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BRIEF HISTORY OF ALSACE, LORRAINE, AND ALSACE-LORRAINE

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Alsace and Lorraine were located in the region inhabited by the ancient Gauls that today comprises modern day France, western Germany (including the Saarland), parts of Belgium and northern Italy. When Julius Caesar wrote his Commentaries on the Gallic Wars in 52-50 BC, the Graceo-Roman world had already known Gallic peoples for hundreds of years in both warfare and trade. As early as 734 BC, Ionian Greeks from Phocaea on the northwest Turkish coast established ports in Mediterranean Gaul.

 

Latin students will recall the first line of the Commentaries, "Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, quarum unam incolunt Belgae, aliam Aquitani, tertiam que ipsorum lingua Celtae, nostra Galli appellantur. All Gaul is divided into three parts, one of which the Belgae inhabit, the Aquitani another, those who in their own language are called Celts, and in ours Gauls, the third".

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Phocaea, or Phokaia (modern-day Foca in Turkey) as an ancient Ionian Greek city on the western coast of Antatolia. Greek colonists from Phocaea founded the colony of Massalia (modern day Marseille, in France) in 600 BC, Emporion (modern day Empúries, in Catalomia, Spain) in 575 BC and Elea (modern day Velia, in CampaniaItaly) in 540 BC. Phocaea was the northernmost of the Ionian cities, on the boundary with Aeolis. It was located near the mouth of the river Hermus (now Gediz), and situated on the coast of the peninsula separating the Gulf of Cymeto the north, named for the largest of the Aeolian cities, and the Gulf of Smyrna (now İzmir) to the south.

Phocaea had two natural harbours within close range of the settlement, both containing a number of small islands. Phocaea's harbours allowed it to develop a thriving seafaring economy, and to become a great naval power, which greatly influenced its culture.

Recent archaeological surveys have shown that the city of Phocaea was large for the archaic period. Herodotus gives an idea of the size of Phocaea by the describing the walls of Phocaea as having a length of several stadia.

A 4th century BC Persian Tomb, known as Tas Kule (rock tower), stands (38 39' 37" N, 26 49' 2" E) 7 km east of Phocaea along a main road. This funerary monument was carved out of solid rock with a lower 2.7 meter high rectangular story (9 × 6 meters) surmounted by a second 1.9 meter high story (3 × 3 meters). Four steps between the two levels suggest strong Persian influence and most archaeologists believe this tomb was built for a Persian aristocrat or local leader serving the Persians.

 

Alsace

 

 

Conquered by the Roman legions of Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC it became part of Celtic Gaul. It had been profoundly Romanized by the time of the invasion of the Alemanni and other Germanic tribes in the 4th century AD. The Alemanni, however, were conquered by the Franks under Clovis in 496, and Alsace became a Frankish duchy. Under Merovingian rule, the area was Christianized and colonized.

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Alsace was incorporated in Lotharingia in the mid-9th century and was united with the German territories of the Carolingians by the Treaty of Mersen in 870, a redivision of the Carolingian empire by the sons of Louis I. It divided the kingdom of Lotharingia between Charles and Louis, following the death of their nephew, Lothair, king of Lotharingia. France obtained the territories roughly corresponding to modern Netherlands, Belgium and Lorraine. The Holy Roman Empire received Alsace and the left bank of the Lower Rhine.

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Alsace became a center of the Reformation although a number of rural areas remained Catholic. During the Middle Ages, a number of powerful towns, such as Strasbourg and Colmar, won status as minature republics. Alsace remained part of the Holy Roman Empire until 1648 when it became a province of France through the Treaty of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years War. France consolidated further her holdings in Alsace with the Treaty of Ryswick in 1679 bringing a numbers of towns under her control. The territory, however, remained divided into a number of secular and ecclesiastical lordships and municipalities, which remained significant until the French Revolution, 1789-1799, when it was split into departments. Commune de Herrlisheim, which was in the jurisdiction of Hanau-Lichtenberg (earlier part of the House of Hesse-Darmstadt), low Alsace, became Commune de Herrlisheim, Canton of Bischweiler, Department of Strasbourg, Bas-Rhin, France.

