The kind of whole scale ethnic clensing that occurred in Eastern Europe did not occur in France. The situation in France in regard to its German-speaking minority is substantially different from that in neighboring Belgium. Although Alsace-Lorraine has a Germanic background and culture (Alsace more than Lorraine) and the people speak an Alemannic dialect, the inhabitants feel French. That was not always the case, but since King Louis XIV took the cities of Metz and Strasbourg and declared all the land west of the Rhine river to be French territory the Alsatians became attached to France. However, they kept on speaking their own language at home and preserved many German characteristics in the way they built their houses and cooked their meals. After the Franco-Prussian War provinces of Alsace-Loraine were made Reichsländer in the newly declared German Empire (1872). If the Germans had given them some autonomy they might have developed some sympathy for Germany, but the area was ruled with an iron fist. When Alsace-Lorraine became French again in 1919 most of the people were happy about it. It did not last long, because in 1940 lsace-Lorraine was made part of the Third Reich and young Alsatian men were drafted into the German army or forced to work in German factories. The liberation in 1944 was greeted with tremendous
enthusiasm. As far as I know no action was taken against German speakers that could claim French citzenship and did no collaborate. Now of course the people are again French for nearly 60 years, and the hatred between the two countries is gone and they all feel that they understand each other better as good Europeans.
The kind of wholescale ethnic cleansing of Germans that occurred in Eastern Europe did not occur in France. The situation in France in regard to its German-speaking minority is substantially different from that in neighboring Belgium. Other Western European countries also adopted different policies concerning the Germans in their country.
Many of the Germans in France lived in Alsace. Although Alsace-Lorraine has a Germanic background and culture (Alsace more than Lorraine) and the people speak an Alemannic dialect, the inhabitants feel French. That was not always the case, but since King Louis XIV took the cities of Metz and Strasbourg and declared all the land west of the Rhine river to be French territory the Alsatians became attached to France. However, they kept on speaking their own language at home and preserved many German characteristics in the way they built their houses and cooked their meals. After the Franco-Prussian War provinces of Alsace-Loraine were made Reichsländer in the newly declared German Empire (1872). If the Germans had given them some autonomy they might have developed some sympathy for Germany, but the area was ruled with an iron fist. When Alsace-Lorraine became French again in 1919 most of the people were happy about it.
The NAZIs after seizing Alsace in World War II began a process of Germinization called "Aktion Alsace" (Action Alsace). Tha Alsatians were to be Germanized and the French expelled. The NAZIs appeared to have thought the whole process through before they arrived in June 1940. German was officially proclaimed the official language. You could be punished for speaking French. At first people were fined, but arrests and prison terms could later resukt. Neighbors would report French speakers to the police. Books and pamflets targeted for Alsatian children arrived immediately at the schools. Teachers were replaced or reducated in the Reich. Catholic schools were taken over by the NAZIs. Names had to be Germanized. Street names were changed. Families had to obtain a "Ahnenpass" with your geneology going back four generations to prove that there were no Jewish ancestors.
Statutes were torn down, many of which had been left untouched by German authorities after gaoing control of Alsace in 1870. French books were forbidden. Children were sent door to door to collect them. Families were deported for "un-German behavior" to the conquered eastern terrotories as Reichland Ungezoefer (Reich vermin) . Hitler Youth uniforms were passed out without charge. NAZI Party units and organzations were set up. Annexation meant that young Alsatian men were drafted into the German army or forced to work in German factories.
Iam not sure how many German speakers there were in Alsace and the rest of France after liberation. Here I am speaking of native-born Germans not Alsatians. The French had expelled many Germans after World War I that could not prove Alsatian ancestry before the Franco-Prussian War (1871) when Germany seized Alsace-Loraine. I am not sure how many Germans returned to Alsace during the German occupation. Nor am I sure how many familie spoke German rather than the Alsatian dialect. Presumably many Germans who moved to Alsace during the occupation departed with the Wehrmacht as Allied soldiers moved into Alsace (September 1944). A reader writes, "There seems to be some confusion here. You are writing about "some German speakers" in Alsace.
Practically all Alsatians speak German, their own dialect, but they all are fluent in French as well. Do you perhaps mean Germans from the Reich who went to live in Alsace during the war? Those won't speak French as a rule.
The Germans did not try to germanize family names, since most Alsatians have a German last name. Alsatians do prefer to give their children French first names, though. Combinations like Pierre Schmidt or Jacques-Louis Kupfermeister are typical there. The Germans during the occupation did try to Germanize the French first names. The French tried to gallisize the old German names of the cities, like Strasbourg (Straßburg), Mulhouse (Mülhausen), Wissembourg (Weißenburg), Selestat (Schlettstadt), etc.
