The Saarland (das Saarland in German la Sarre in French) is one of the sixteen states (or Bundesländer) of the Federal Republic of Germany. The state borders France (département of Moselle, which forms part of the région of Grand Est) to the south and west, Luxembourg (Grevenmacher District) to the west and Rheinland-Pfalz to the north and the east. It is named after the Saar River, a tributary of the Moselle River (itself a tributary of the Rhine), which runs through the state from the south to the northwest. With its capital at Saarbrücken, it has an area of 990 square miles (2,570 km²) and its population (as of April 30, 2012) is approximately 1,012,000. One third of the land area of the Saarland is covered by forest, one of the highest percentages in Germany. The state is generally hilly; the highest mountain is the Dollberg with a height of 2,281 feet (695.4 meters).
The wealth of its coal deposits and their large-scale industrial exploitation, coupled with its location on the border between France and Germany, have given the Saarland a unique history in modern times. Prior to its creation as the Territory of the Saar Basin by the League of Nations after World War I, the Saarland (or simply “the Saar”, as it is frequently referred to) did not exist as a unified entity. Until then, some parts of it had been Prussian while others belonged to Bavaria. The inhabitants voted to rejoin Germany in a referendum held in 1935.
From 1947 to 1956, the Saarland was a French-occupied territory (the Saar Protectorate — Saarprotektorat in German or Protectorat de Sarre in French) separate from the rest of Germany. Between 1950 and 1956, Saarland was a member of the Council of Europe. In 1955, in another referendum, the inhabitants were offered independence, but voted instead for the territory to become a state of West Germany.
From 1920 to 1935, and again from 1947 to 1959, the inhabitants of the Saarland used money (Saar franc) and postage stamps issued specially for the territory. Saar stamps issued from 1957 until 1959 were under the German administration and inscribed DEUTSCHE BUNDESPOST. They were replaced by those of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Saarland is the result of a regulation of the treaty of Versailles and was created in 1919. Prior to this creation, there never existed a comparable administrative unit or a feeling of togetherness.
The region of the Saarland was settled by the Celtic tribes of Treveri and Mediomatrici. The most impressive relic of their time is the remains of a fortress of refuge at Otzenhausen in the north of the Saarland. In the 1st century BC, the Roman Empire made the region part of its province of Belgica. The Celtic population mixed with the Roman immigrants. The region gained wealth, which can still be seen in the remains of Roman villas and villages.
Roman rule ended in the fifth century, when the Franks conquered the territory. For the next 1,300 years the region shared the history of the Kingdom of the Franks, the Carolingian Empire and of the Holy Roman Empire. The region of the Saarland was divided into several small territories, some of which were ruled by sovereigns of adjoining regions. Most important of the local rulers were the counts of Nassau-Saarbrücken. Within the Holy Roman Empire these territories gained a wide range of independence, threatened, however, by the French kings, who sought, from the seventeenth century onwards, to incorporate all the territories on the western side of the river Rhine and repeatedly invaded the area in 1635, in 1676, in 1679 and in 1734, extending their realm to the Saar River and establishing the city and stronghold of Saarlouis in 1680.
It was not the king of France but the armies of the French Revolution who terminated the independence of the states in the region of the Saarland. After 1792, they conquered the region and made it part of the French Republic. While a strip in the west belonged to the Département Moselle, the centre in 1798 became part of the Département de Sarre, and the east became part of the Département du Mont-Tonnerre. After the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, the region was divided again. Most of it became part of the Prussian Rhine Province. Another part in the east, corresponding to the present Saarpfalz district, was allocated to the Kingdom of Bavaria. A small part in the northeast was ruled by the Duke of Oldenburg.
On July 31, 1870, the French Emperor Napoleon III ordered an invasion across the River Saar to seize Saarbrücken. The first shots of the Franco-Prussian War 1870/71 were fired on the heights of Spichern, south of Saarbrücken. The Saar region became part of the German Empire which came into existence on January 18, 1871, during the course of this war.
In 1920, the Saargebiet was occupied by Britain and France under the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. The occupied area included portions of the Prussian Rhine Province and the Bavarian Rhenish Palatinate. In practice the region was administered by France. In 1920, this was formalized by a 15-year League of Nations mandate.
