The Coming Saab Plebiscite

November 2, 1934

Report Outline
The Saar Plebiscite, France, and Germany
The Saar Basin and the 1919 Treaty Settlement
League Regime and Preparations for Plebiscite
Economic Aspects of Saar's Return to Germany

The Saar Plebiscite, France, and Germany

Inhabitants of the Saar Basin, third richest coal-producing region on the Continent of Europe, will cast their votes on January 13, 1935, to determine whether the territory shall be reunited with Germany, joined to France, or continue to be administered by the League of Nations as a quasi-independent state. The coming plebiscite will be the last in the series of popular referenda provided by the peace treaties as a means of resolving territorial disputes in accordance with the principle of self-determination promulgated by President Wilson. Action taken in pursuance of the vote will complete the European territorial settlements for which provision was made by decisions of the Paris Peace Conference.

Most of the other post-war plebiscites covered areas populated by two or more ethnical groups with conflicting political desires and aspirations. Use of the plebiscite made it possible to dispose of such territories in general conformity with the wishes of a majority of the inhabitants, either of the region as a whole or of component districts. In the case of the Saar, on the contrary, there is no question of racial mixtures or antagonisms. The population is predominantly German, and the whole territory was continuously a part of Germany for a century preceding the World War. The plebiscite method was adopted in this instance as a means of postponing a final decision on French claims to the region, and because of the peculiar circumstances arising from cession of the Saar coal mines to France as compensation for damage inflicted upon French mines by the invading forces during the war.

Granted special privileges during the 15 years of League administration provided by the Treaty of Versailles, France hoped to be able to induce the people of the Saar to cast their lot permanently with her at the end of that period. In that hope, however, she was apparently destined to be disappointed. It is generally admitted that if the vote had been taken two years ago, it would have gone almost unanimously for Germany. In the meantime, the policies of the Hitler government have aroused misgivings among certain elements in the Saar. But while some persons in France therefore think there is a possibility that the Saarlanders may at least elect to remain under the League of Nations, unbiased observers still hold to the view that Germany will gain an easy, if not. overwhelming, majority of the plebiscite votes.

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