The Blue Line – the Vosges frontier 1871 to 1914

The frontier separating Alsace from France before the Great War

“His heart is French!” One of a set of posts for Remembrance

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Patriotic Sous l'uniforme allemand Propaganda: ‘Sous l’uniforme allemand son cœur est français!’

A young man in Alsace before the Great War was almost certainly likely to have been born and raised German, because Alsace had been part of Reichsland Elsaß Lothringen since 1871. He would probably speak little French, if any. Many men carried out military service in the German Army and there seems to be evidence from contemporary writers that the population was not generally resentful. By contrast there was suspicion of French soldiers, locally called ròthòsa (“red trousers”) because of their uniforms, when they arrived during the Great War.

Guebwiller memorial 1 Guebwiller

Some 1914-1918 war memorials in Alsace reflect the problem of memorialising local young men who fought and died as Germans. A German soldier would not be a popular choice of symbol, so the notion of wearing a tricolore badge under his German uniform was chosen. The war memorial in Guebwiller [above] shows a woman pinning a badge under a young man’s jacket, saying to him, ‘Remember that you are French.’ She could be his mother, his wife, his sister: wearing her coiffe, she symbolises the idealised patriotic women of Alsace, secretly longing to be French again. My postcard shows this memorial before the Second World War.

Guebwiller memorial 2           Guebwiller Monument aux Morts pre WW2 Guebwiller

The memorial at Rosheim [below] shows Jeanne d’Arc mediating between two soldiers. The man on the right is pointing to the badge of loyalty hidden under his German jacket. His pickelhaube is abandoned on the floor and he is unarmed. The man on the left is a French poilu, helmet garlanded with leaves of peace; he is reaching out a hand to the young man who reluctantly fought in the German army and his weapons pose no threat.

Rosheim Jeanne Rosheim

The two propaganda postcards purport to depict the devastated family of a young Alsacien who has to fight for Germany. One [above] says, ‘Sous l’uniforme allemand son cœur est français!’ and shows a woman pinning the secret tricolore badge on his shirt. The other [below] shows two ailing, elderly people and a young man in the depths of despair: ‘Le pauvre enfant est soldat allemand!’

Patriotic Le pauvre enfant est soldat allemand Propaganda

(My photographs, my postcards)

Author: Gwyneth Roberts, mightygwyn

History amateur with a fountain pen and a camera. In 'The Blue Line Frontier', I dip into scenes of life in Alsace and the Vosges during the period before the Great War. My 'Shot Silk' blog is more random: it looks this way and that.

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