In Roman times Strasbourg was called Argentoratum and was an important city in the province of Upper Germany. It became an episcopal see in the 4th century. Destroyed by the Huns in the 5th century, the city was rebuilt and called Strateburgum, "City of Roadways". After becoming part of the Holy Roman Empire in 923, Strasbourg, with the surrounding rural area, came under the temporal rule of its bishops. Its location at the crossroads of Flanders, Italy, France and central Europe made it an important commercial center. In 1262, after some struggles with the bishops, the burghers secured the status of a free imperial city for the city proper. An upheaval in 1332 established a corporate government in which the guilds played a leading role. The city's prosperity began to decline in the early 17th century and was severely damaged by the Thirty Years War, 1618-1648. Louis XIV seized Strasbourg in 1681 and it became a part of France. This was confirmed by the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697. Strasbourg one of the leading cities of the Protestant Reformation returned its cathedral to the Catholics in 1681 and became a city with a large Catholic population.

The Treaty of Ryswick in 1697 following the War of the Grand Alliance also required Louis XIV to surrender the Palatinate to the Holy Roman Empire. It was during this nine year period (1688-1697) when Louis XIV ruled the Palatinate that Catholics were given complete or joint possesion of a number of Protestant churches, and the title to the property thus attained by the Catholics in many places was upheld by the Treaty. Further, the Treaty contained a clause, the Simultaneum which was added at the last moment, that preserved certain legal rights for Catholics in Protestant churches. Although it would appear that the Simultaneum was to apply only to the Palatinate it was also adopted in certain jurisdictions in Alsace. See Links section, Maps of Alsace, for those locations and comments about the effect of the Simultaneum in Alsace.

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The earliest information on Herrlisheim is in the year 743 when it was conveyed to the Abbey of Wissembourg under the name of Hariolfesvilla, the farm of Hariolf (Harold). In 1251, the village is the property of the Counts of Oetigen, landowners of low Alsace who ceded it to the lords of Lichtenberg in 1332. In 1480 with the death of Jacques de Lichtenberg the heritage is divided between Phillipe de Hanau and Simon Wecker the Count of Two-Bridge-Biche. The village is incorporated in 1570 with the property of Hanau-Lichtenberg with the extinction of Two-Bridge-Biche. On September 17, 1570, Phillipe IV of Hanau-Lichtenberg, one of the largest jurisdictions in low Alsace, orders the prohibition of Mass and imposes Protestant religion in the area. This was known as "cujus regio, ejus religio" ("whose religion, his religion"); that is the religion of the prince is the religion of the land. The former Roman Catholic church buildings and benefices were taken over by Protestant Churches. Subsequent to 1570, Hanau-Lichtenberg became a part of the house of Hesse-Darmstadt. In December 1621 and January 1622, Mansfeld's mercenaries raze the area and the inhabitants of Herrlisheim and Drusenheim take refuge in tents on the islands of the Rhine River. In the year 1681, Herrlisheim was converted by force from protestantism to catholicism. Herrlisheim lies on a fertile plain between the Vosges and the Rhine River.

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Conquered by Germany during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-1871, France gave up Alsace, except for the Belfort Territory, along with the Moselle portion of Lorraine, to the new unified Germany and the history of Alsace becomes that of Reichsland Elsass-Lorthringen or Alsace-Lorraine.

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Lorraine

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Lorraine was originally that portion of the empire of Charlemagne which fell to Lothair I by the Treaty of Verdun in 843, and was called Lotharingia. In early medieval Germany, counts palatine served as stewards of royal territories in the absence of the Holy Roman emperors. In the 12th century the lands of the counts palatine of Lotharingia (Lorraine) were formed into the separate territory of the Lower Palatinate. The name Lorraine was originally given to two areas between the Saone and the Rhine. The northern portion between the Moselle and the Rhine was called Upper Lorraine and the southern portion Lower Lorraine. The latter soon became known as Brabant and that name became confined to the Moselle country.

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It was an area of constant dispute between France and Germany. French domination of the area dates from the 17th century, when control of the duchy became vital in the struggles between the French kings and the Hapsburgs, who ruled the Holy Roman Empire. The French had already established a foothold by taking Metz, Toul and Verdun in 1522, and they occupied the duchy a number of times in the devastating wars of the 17th century. In 1736 the French obtained the duchy for the ex-king of Poland, Stanislaw I, whose daughter had been married to Louis XV. In 1766 the death of Stanislaw I was followed by the incorporation of Lorraine with France, until 1871, when the Department of Moselle was annexed by Germany following the Franco-Prussian War. The area was returned to France by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 following World War I, then again annexed to Germany from 1940-1944, when it was liberated by the Allies during World War II.

