Treaty of Frankfurt (1871)
The Treaty of Frankfurt was a peace treaty
Peace treaty
A peace treaty is an agreement between two or more hostile parties, usually countries or governments, that formally ends a state of war between the parties...

 signed in Frankfurt
Frankfurt am Main , commonly known simply as Frankfurt, is the largest city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth-largest city in Germany, with a 2010 population of 688,249. The urban area had an estimated population of 2,300,000 in 2010...

 on 10 May 1871, at the end of the Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...



The treaty did the following:
  • Established the frontier between the French Third Republic
    French Third Republic
    The French Third Republic was the republican government of France from 1870, when the Second French Empire collapsed due to the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, to 1940, when France was overrun by Nazi Germany during World War II, resulting in the German and Italian occupations of France...

     and the German Empire
    German Empire
    The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

    , which involved the ceding of 1,694 villages and cities under French control to Germany in:
  • Alsace
    Alsace is the fifth-smallest of the 27 regions of France in land area , and the smallest in metropolitan France. It is also the seventh-most densely populated region in France and third most densely populated region in metropolitan France, with ca. 220 inhabitants per km²...

    : the French departments of Bas-Rhin
    Bas-Rhin is a department of France. The name means "Lower Rhine". It is the more populous and densely populated of the two departments of the Alsace region, with 1,079,013 inhabitants in 2006.- History :...

     and Haut-Rhin
    Haut-Rhin is a département of the Alsace region of France, named after the Rhine river. Its name means Upper Rhine. Haut-Rhin is the smaller and less populated of the two departements of Alsace, although is still densely populated compared to the rest of France.-Subdivisions:The department...

    , except for the city of Belfort
    Belfort is a commune in the Territoire de Belfort department in Franche-Comté in northeastern France and is the prefecture of the department. It is located on the Savoureuse, on the strategically important natural route between the Rhine and the Rhône – the Belfort Gap or Burgundian Gate .-...

     and its territory
    Territoire de Belfort
    The Territoire de Belfort is a department in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France.-Administration:Its departmental code is 90, and its prefecture is Belfort...

  • Lorraine
    Lorraine (région)
    Lorraine is one of the 27 régions of France. The administrative region has two cities of equal importance, Metz and Nancy. Metz is considered to be the official capital since that is where the regional parliament is situated...

    : the French department of Moselle
    Moselle is a department in the east of France named after the river Moselle.- History :Moselle is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790...

    , one-third of the department of Meurthe
    Meurthe is a former département of France. Its préfecture was Nancy. It ceased to exist following the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine by Germany in 1871.-General characteristics:...

    , including the cities of Château-Salins
    Château-Salins is a commune in the Moselle department in Lorraine in north-eastern France.-See also:*Communes of the Moselle department...

     and Sarrebourg
    Sarrebourg is a commune in the Moselle department in Lorraine in north-eastern France. It lies in on the upper course of the river Sarre.It should not be confused with Saarburg in Germany....

    , and the arrondissement
    Arrondissement is any of various administrative divisions of France, certain other Francophone countries, and the Netherlands.-France:The 101 French departments are divided into 342 arrondissements, which may be translated into English as districts. The capital of an arrondissement is called a...

    s Saales
    Saales is a commune in the Bas-Rhin department in Alsace in north-eastern France.-References:*...

     and Schirmeck
    Schirmeck is a commune in the Bas-Rhin department in Alsace in north-eastern France.-References:*...

     in the department of Vosges
    Vosges is a French department, named after the local mountain range. It contains the hometown of Joan of Arc, Domrémy.-History:The Vosges department is one of the original 83 departments of France, created on February 9, 1790 during the French Revolution. It was made of territories that had been...

