November 11, 1918.
Note to III, 59
German indirect taxes on numerous articles and of various types were abrogated as from August 1, 1919 by orders dated June 18, 1919.
The German Government shall without delay restore to Alsace-Lorrainers (individuals, juridical persons and public institutions) all property, rights and interests belonging to them on November 11, 1918, in so far as these are situated in German territory.
The German Government undertakes to continue and complete without delay the execution of the financial clauses regarding Alsace-Lorraine contained in the Armistice Conventions.
The German Government undertakes to bear the expense of all civil and military pensions which had been earned in Alsace-Lorraine on date of November 11, 1918, and the maintenance of which was a charge on the budget of the German Empire.
The German Government shall furnish each year the funds necessary for the payment in francs, at the average rate of exchange for that year, of the sums in marks to which persons resident in Alsace-Lorraine would have been entitled if Alsace-Lorraine had remained under German jurisdiction.
Note to III, 62
A special convention between France and Germany signed at Baden-Baden March 3, 1920 (8 League of Nations Treaty Series, p. 45) related to pensions in Alsace-Lorraine and entered into force on that date. The Arbitral Tribunal of Interpretation decided on March 24, 1926 that the payments in execution of article 62 were included in the annuities of the Experts’ (Dawes) Plan, reversing article 8, B, a, of the Finance Ministers’ Agreement of January 14, 1925.[Page 188]
For the purposes of the obligation assumed by Germany in Part VIII (Reparation) of the present Treaty to give compensation for damages caused to the civil populations of the Allied and Associated countries in the form of fines, the inhabitants of the territories referred to in Article 51 shall be assimilated to the above-mentioned populations.
The regulations concerning the control of the Rhine and of the Moselle are laid down in Part XII (Ports, Waterways and Railways) of the present Treaty.
Within a period of three weeks after the coming into force of the present Treaty, the port of Strasburg and the port of Kehl shall be constituted, for a period of seven years, a single unit from the point of view of exploitation.
The administration of this single unit will be carried on by a manager named by the Central Rhine Commission, which shall also have power to remove him.
This manager shall be of French nationality.
He will reside in Strasburg and will be subject to the supervision of the Central Rhine Commission.
Text of May 7:
The administration of this single unit will be carried on by a manager named by the Central Rhine Commission, which shall also have power to remove him. He shall be of French nationality. He will reside in Strasburg and will be subject to the supervision of the Central Rhine Commission.
There will be established in the two ports free zones in conformity with Part XII (Ports, Waterways and Railways) of the present Treaty.
A special Convention between France and Germany, which shall be submitted to the approval of the Central Rhine Commission, will fix the details of this organisation, particularly as regards finance.
It is understood that for the purpose of the present Article the port of Kehl includes the whole of the area necessary for the movements of the port and the trains which serve it, including the [Page 189]harbour, quays and railroads, platforms, cranes, sheds and warehouses, silos, elevators and hydro-electric plants, which make up the equipment of the port.
The German Government undertakes to carry out all measures which shall be required of it in order to assure that all the making-up and switching of trains arriving at or departing from Kehl, whether for the right bank or the left bank of the Rhine, shall be carried on in the best conditions possible.
All property rights shall be safeguarded. In particular the administration of the ports shall not prejudice any property rights of the French or Baden railroads.
Equality of treatment as respects traffic shall be assured in both ports to the nationals, vessels and goods of every country.
In case at the end of the sixth year France shall consider that the progress made in the improvement of the port of Strasburg still requires a prolongation of this temporary régime, she may ask for such prolongation from the Central Rhine Commission, which may grant an extension for a period not exceeding three years.
Throughout the whole period of any such extension the free zones above provided for shall be maintained.
Pending appointment of the first manager by the Central Rhine Commission a provisional manager who shall be of French nationality may be appointed by the Principal Allied and Associated Powers subject to the foregoing provisions.
For all purposes of the present Article the Central Rhine Commission will decide by a majority of votes.
