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German Plebiscite Territories

Following World War I, the League of Nations used the plebiscite as a tool to resolve yet undetermined international borders in Europe. The word is a Latin expression, meaning "referendum". A vote was held for the citizens of a disputed area, asking them to determine whether they wanted to become part of one nation or another. Often, stamps were overprinted or new stamps were issued to publicize these referendums.

The disputed German territories that fell under League of Nations administration after the end of World War I were Allenstein, Danzig, Marienwerder, Memel, Saar, Schleswig, and Upper Silesia.

A stamp of Allenstein is shown above, and samples of the stamps of Upper Silesia, Marienwerder, and Schleswig are shown below.

The majority of these referendums were easily resolved, and the territories reverted to the chosen nations, as determined by the popular vote. There were two exceptions though, where League of Nations administration of the former German Imperial territories lasted for many years.

The population of the Saar was overwhelmingly German, but the French wanted the territory for its natural resources. As the French controlled the League of Nations, the Saar was given over to them, to be administered as an occupation territory, under the premise that they would hold a referendum in 15 years. A referendum WAS HELD in 1935, and the people of the Saar chose to join the Third Reich.  At the end of World War II, the Saar again came under French control.  Then, under the terms of a treaty in 1956, Saar was incorporated into the Federal Republic of Germany in 1957.

As decreed by the League of Nations in the Treaty of Versailles, the geographic region around the Baltic Sea port of Danzig, formerly part of East Prussia within the German Empire, was to remain separated from Weimar Germany and from the new nation of Poland.  No plebiscite was actually ever conducted in Danzig.

At the beginning of 1921, the Free City of Danzig was created, in order to give Poland sufficient access to its seaport, while recognizing that the population was overwhelmingly ethnic German.  To achieve this end, the new Free City / State of Danzig entered into a binding customs union with Poland, allowing the two parties equal access to the seaport.

After World War II, Danzig was awarded to the reconstituted Republic of Poland.  Today, as Gdansk, Danzig is one of the major ports of the Republic of Poland.

The history and postage stamp issues of each of these territories, with the exceptions of Saar and Danzig, will eventually be presented in articles in the Page Links section located at the upper right.

Sections for Memel will eventually be forthcoming, but I don't have enough material for this territory to create content pages for it at this time.

The links to pages for Saar and Danzig will be found in their own categories of this website.

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Germany Plebiscites

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German Plebiscite Territories



Page Links

Allenstien - 1920

Marienwerder - 1920

Memel Territory - A Brief History

Memel Territory - On Collecting the Stamps

Schleswig - 1920

Upper Silesia - A Brief History

Upper Silesia - Issues of 1920-1922

Upper Silesia - Official Stamps