The first stamps of the Saar were contemporary German stamps overprinted Sarre and with a heavy solid bar striking out the DEUTSCHES REICH at the bottom of the stamps (Scott #1-16). This overprint was applied to 17 denominations, ranging from 2 pfennig to 1 mark, and first went on sale on January 30, 1920. The stamps of Bavaria were overprinted similarly, and first available on March 1 (Scott #19-38). On March 26, more German overprints were issued, this time reading SAARGEBIET (the German language name for Saar Territory) and not striking out the name of the old Reich (Scott #41-58).
Surcharges of 20 pfennig, 5 marks, and 10 marks on German stamps came out in early 1921, followed by the Saar’s first definitive series (Scott #68-83). This was a set of 16 local scenes, ranging from a view of the Saar River near Mettlach to the Burbach Steelworks at Dillingen. The stamps were somewhat rudely typographed and most were printed in two colors; although bordering on the garish, they are striking nevertheless.
On May 1, 1921, the series was surcharged in centimes and francs, and in 1922 it was replaced by a new series of same designs, but redrawn, denominated in the new money, and printed in different colors (Scott #99-116).
The Madonna of Blieskastel was commemorated by a pair of stamps (45 centimes and 10 francs) in 1925 (Scott #118-119), then in 1927 a new definitive series came out, still borrowing designs from the first series, but now in different shapes, and printed in a single color using photogravure (Scott #120-135).
In 1933, a considerable number of communists and other political opponents of National Socialism fled to the Saar, as it was the only part of Germany that remained outside national administration following the First World War. As a result, anti-Nazi groups agitated for the Saarland to remain under French administration. However, with most of the population being ethnically German, such views were considered suspect or even treasonable, and therefore found little support.
On November 1, 1934, in preparation for the plebiscite the following year, the 1927 definitive stamp series was overprinted VOLKSABSTIMMUNG / 1935 (Scott #139-154). On January 13, 1935, the plebiscite held in the territory at the end of the 15-year term, resulted in 90.7% of voters casting their ballot in favor of a return to Germany, and 0.4% voting for union with France. Others (8.9%) favored the third option of a continued British–French occupation government. After political agitation and maneuvering by Chancellor Adolf Hitler for the re-union of the Saarland with the German Reich (Rückgliederung des Saarlandes) it was reincorporated in 1935. Its area was not redivided among the Prussian Rhine Province and the Bavarian Palatinate, but united with the latter as the Gau of Saar-Palatinate (Saarpfalz). Saar came under the German postal system and this was marked with a four-stamp set.
Following the referendum Josef Bürckel was appointed on March 1, 1935, as the German Reich’s commissioner for reintegration (Reichskommissar für die Rückgliederung des Saarlandes). When the reincorporation was considered accomplished, his title was changed (after June 17, 1936) to Reichskommissar für das Saarland.
In September 1939, in response to the German Invasion of Poland, French forces invaded the Saarland in a half-hearted offensive, occupying some villages and meeting little resistance, before withdrawing. A further change was made after April 8, 1940, to Reichskommissar für die Saarpfalz; finally, after March 11, 1941, Bürckel was made Reichsstatthalter in der “Westmark” The Saarland had been renamed Westmark (Western Mach or Border) of the Reich. This renaming intended its territorial enlargement by parts of German-occupied French Lorraine which, however, did not materialise. Bürckel died on September 28, 1944, and was succeeded by Willi Stöhr, who remained in office until the region fell to advancing American forces in March 1945.
In July 1945, two months after World War II had ended in Europe, the Allied forces were redeploying from the areas they had conquered into their respective zones of occupation. On July 10, 1945, U.S. forces left the Saar and French troops established their occupational administration.
On July 28, 1945, the postal service in the Saar Area was dissected from that in the French zone of occupation in Allied-occupied Germany, forming the Oberpostdirektion Saar (High Postal Directorate of the Saar) in Saarbrücken. Postal services were provided again starting in August 1945 for official purposes, and private mail, at the beginning to a restricted extent only, was reintroduced in September.
On February 16, 1946, France disentangled the Saar from the Allied zones of occupation and established the separate Saar Protectorate, which was no longer under the joint Allied jurisdiction by the Allied Control Council for Germany.
