Sacred Ground: The Liberation of Alsace-Lorraine, 1944-1946

Serge Cipko

Abstract


Alsace-Lorraine, a region annexed from France by Germany in 1871 and recovered by France in 1918, was reannexed by Germany once more following the fall of France in 1940. In 1944 French liberation forces embarked on an intense campaign to regain what it considered "sacred ground," and the French media projected an image of an Alsatian population enthusiastically endorsing this effort to be reunited with the rest of the country. A careful reading of documentary evidence, however, suggests that the process of liberation and the reintegration of the region into France did not proceed smoothly. The demands the liberation forces placed on the civilian population to join the military campaign against the Nazis, combined with the delicate issue of collaboration, the mutual distrust, the strenuous efforts to "re-Francocize" the region following four years of Nazification (a process which had included indoctrination, service in the Wehrmacht, the installation of extermination camps in the territory, and collaboration), generated an ambiguous relationship between Charles de Gaulle's government and Alsatians. Official French policy in the region, which deviated from that practiced in the rest of France, reflected the circumstances peculiar to Alsace-Lorraine.

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