War and Social Upheaval: World War I -- Territorial Changes

Figure 1.--

There were major territorial changes duriung World War I andevn more were to follow the War. The primary changes were amde as part of the Vesailles Treatu ending the War. Some occurred as referendum mandated by the Treaty. Others ocurred as a result of military engangements, especially conflicts between the Red Army and the Polish Army and hite armies. The results were so resented in Germany that that they were a major cause of the rise of the NAZIs and World War II.



The Germans occupied most of Belgium in the first weeks of World War I (August 1914). It was the valliant resistance of the Belgian Army that allowed the French to top the Germans on the Marne. Belgium did take measures against German citizens after the Germans were defeated in 1918. Their property was confiscated. A HBC readerrports, "My grandfather told me it was his luck that his father had become a Dutch citizen before 1914. If not they would have lost all of their property situated in Belgian Brabant and Limburg, as did happen indeed to a family who owned land contiguous to theirs between Brussels and Maastricht." So far for Germans (and Austrians) living in the Flemish and Walloon areas of the countries. Another matter is the fate of the 60,000-odd German-speaking Belgians in the eastern border regions (Eupen and surroundings, the so-called Oostkantons, situated between Liege nd Aachen). They were no migrants but people living in what been their ancestral homeland for centuries and can to some extent be compared with the Auslanddeutsche in eastern Europe. In fact they have probably been there much longer than the Germans in either Russia, Rumania or Hungary. The area belonged to Prussia after 1815 and had had nothing to do with Belgium until 1918. The Belgians then annexed it as war dammage compensation and began to Frenchify public life.


Czech and Slovakian regions of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were combined into the new nation of Czecheslovakia. Hitler was to use the issue of Germans living in the Sudetenland to precipitate a crisis in 1938 that was to lead after the Munich Conference to the dismemberment of Czecheslovakia and occupation in 1939 in the months before World War II.


The Treaty of Versailles called for referendums in the Danish areas occupied by Prussia in the Pruso-Danish War (1864). Danish speaking areas voted to join Denmark.


Presumably this difference continued even after the two provinces were united with France after World War I. The French deported some German families to Germany. Smocks were no longer requited schoolwear, but they were still widely worn by French boys in the inter-war period. I am not sure how common they were in Alscae-Loraine during this period. Presumably nearly 50 years of German control meant that school smocks were not common, but this requires confirmation. A French reader reports that, "Normally in France the church is strictly separeted from the state and get no government funds. Alsace was an exception. The population there pays a tax for the church. HBC is not sure if this is an artifact of the period of German annexation (1871-1919) or if has a longer history.




The Netherlands remained neutral in World War I and there were no territorial changes. In fact, Quenn Wilhimina gave refugee to the Kaiser in 1918. He stayed in the Netherlands during the Weimar era and the rise of the NAZIs. He died there in 1941.



Christopher Wagner

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Created: July 28, 2002
Last updated: July 28, 2002