ALLIED PLEBISCITE ACTIVITIES IN GERMANY 1920-1921
This exhibit was created to show mail sent by plebiscite personnel sent to parts of Germany to determine whether the inhabitants of disputed border territories wished to remain with their home country or become citizens of new ones following the end of World War I. Some of these were diplomatic (to organize and administer the voting) and some were military (to keep order during the process). In most cases, the number of people was relatively small and their assignments were relatively short. As a result, material is scarce and it has taken several decades of diligent searching to gather what is shown here.
In some cases, territories were transferred by the Peace Commissioners from Germany without much ado. Examples are Alsace-Lorraine to France and Posen-West Prussia to Poland, and to some small bits, such as Eupen-Malmedy to Belgium and Hultschin to Czechoslovakia. The Germans complained about these transfers to no avail, even claiming that giving Alsace to France without a plebiscite on the part of the inhabitants was not in keeping with President Wilson's famous "Fourteen Points." However, the French were having none of this, and insisted that the pre-1870 boundaries be fully restored.
In addition to these early events, the Saar was considered as a special case. The French wished to exploit the coal and iron resources of the Saar Basin to replace those of its own destroyed in the fighting, but the other Allies were not willing to allow annexation of this territory which was heavily German ethnically. As a compromise, France was allowed to administer the Saar economically for 15 years, after which there would be a plebiscite in 1935 -- thus taking it out of the time period covered by this exhibit.
There didn't seem to be any logical reason for the timing of the voting in the various areas. Schleswig held the first plebiscite and it could have been shown first, with the others following and Upper Silesia being the last. However, it seemed less confusing to merely show the territories in alphabetic order.
The first British troops assigned to keep order during the preparation for and carrying out of the Plebiscite in Allenstein arrived at the beginning of February 1920. This territory, consisting of roughly the lower half of East Prussia, was heavily populated by ethnic Germans, so it was not expected that there would be much sentiment to join Poland. The actual vote was held on 11 July 1920, and 97% favored remaining with Germany. The troops and officials supervising the plebiscite left soon thereafter.
The Allied administrators of the Plebiscite arrived in Marienwerder on 17 February 1920. The actual voting to determine whether the inhabitants wanted this territory at the southwest corner of East Prussia to remain with Germany or join Poland was scheduled for 11 July. The sentiment to remain German was very strong and amounted to 92% of the total. The troops and officials supervising the plebiscite left soon thereafter.