By in Travel

Alsace-Lorraine, a Rather German Part of France

Recently, I wrote about Aachen, a city that has been held by both France and Germany at different times in its history . There is another historic region in which the French and German cultures vie for dominance, and that is Alsace-Lorraine. Located in France and officially named Alsace-Lorraine, it is known to the Germans as Elsass-Lothringen (just as the German city of Aachen is referred to as Aix-La-Chapelle in French).

Alsace-Lorraine is located in Northeast France, separated from Germany on the east by the Rhine River and drained by the Moselle River. The Vosages Mountains are in the east. It consists of the departments of Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin (Lower and Upper Rhine, respectively), Territoire de Belfort, Moselle and Meurthe-et-Moselle. The chief cities are Strasbourg, Mulhouse, Metz and Nancy.

After the breakup of Charlemagne's empire in the ninth century, the region became the object of disputes between French and Germanic rulers, passing from the control of one to the other. The term Alsace-Lorraine was first used in 1871, when, by the terms of the Peace Treaty of Frankfurt that concluded the Franco-Prussian War, the former provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, which had been under French rule since the middle of the 17th century, were annexed by Germany. They were returned to France in 1919, after World War I, by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. During World War II, under the terms of the armistice of 1940 between France and Germany, the territory was ceded to Germany, but France regained it after the defeat of Germany in 1945. Did you get all that? Whew!

The German-speaking population is centered chiefly in Alsace; the French-speaking, chiefly in Lorraine. In many respects, however, the culture of the whole region is uniform, containing both French and German elements. At various times, autonomy movements have been initiated, directed against Germany between 1871 and World War ! and against France after World War I. The sentiment of the region during both world wars, however, was markedly pro-French. Coupled with what we learned from the Aachen article about the citizens of Aachen being glad to be "liberated" by the US even though it was a German city, it seems the German governments during the two wars were not popular with anyone, even Germans!

Coat of Arms of Alsace Lorraine - Image from Wikimedia Commons

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LeaPea2417 wrote on April 30, 2015, 10:39 AM

That is very interesting. I never knew this.

KristinRavelle wrote on May 12, 2015, 9:05 PM

We've travelled through Strasbourg and it's just the most charming town! It does have a very German feel to it. We went in the summer and every afternoon there was a sausage and wine lunch vendors in the centre of the town. For about 2-3 Euros you could get a tasty sausage on a bun, and a single glass of the many different wines from the area for also about 2-3 Euro. Really nice. Thanks for the background history on this area.