Under the Auspices of the League, Saar Plebiscite


After World War I, the Treaty of Versailles placed the territories of the Saar basin, formerly part of Germany, under the administration of the League of Nations for a period of 15 years. As compensation for the destruction by Germany of coal mines in the north of France and part of the reparations Germany was to pay for the war, France was given control of the coal mines of the Saar for this period. The administration of the territory was entrusted to a Governing Commission consisting of five members chosen by the Council of the League of Nations: one representative of France, one native German inhabitant of the Saar, and three representatives of countries other than France and Germany. At the end of 15 years, a plebiscite was to be held to determine the final status of the Saar. This vote took place on January 13, 1935. More than 90 percent of the voters favored the immediate reintegration of the Saar into Germany, which duly took effect on March 1, 1935. An international police force, composed of soldiers from Britain, the Netherlands, Italy, and Sweden, was deployed to maintain order on the day of the plebiscite. This photograph, from the archives of the League of Nations, shows a detachment of Italian soldiers who were part of the international police force. The archives were inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World register in 2010.

Last updated: November 14, 2017