Note to III, 65
France and Germany on March 1, 1920 at Baden-Baden concluded the special convention relative to the port of Kehl (1 League of Nations Treaty Series, p. 367). The convention, which entered into force April 8, fixed the boundaries of the port, provided for its direction, operation, and maintenance, for temporary expropriations, its budget and customs administration.
The Conference of Ambassadors informed the German Government that the Government of the Netherlands adhered to this article on September 7, 1923; see note to article 354.
The railway and other bridges across the Rhine now existing within the limits of Alsace-Lorraine shall, as to all their parts and [Page 190]their whole length, be the property of the French State, which shall ensure their upkeep.
Note to III, 66
A provisional agreement between France and Germany relating to the Rhine bridges was signed at Strasbourg July 1, 1920 (8 League of Nations Treaty Series, p. 87) and entered into force December 4, 1920. Under this article and article 243 Germany was credited with payments of 7,432,327.50 gold marks.
The French Government is substituted in all the rights of the German Empire over all the railways which were administered by the Imperial railway administration and which are actually working or under construction.
The same shall apply to the rights of the Empire with regard to railway and tramway concessions within the territories referred to in Article 51.
This substitution shall not entail any payment on the part of the French State.
The frontier railway stations shall be established by a subsequent agreement, it being stipulated in advance that on the Rhine frontier they shall be situated on the right bank.
In accordance with the provisions of Article 268 of Chapter I of Section I of Part X (Economic Clauses) of the present Treaty, for a period of five years from the coming into force of the present Treaty, natural or manufactured products originating in and coming from the territories referred to in Article 51 shall, on importation into German customs territory, be exempt from all customs duty.
The French Government may fix each year, by decree communicated to the German Government, the nature and amount of the products which shall enjoy this exemption.
The amount of each product which may be thus sent annually into Germany shall not exceed the average of the amounts sent annually in the years 1911–1913.
Text of May 7:
The French Government shall fix each year, by decree communicated to the German Government, the nature and amount of the products which shall enjoy this exemption.[Page 191]
Further, during the period of five years above mentioned, the German Government shall allow the free export from Germany and the free re-importation into Germany, exempt from all customs duties and other charges (including internal charges), of yarns, tissues, and other textile materials or textile products of any kind and in any condition, sent from Germany into the territories referred to in Article 51, to be subjected there to any finishing process, such as bleaching, dyeing, printing, mercerisation, gassing, twisting or dressing.
Note to III, 68
The French customs regime was applied to Alsace-Lorraine by a decree of January 30, 1919. The free import of Alsace-Lorraine goods into Germany, in quantities fixed by a French decree of January 10, 1920, was provided for in a protocol concluded in Baden-Baden, May 19, 1920 (1 League of Nations Treaty Series, p. 383) and provisionally in force, until November 15, 1920.
A Franco-German protocol signed at Baden-Baden November 17, 1920 and in force on January 11, 1921 (8 League of Nations Treaty Series, p. 99) fixed the method of applying this article under the conditions of articles 264 and 268 (a). This protocol superseded the agreement concluded at Baden-Baden on May 19, 1920. Goods the import of which was permitted entered exempt from all customs dues upon the mere production of a special French certificate of origin. Goods the import of which into Germany was prohibited entered exempt from all customs dues upon presentation of the special certificate of origin visaed on the back by the German bureau at Kehl; visas were granted free, as a matter of routine, on 48 hours’ notice and were valid for three months. The protocol was extended on December 16, 1921, and the system ended on January 10, 1925.
During a period of ten years from the coming into force of the present Treaty, central electric supply works situated in German territory and formerly furnishing electric power to the territories referred to in Article 51 or to any establishment the working of which passes permanently or temporarily from Germany to France, shall be required to continue such supply up to the amount of consumption corresponding to the undertakings and contracts current on November 11, 1918.
Such supply shall be furnished according to the contracts in force and at a rate which shall not be higher than that paid to the said works by German nationals.[Page 192]
It is understood that the French Government preserves its right to prohibit in the future in the territories referred to in Article 51 all new German participation:
- In the management or exploitation of the public domain and of public services, such as railways, navigable waterways, water works, gas works, electric power, etc.;
- In the ownership of mines and quarries of every kind and in enterprises connected therewith;
- In metallurgical establishments, even though their working may not be connected with that of any mine.