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Alsace-Lorraine

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The term Alsace-Lorraine, Imperial Territory of Alsace-Lorraine (Reichsland Elsass-Lothringen), was first used in 1871, when the former French province of Alsace, (Departments of Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin) and the Department of Moselle, Lorraine (with some minor changes), 5,067 square miles, were annexed by the newly formed German Empire. Most of traditional Lorraine remained within France. The population of Alsace-Lorraine in 1890 was 77% Catholic, 21% Protestant and 2% Jewish. The upper part of the Vallee de la Bruche (the cantons of Saales and Schirmeck), which had been part of the Vosges, Lorraine passed to Alsace in 1891-1892.

German immigration played an important role in the social and economic life of Alsace-Lorraine after 1870. On the eve of World War I close to 300,000 Germans (including 70,000 members of the military) lived in Alsace-Lorraine. They had settled, by and large, in the towns and occupied key positions within industry, the liberal professions, the civil service, and within the skilled and unskilled work force. Germans comprised 35 percent of Strasbourg’s inhabitants at the beginning of the century. By 1918 some Germans had been established in Alsace-Lorraine for decades. Their relatively high intermarriage rate with Alsatians strengthened regional social ties to Germany. The growing links between the immigrant communities and Alsatians made the massive repatriations in the postwar years of World War I all the more difficult.

On November 9, 1918, Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated and Philipp Scheidmann (a German Socialist politican) declared Germany a republic in a speech from the Reichstag. As Alsace-Lorraine had been administered by Berlin and the Emperor, and had no state government and monarch like other German states, the departure of the Emperor left an even larger vacuum of power. Similar to other areas of Germany, the former seamen established a Soldiers' Council of Strasbourg, and took control of the city. A council of workers and soldiers was then established and presided by the leader of the brewery workers' union. Their motto was: 'Neither German nor French nor neutral.

On November 11, 1918, the Armistice was signed, ending the war. The same day, the Diet of Strasbourg proclaimed an Indedpendent Republic of Alsace-Lorraine. The Landtag (parliament) proclaimed itself the "National Council of Alsace-Lorraine" and the sole legal authority there. The next day, the National Council took over all functions of the Statthalter and of the Secretary of state, and proclaimed the sovereignty of Alsace-Lorraine. Eugene Ricklin and Jacques Peirotes (socialist politicans from Alsace) were in charge.

Independence was short-lived as the French occupied Mulhausen on November 17th. They took Colmar and Metz on the next days, and, on November 21, 1918, French troops arrived in Strasbourg. After eleven days of independence, Alsace-Lorraine was occupied by and incorporated into France. The region lost its recently acquired autonomy, was returned to the centralized French system and divided into the departments of Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin and Moselle (the same political structure as before the annexation and as created by the French Revolution, with slightly different limits.)

The growing links between the immigrant communities and Alsatians made the massive repatriations in the postwar years all the more difficult. More than 110,000 German men, women, and children living in Alsace crossed the Rhine back to Germany between late 1918 and late 1920. Some had been expelled, others lost their jobs, and yet others driven by fear quickly packed up and left when they saw the new order of things. Approximately 100,000 Germans in Lorraine met the same fate. Near Strasbourg, those expelled, allowed only a few hand-held suitcases, crossed the Rhine with their heads bowed under the jeers of “patriotic” (and sometimes rock-throwing) Alsatians who cried “death to the boches” and “in the Rhine with you.” Amused French soldiers stood and watched. Old Alsatians complained of an “ignominious” and “pitiful” spectacle. Later, Alsatian Catholic historians sympathetic to  autonomism (a broad movement that campaigned for regional self-determination) placed the blame on mobs led by hysterical women, unemployed journeymen, and men “in bourgeois clothes” who taunted and insulted the Germans, pelted them with horse manure, and spat at them. Unable to explain convincingly why Alsatians had turned with such fury against Germans, the authors accused those whose sense of regional identity was presumably tenuous: women and the down-and-out. This was easier than confronting the fact that the war and liberation had shattered the mythical unity of Alsatian society.

These territories were ceded to Germany during World War II, but France regained them after Germany's defeat in 1945.

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(Source- Excerpts from various encyclopedias, including Encyclopedia Britannica, Catholic Encyclopedia, the web-site for Mairie de Herrlisheim and other web sites, in order to present a summary of the history of this area.- JP Rhein)