Alsace has changed hands between Germany and France multiple times since the 17th century, when it was first annexed to France under Louis XIV. The region was also French under Napoleon, and remained that way until the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. Under the Treaty of Frankfurt, Alsace was given to Germany, and the inhabitants were officially German for the next 50 years.
During the First World War, nearly 20,000 young Alsatians joined the French army, mostly to avoid conscription by the Germans. The region was liberated in 1918, and under the Treaty of Versailles, Alsace officially became French again.
In 1940, the Nazis seized control of the region; overnight the names of towns were changed and schools were prohibited from teaching French. Monuments were torn down, and even the wearing of berets was forbidden.
When Allied forces liberated France in 1945, the French retaliated by outlawing the teaching of the Alsatian language; signs with the slogan “It is chic to speak French” were posted everywhere.
Today, Alsace is part of France, but retains a very German flavour. There are many German factories in the region and German tourists flock to Alsace in the summertime. Some Alsatians think of themselves as culturally closer to Germany, while others believe they have more in common with the French.
One thing is for certain: the inhabitants of this beautiful, distinctive region are Alsatian, first and foremost.
About the Author
Having lived in Paris and Provence, Private Trip Designer Anne Zakula has been told by native French speakers that she speaks better French than they do. Fortunately for B&R, she also distills her passion for all things French into exceptional itineraries (to say nothing of her blog posts).