Note to III, 70
The mines, quarries, and metallurgical establishments were taken over at the outset by the Direction général du Commerce, de l’Industrie et des Mines and, after the elimination of German interests, were reorganized under French control for exploitation by private companies in which Alsace-Lorraine interests were important. On the operative side the transition was effected by the Service industriel d’Alsace et de Lorraine, which was organized late in November 1918.
As regards the territories referred to in Article 51, Germany renounces on behalf of herself and her nationals as from November 11, 1918, all rights under the law of May 25, 1910, regarding the trade in potash salts, and generally under any stipulations for the intervention of German organisations in the working of the potash mines. Similarly, she renounces on behalf of herself and her nationals all rights under any agreements, stipulations or laws which may exist to her benefit with regard to other products of the aforesaid territories.
The settlement of the questions relating to debts contracted before November 11, 1918, between the German Empire and the German States or their nationals residing in Germany on the one part and Alsace-Lorrainers residing in Alsace-Lorraine on the other part shall be effected in accordance with the provisions of Section III of Part X (Economic Clauses) of the present Treaty, the expression “before the war” therein being replaced by the expression “before November 11, 1918”. The rate of exchange applicable in the case [Page 193]of such settlement shall be the average rate quoted on the Geneva Exchange during the month preceding November 11, 1918.
There may be established in the territories referred to in Article 51, for the settlement of the aforesaid debts under the conditions laid down in Section III of Part X (Economic Clauses) of the present Treaty, a special Clearing Office, it being understood that this Office shall be regarded as a “Central Office” under the provisions of paragraph 1 of the Annex to the said Section.
Text of May 7:
There shall be established in the territories referred to in Article 51, for the settlement of the aforesaid debts under the conditions laid down in Section III of Part X (Economic Clauses) of the present Treaty, a special clearing office, it being understood that this office shall be regarded as a “central office” under the provisions of paragraph I of the Annex to the said Section.
The private property, rights and interests of Alsace-Lorrainers in Germany will be regulated by the stipulations of Section IV of Part X (Economic Clauses) of the present Treaty.
The French Government reserves the right to retain and liquidate all the property, rights and interests which German nationals or societies controlled by Germany possessed in the territories referred to in Article 51 on November 11, 1918, subject to the conditions laid down in the last paragraph of Article 53 above.
Germany will directly compensate her nationals who may have been dispossessed by the aforesaid liquidations.
The product of these liquidations shall be applied in accordance with the stipulations of Sections III and IV of Part X (Economic Clauses) of the present Treaty.
Note to III, 74
The Arbitral Tribunal of Interpretation on January 29, 1927 decided that the annuities under the Experts’ (Dawes) Plan did not include indemnities payable after September 1, 1924 to German nationals, by reason of the retention, liquidation, or transfer of property, rights or interests under articles 74; 145; 156; paragraph 2 (combined with paragraph 2 of the protocol of June 28, 1919); 260; 297 (i). By article 8,B,d, of the Finance Ministers’ Agreement of January 14, 1925 and an award of the Arbitral Tribunal of Interpretation [Page 194]dated March 24, 1926, transfers to be effected by Germany to France under this article in execution of a decision of the Council of the League of Nations of June 21, 1921 were included in the annuities prescribed by the Experts’ (Dawes) Plan.
Gross liquidation up to July 1, 1920 amounted to an estimated 700,000,000 francs.
Notwithstanding the stipulations of Section V of Part X (Economic Clauses) of the present Treaty, all contracts made before the date of the promulgation in Alsace-Lorraine of the French decree of November 30, 1918, between Alsace-Lorrainers (whether individuals or juridical persons) or others resident in Alsace-Lorraine on the one part and the German Empire or German States and their nationals resident in Germany on the other part, the execution of which has been suspended by the Armistice or by subsequent French legislation, shall be maintained.
