French occupation zone in Germany

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French occupation zone in Germany
Französische Besatzungszone Deutschlands
Military occupation zone of the French part of Allied-occupied Germany
1945–1949
Flag of French occupation zone
Deutschland Besatzungszonen 8 Jun 1947 - 22 Apr 1949 franzoesisch.svg
French occupation zone, in blue
CapitalBaden-Baden
Government
 • TypeMilitary Occupation
Military governors 
• 1945
Jean de Lattre de Tassigny
• 1945–1949
Marie-Pierre Kœnig
Historical eraPost-World War II
Cold War
May 8, 1945 1945
• Federal Republic of Germany established
May 23, 1949 1949
May 5, 1955
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Nazi Germany
West Germany
Saar Protectorate
West Berlin
Today part of Germany
French soldiers marching
French forces in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, 1946
Gray patch with the French Flag and "Berlin" on top
Forces Françaises à Berlin (French Forces in Berlin) insignia after 1949

The French occupation zone in Germany (German: Französische Besatzungszone) was one of the Allied-occupied areas in Germany after World War II.

History[edit]

In the aftermath of the Second World War, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin met at the Yalta Conference to discuss Germany's post-war occupation, which included among other things coming to a final determination of the inter-zonal borders.

Originally, there were to be only three zones, with the French excluded. French General Charles de Gaulle, who by this point was the leader of the Provisional Government of the French Republic, was not invited to Yalta. Deeply offended by this snub, the French leader nevertheless worked tirelessly to restore his nation's honour in the aftermath of the German occupation. Key to this was ensuring a French occupation of substantial German territories - in de Gaulle's view, only a French occupation of Germany could restore the honour of France. He therefore vehemently demanded that a zone be allocated for French occupation.[1]

Despite the personal disdain each of the "Big Three" held for de Gaulle, they were not overly inclined to resist this particular demand. With relatively minor exceptions such as the Channel Islands, the Western Allies' own territories had not been invaded or occupied and thus they did not have the sort of considerations the French deeply felt with respect to matters such as national honour or pride. More importantly perhaps, as a civil and military matter a French occupation zone would relieve the other Allies of some of the burden of administering German territory - this was no small consideration especially in light of the fact the British and Americans still had the Japanese Empire to subdue after Germany's defeat. Stalin, who was still neutral in the Far Eastern conflict at this point, also agreed. However, the Soviet leader insisted on the condition that the French zone was to be formed out of the previously-agreed American and British zones.

For obvious practical and logistical reasons, it was soon agreed that the French would occupy those regions of Germany bordering their own country, i.e. southwestern Germany. To create the occupation zone, the British ceded the Saarland, the Palatinate, and territories on the left bank of the Rhine to Remagen (including Trier, Koblenz, and Montabaur). The Americans ceded land south of Baden-Baden, land south of the Free People's State of Württemberg (which became Württemberg-Hohenzollern), the Lindau region on Lake Constance, and four regions in Hesse east of the Rhine.[1] French Forces in Germany took possession of the area on July 26, 1945.[1]

In April and May, the French 1st Army had captured Karlsruhe and Stuttgart and conquered territory extending to Hitler's Eagle's Nest and western Austria. In July, the French ceded Stuttgart to the Americans in exchange for control of cities west of the Rhine (including Mainz and Koblenz).[2] This resulted in two barely-contiguous areas of Germany along the French border, which met at a point along the Rhine. After further negotiations, France was also granted an occupation zone in Austria. The French zone in west of that country bordered the French zone in Germany, thus creating a contiguous area of French-occupied territories that bordered each other and/or France itself.

Within French-occupied Germany, three German states were established: Rheinland Pfalz in the northwest, Württemberg-Hohenzollern in the southeast, and South Baden in the southwest. Württemberg-Hohenzollern and South Baden later formed Baden-Württemberg when they joined with Württemberg-Baden in the American Zone. The French occupation zone initially included the Saar Protectorate, but this was separated on February 16, 1946. By December 18 of that year, customs controls were established between the Saar area and Allied-occupied Germany. Also included in the French zone was the town of Büsingen am Hochrhein, a German exclave separated from the rest of the country by a narrow strip of neutral Swiss territory. On February 9, 1945, the Berlin districts of Reinickendorf and Wedding were assigned to the French.[3][failed verification] By the end of October 1946, the French zone had a population of approximately five million:

  • Rheinland Pfalz: 2.7 million
  • Baden (South Baden): 1.2 million
  • Württemberg-Hohenzollern: 1.05 million

The Saar Protectorate had an additional 0.8 million people.[4] The French Education Directorate in Germany was created to educate the children of military and civilian families.

Zone commanders[edit]

After representing the French during the signing of the German Instrument of Surrender, which officially ended the conflict in the European theater, Jean de Lattre de Tassigny briefly served as commander-in-chief of the French Forces in Germany[5] before the role was assumed by Marie-Pierre Kœnig.[6] André François-Poncet, ambassador to Germany during the 1930s, was named French high commissioner to West Germany after the war. François-Poncet's position was later elevated to ambassador, and he served in that capacity until 1955.[7][8] Claude Hettier de Boislambert, Guillaume Widmer and Pierre Pène were governors of the Rhineland-Palatinate, Württemberg-Hohenzollern and Baden, respectively.[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c H. Pennein-Engels (1994). "The military presence in Germany from 1945 to 1993" (Pdf). University of Metz - Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences. Retrieved July 8, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ de Gaulle, Charles (1959). Mémoires de Guerre: Le Salut 1944-1946. Plon. pp. 170, 207.
  3. ^ "French Military Government of Berlin" (Pdf). Retrieved July 9, 2015.
  4. ^ "I. Gebiet und Bevölkerung". Statistisches Bundesamt. Wiesbaden.
  5. ^ H. Pennein-Engels (1994). "The military presence in Germany from 1945 to 1993" (Pdf). University of Metz - Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences. p. 29. Retrieved July 8, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ Reinisch, J. (2013). "Chapter 8: The Forgotten Zone: Public Health Work in the French Occupation Zone". The Perils of Peace: The Public Health Crisis in Occupied Germany. Oxford (UK): OUP Oxford.
  7. ^ Richard Gilmore (1973). France's Postwar Cultural Policies and Activities in Germany. Balmar Reprographics. p. 41.
  8. ^ Creswell, Michael; Trachtenberg, Marc. "France and the German Question, 1945–1955" (Pdf). p. 16. Retrieved June 27, 2020.
  9. ^ Karin Graf (2003). Die Bodenreform in Württemberg-Hohenzollern nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg. Tectum Verlag DE. p. 19.

Further reading[edit]

  • Corine Defrance, La Politique culturelle de la France sur la rive gauche du Rhin, 1945–1955, Presses universitaires de Strasbourg, 1994.
  • Compte rendu du deuxième Congrès de l'Organisation des fonctionnaires résistants en Allemagne, Höllhof, 1949
  • Hillel, Marc, L'occupation française en Allemagne 1945-1949, Balland, 1983.