French officials deported a total of 1,820 people from the Saar in 1946 and 1947, most of these individuals ultimately were allowed to return. However, France had not agreed to the expulsions approved (without input from France) in the Potsdam agreement by the Allies, so France refused to accept war refugees or expellees from the eastern annexed territories in the Saar protectorate or the French zone. However, native Sarrois returning from Nazi-imposed removals (e.g., political and Jewish refugees) and war-related relocations (e.g., evacuation from air raids) were allowed to return to the areas under French control. France aimed at winning over the Saar population for a future annexation.
The principal reason for the French desire for economic control of the Saar was the large coal deposits. France was offered compensation for the return of the Saar to Germany: the treaty permitted France to extract coal from the Warndt coal deposit until 1981.
Effective July 20, 1946, 109 municipalities of the Prussian Rhine Province within the French zone were added to the Saar Protectorate. By December 18, 1946, customs controls were established between the Saar and allied occupied Germany. By further territorial redeployments between the Saar Protectorate, constituted in early 1947, and neighboring Rhineland-Palatinate (a new state established on August 30, 1946, in the French zone), 61 municipalities returned to Germany, while 13 other municipalities were ceded to the Saar Protectorate between June 8, 1947, and 1949, followed by one further Palatine municipality incorporated into the Saar in the latter year.
In the speech Restatement of Policy on Germany, given in Stuttgart on September 6, 1946, the U.S. Secretary of State James F. Byrnes stated the United States’ motive in detaching the Saar from Germany as “The United States does not feel that it can deny to France, which has been invaded three times by Germany in 70 years, its claim to the Saar territory”.
The first stamps only valid in the Saar Area were issued on January 10, 1947. The first set of definitives came out in mid-1947, and included 17 stamps using six designs, including workers of various occupations, Mettlach Abbey, and Marshal Ney (Scott #155-171). Three of these values were also printed on paper watermarked with a pattern of curving lines.
On July 16, 1947, the Saar mark replaced the Reichsmark as legal tender in the Saar Protectorate, followed by the integration of the Saar into the French currency area on November 15 the same year. While only French franc banknotes circulated from 1954 on, Saar franc coins, designed similar to French coins, were issued too. On December 15, 1947, the Saar was constituted by its constitution as the Saarland, with an elected government under the control of the French high commissioner Gilbert Grandval. On March 23, 1948, the customs union with France was confirmed, taking effect on April 1. In July the same year, the Sarrois nationality replaced the German nationality of the Saar population.
The first stamps under the French administration had been denominated in German currency, but were replaced in November by French currency denominations. The postal tariffs were adapted to the French postages, mail to France was to be franked at the domestic postage, mail to Allied-occupied Germany at the foreign tariff. The postal service of the Bizone subsumed mail to the Saar Protectorate under the foreign postage only as of October 1, 1948.
On November 17, 1947, the Oberpostdirektion Saar was transformed into the Post-, Telegraphen- und Telephonverwaltung des Saarlandes (abbreviated like the French correspondent entity as P.T.T. Saarland; Post, Telegraph and Telephone Administration of the Saarland), keeping the headquarters in Saarbrücken. Postal vehicles and postboxes were green (RAL 6001), like in France. The French established the Saar Protectorate in December 1947, and on April 1, 1948, the P.T.T. Saarland issued a new series inscribed SAARPOST, followed by another in 1949 inscribed SAAR. The P.T.T. Saarland issued a few commemoratives each year through 1956, punctuated by a definitive set showing various buildings, in 1952.
Initially, a policy of industrial disarmament was pursued in Germany by the Allied powers (see industrial plans for Germany). As part of this policy limits were placed on permitted production levels, and industries in the Saar were dismantled as they had been in the Ruhr, although mostly in the period before the detachment. This policy was quickly reversed in mid-1946 or early 1947.
Under the Monnet Plan, France attempted to gain economic control of the German industrial areas in its assigned zones, especially areas with large coal and mineral deposits, such as the Ruhr (in the British zone) and the Saar. Similar attempts to gain control of, or permanently internationalize, the Ruhr were abandoned in 1951, when France rejected the traditional aims of European hegemony predicated upon European enmity.