Nevertheless, any contract of which the French Government shall notify the cancellation to Germany in the general interest within a period of six months from the date of the coming into force of the present Treaty, shall be annulled except in respect of any debt or other pecuniary obligation arising out of any act done or money paid thereunder before November 11, 1918. If this dissolution would cause one of the parties substantial prejudice, equitable compensation, calculated solely on the capital employed without taking account of loss of profits, shall be accorded to the prejudiced party.
With regard to prescriptions, limitations and forfeitures in Alsace-Lorraine, the provisions of Articles 300 and 301 of Section V of Part X (Economic Clauses) shall be applied with the substitution for the expression “outbreak of war” of the expression “November 11, 1918”, and for the expression “duration of the war” of the expression “period from November 11, 1918, to the date of the coming into force of the present Treaty”.
Questions concerning rights in industrial, literary or artistic property of Alsace-Lorrainers shall be regulated in accordance with the general stipulations of Section VII of Part X (Economic Clauses) of the present Treaty, it being understood that Alsace-Lorrainers holding rights of this nature under German legislation [Page 195]will preserve full and entire enjoyment of those rights on German territory.
Note to III, 76
The French laws with respect to industrial, literary, and artistic property were introduced into Alsace-Lorraine by a decree of February 10, 1920.
The German Government undertakes to pay over to the French Government such proportion of all reserves accumulated by the Empire or by public or private bodies dependent upon it, for the purposes of disability and old age insurance, as would fall to the disability and old age insurance fund at Strasburg.
The same shall apply in respect of the capital and reserves accumulated in Germany falling legitimately to other social insurance funds, to miners’ superannuation funds, to the fund of the railways of Alsace-Lorraine, to other superannuation organisations established for the benefit of the personnel of public administrations and institutions operating in Alsace-Lorraine, and also in respect of the capital and reserves due by the insurance fund of private employees at Berlin, by reason of engagements entered into for the benefit of insured persons of that category resident in Alsace-Lorraine.
A special Convention shall determine the conditions and procedure of these transfers.
With regard to the execution of judgments, appeals and prosecutions, the following rules shall be applied:
Text of May 7:
With regard to the execution of judgments, orders and prosecutions, the following rules shall be applied:
(1) All civil and commercial judgments which shall have been given since August 3, 1914, by the Courts of Alsace-Lorraine between Alsace-Lorrainers, or between Alsace-Lorrainers and foreigners, or between foreigners, and which shall not have been appealed from before November 11, 1918, shall be regarded as final and susceptible of immediate execution without further formality.
When the judgment has been given between Alsace-Lorrainers and Germans or between Alsace-Lorrainers and subjects of the allies [Page 196]of Germany, it shall only be capable of execution after the issue of an exequatur by the corresponding new tribunal in the restored territory referred to in Article 51.
(2) All judgments given by German Courts since August 3, 1914, against Alsace-Lorrainers for political crimes or misdemeanours shall be regarded as null and void.
(3) All sentences passed since November 11, 1918, by the Court of the Empire at Leipzig on appeals against the decisions of the Courts of Alsace-Lorraine shall be regarded as null and void and shall be so pronounced. The papers in regard to the cases in which such sentences have been given shall be returned to the Courts of Alsace-Lorraine concerned.
All appeals to the Court of the Empire against decisions of the Courts of Alsace-Lorraine shall be suspended. The papers shall be returned under the aforesaid conditions for transfer without delay to the French Cour de Cassation, which shall be competent to decide them.
(4) All prosecutions in Alsace-Lorraine for offences committed during the period between November 11, 1918, and the coming into force of the present Treaty will be conducted under German law except in so far as this has been modified by decrees duly published on the spot by the French authorities.
(5) All other questions as to competence, procedure or administration of justice shall be determined by a special Convention between France and Germany.
Note to III, 78
The special convention between France and Germany concerning judicial questions, stipulated in paragraph 5, was concluded at Baden-Baden May 5, 1920 and entered into force November 28, 1920 (8 League of Nations Treaty Series, p. 55).
The stipulations as to nationality contained in the Annex hereto shall be considered as of equal force with the provisions of the present Section.
All other questions concerning Alsace-Lorraine which are not regulated by the present Section and the Annex thereto or by the general provisions of the present Treaty will form the subject of further conventions between France and Germany.[Page 197]