We are unsure to what extent Germans in Alsace and France collaborated with the NAZI occupation authorities and the Germinzation process in Alsace. Some reports suggest that Alsatians were not at all pleased with the arrival of the Germans. We are less sure about German speakers. Collaboration could take many forms. Speaking French in Alsace became an infraction. People who spoke French were reported. We suspect that German speakers would be the most likely to do this, but we have little information at this time. Nor do we know to what extent German civilians moved to Alsace or other locations in France during the occupation.
The liberation in 1944 was greeted with tremendous enthusiasm.
The American capture of Cherbourg placed the first important French port in Allied control (June 27). While the Germans held in Normandy, a huge logistical
enterprise was building up a huge army with emense capabilities. The Allies in the first 100 days after D-Day landed an incredible 2.2 million men, 450,000
vehicles, and 4 million tons of supplies. This was a force that the Germans could not begin to match and their situation was rendered untenable by the virtual complete lack of air support. The Allied offensive broke the badly streachedGermans in July. British and Canadian troops under Montgomery finally captured Caen (July 9). The major break through came further south. Patton's Third Army after a concentrated bombing pierced the German lines with armoured thrusts near St. Ló and rapidly fanned out behind German lines. While American Sherman tanks were inferior to the German tanks, they were fastr and more numerous. Allied air power made it impossible for the Germans to contain the American offensive. German units were foirced to abandon their tanks and flee east. Efforts to surround an entire German army failed when SS units held an escape rour open at Falaise, allowing a substantial part of the Germany forces to escape. American airpower, however, wreked havoc on the retreating Germans. I The Americans landed another force on the French Mediterranean coast between Marseilles and Nice (August 15). The German hold on France was broken. The Paris Ressistance rose up against the German occupation forces as Allied armour divisions raced toward the capital and crossed the Seine. French Forces of the Interior (FFI)attacked Germans retreating through the city. Hitler ordered the city to be destroyed. The German commander refused to carry out the orders. Allied forces entred the city (August 25). The Allies pressed north into Belgium and liberated Brussels (September 2).
As far as I know no action was taken against German speakers that could claim French citzenship and did no collaborate. There appear to have been some attacks against Germans after Lineration. Such actions, however, appear to have been limited. General de Gaulle who headed the Provisional Government forbade all such repriasals against German civilians.
This was not the case for French collaborators. There were a variety of summnary actions in the heat of Liberation. In improvisated local actions during the first mounths after the Liberation. About 1,000 persons were executed, mostly by the Communists. Many women had their hair shaved publically, primarily for liasons with German soldiers. A French Provision Government was formed (August) and took action to prevent such summary executions. Many were arrested and tried for collaboration after the War. Admiral Darlan was sentenced to death. Officers of the Vichy Government were some of targets of these procecutions. Marshall Petain was sentenced to a long jail term.
German soldiers during the occupation developed relationships with French women. Some but not all French women spurned the German soldiers. In some cases the attraction was the food and scarce goods the German soldiers could provide. Conditions became increasingly difficult as the occupation continued. In other cases it was simply the normal results of men posted abroad and women on their own. I do not think thatv there were very many actual marriages. The result in many cases, however, was children. Himmler wanted these children for the Lebensborn program once they reached a certain age, but I do not know if this actually occurred. A Lebenborn home was opened near Chantilly and called Westwald. The Wehrmacht had to withdraw from France in such haste after the Normandy breakout that few of these women and children were brought back toi Germany. In any case there were relatively few actual marriages. These children and their mothers were not well received by the French people after Liberation. There was a debate amomg the French as to how to deal with these children.
German prisonners of war (POWs) were properly treated. The German POWs were returned to Germany very quickly after VE-DAy (May 8, 1945). Only the Officers were keept for a more extention time under
the Allies control.
During the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, the French like the Americans and British rejected the idea of vengence. Relatively few NAZI Party members were ever tied. The Tribunal primarily persued the principal leaders and those that had committed egrigious war crimes. The Tribunal also included the Soviet Union which was much more disposed toward vengence. Already the members of the Tribunal were thinking about Europe's future.
The conflict between France (Romanized Europe) and Germany (non-Romanized Germanic tribes) is one of the longest historical conflict in Europe. This was best seen in the hige killing fields on the Western Front during World War I. The bloodletting was much less in World War II because of the collapse of the French Army (May-June 1940). This age old conflict is finally resolved with the amnity of the Ruropean Community. After the War statesmen in both France and German began forging a new relatioinship. French Foreign Minister Jean Monet was a powerful proponent of a new relationship. The new policies became called " Plan Monet ". Another key player was Robert Schuman. He grew up in Lorraine and understood the mentality of both nations. He was fluent in German and when he came together with Konrad Adenauer and Alcide de Gasperi the three of them would converse in German, since de Gasperi was born in the former Austrian part of Italy where he went to German schools. At first the policies were in the economic sector and gradually expabed to political aspects resulting in the European Union. Now of course the people of Alsace are again French for nearly 60 years, and the hatred between the two countries is gone and they all feel that they understand each other better as good Europeans.
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