In the face of U.S. and Soviet domination of Europe the French government took a historic step in deciding that the only viable political model for the future lay in European integration; this resulted in the Schuman Declaration in 1950, a plan drafted for the most part by Jean Monnet. The plan put forward France and Germany as the core of a new Europe, requiring a rapprochement and the establishment of close ties between the two states. As a first step France and Germany were to agree to pool their coal and steel resources (see European Coal and Steel Community). German participation in the plan was contingent upon a return of full political control of German industry to the western Federal Government of Germany. However, France delayed the return of the Saar in the hope of cementing its economic control over the region.
Under French rule, pro-German parties were initially banned from contesting the elections. Much support was given to the Mouvement pour le Rattachement de la Sarre à la France, a Francophile movement founded by Saar exiles in Paris in early 1945, with many of the exiles having returned after the war. However, a French annexation did not gain the support of a majority of the Sarrois. In the general election of December 1952, a clear majority expressed support for the parties who wanted the Saar to remain autonomous, although 24% cast blank ballots in support of banned pro-German parties.
In the Paris Agreements of October 23, 1954, France offered to establish an independent “Saarland”, under the auspices of the Western European Union (WEU), but a referendum held on October 23, 1955, rejected this plan by 67.7% to 32.3% (out of a 96.5% turnout: 423,434 against, 201,975 for) despite the public support of West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer for the plan. The rejection of the plan by the Sarrois was interpreted as support for the Saar to join the Federal Republic of Germany.
After the 1955 Saar Statute referendum failed, France accepted the prevailing preference of the Saar population to return to Germany. So following that, mail to West Germany, East Germany or either part of Berlin was charged again with the domestic postage.
On October 27, 1956, the Saar Treaty established that Saarland should be allowed to join West Germany, as provided by its Grundgesetz constitution art. 23, and so Saarland did on January 1, 1957. This was the last significant international border change in Europe until the fall of Communism. West Germany had to agree to the channelization of the Moselle. This reduced French freight costs in the Lorraine steel industry. West Germany was also made to agree to the teaching of French as the first foreign language in schools in the Saarland; although no longer binding, the agreement is still in the main followed as the practice is well-established.
The treaty also stated that economic union with West Germany was to be completed by 1960, with the exact date of the replacement of the Saar and French franc by the Deutsche Mark being kept a secret called “Day X” (Tag X). Although the Saar joined West Germany (as Saarland) on January 1, 1957, the franc remained legal tender in Saarland until July 6, 1959. On that date, the Kleine Wiedervereinigung (little reunification) was completed, after 14 years of separation.
On January 1 1957, the P.T.T. Saarland was transformed into the Oberpostdirektion Saarbrücken of the Deutsche Bundespost. The return of the Saar Area to German control was commemorated on January 1, 1957, by a special stamp (Scott #262), then followed shortly thereafter by definitives with the then-standard profile of President Theodor Heuss, and inscribed both SAARLAND and DEUTSCHE BUNDESPOST (Scott #262-282). The numerals did not indicate a monetary system, but were implicitly francs; later in 1957, the stamps were reissued with a small “F” after the numeral.
Starting on July 8, 1957, mail from the Saarland to France, the French dominions, Italy and Luxembourg was not subsumed under the domestic tariff any more, but under a preferential postage granted until June 30, 1959, when the general foreign postage started to apply.
Additional commemoratives appeared regularly for several more years while the German monetary system was re-established on July 6, 1959. The last postage stamp of the Saar was a single 15-franc issue honoring Alexander von Humboldt, which went on sale May 6, 1959 (Scott #322). Thereafter, Saarland used the regular stamps of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Since 1971, Saarland has been a member of SaarLorLux, a euroregion created from Saarland, Lorraine, Luxembourg, Rhineland Palatinate, and Wallonia.
As a footnote to the creation of the European Union, the territorial dispute over control of the Saarland was one of the last between member states and led to the European flag being given a politically neutral ring of twelve stars rather than the originally proposed 15 (one of which was to represent a nominally independent Saar as a member of the Council of Europe).
Scott #288 was released on October 5, 1957, to commemorate International Letter Writing Week (October 6-12). The 15 franc deep carmine and black stamp was lithographed, perforated 14, and portrayed carrier pigeons.