  • Gave residents of the returned Alsace-Lorraine
    The Imperial Territory of Alsace-Lorraine was a territory created by the German Empire in 1871 after it annexed most of Alsace and the Moselle region of Lorraine following its victory in the Franco-Prussian War. The Alsatian part lay in the Rhine Valley on the west bank of the Rhine River and east...

     region until 1 October 1872 to decide between keeping their French nationality and emigrating, or remaining in the region and becoming German citizens.
  • Set a framework for the withdrawal of German troops from certain areas.
  • Regulated the payment of France's war indemnity of five billion francs (due within three years).
  • Recognized the acceptance of William I of Prussia
    William I, German Emperor
    William I, also known as Wilhelm I , of the House of Hohenzollern was the King of Prussia and the first German Emperor .Under the leadership of William and his Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, Prussia achieved the unification of Germany and the...

     as German Emperor
    Kaiser is the German title meaning "Emperor", with Kaiserin being the female equivalent, "Empress". Like the Russian Czar it is directly derived from the Latin Emperors' title of Caesar, which in turn is derived from the personal name of a branch of the gens Julia, to which Gaius Julius Caesar,...

  • Required military occupation in parts of France until the indemnity was paid (to the surprise of Germany, the French paid the indemnity quickly).

The treaty also established the terms for the following:
  • The use of navigable waterways in connection to Alsace-Lorraine
  • Trade between the two countries
  • The return of prisoners of war


The German military spoke up for control of the Alsace region, up to the Vosges (mountain range) and the area between Thionville (Diedenhofen) and Metz as a requirement for the protection of Germany. Most importantly, the German military regarded control of the route between Thionville and Metz as the most important area of control if there were ever to be a future war with France.


Without a westward shift in the boundary the new empire's frontier with France would have been largely divided between the states of Baden
Baden is a historical state on the east bank of the Rhine in the southwest of Germany, now the western part of the Baden-Württemberg of Germany....

 and Bavaria
Kingdom of Bavaria
The Kingdom of Bavaria was a German state that existed from 1806 to 1918. The Bavarian Elector Maximilian IV Joseph of the House of Wittelsbach became the first King of Bavaria in 1806 as Maximilian I Joseph. The monarchy would remain held by the Wittelsbachs until the kingdom's dissolution in 1918...

, whose governments were less than enthusiastic with the prospect of having a vengeful France on their doorstep. It also would have necessitated the stationing of substantial Imperial forces within these states' borders, possibly compromising their ability to exercise the considerable autonomy the southern states were able to maintain in the unification treaty
Constitution of the German Empire
The Constitution of the German Empire was the basic law of the German Empire of 1871-1919, enacted 16 April 1871. German historians often refer to it as Bismarck's imperial constitution....

. A shift in the frontier alleviated these issues.


The new political border largely (though not entirely) followed the linguistic border. The fact that the majority of the population in the new Imperial Territory (Reichsland) territory spoke Germanic dialects allowed Berlin to justify the annexation on nationalistic grounds.


Natural resources in Alsace-Lorraine
The Imperial Territory of Alsace-Lorraine was a territory created by the German Empire in 1871 after it annexed most of Alsace and the Moselle region of Lorraine following its victory in the Franco-Prussian War. The Alsatian part lay in the Rhine Valley on the west bank of the Rhine River and east...

 (iron-ore, and coal) do not appear to have played a role in Germany's fight for the areas annexed. Military annexation was the main stated goal along with unification of the German people.
At the same time, France lost 1,447,000 hectares, 1,694 villages and 1,597,000 inhabitants. It also lost 20% of its mining and steel potential.
The treaty of trade of 1862 with Prussia was not renewed but France granted Germany, for trade and navigation, a most-favoured nation
Most favoured nation
In international economic relations and international politics, most favoured nation is a status or level of treatment accorded by one state to another in international trade. The term means the country which is the recipient of this treatment must, nominally, receive equal trade advantages as the...

 clause. France would respect the clauses of the Treaty of Frankfurt in their entirety until 1914.

Citizenship Declarations

In 1872, The German government told its new citizens that they must declare their choice to be either French, by the first of October, or German, by the same date of 1873. No declaration was necessary if one wanted to become German. If, however, one wanted to remain French, a declaration to that effect was to be made and they had to get out. Children were to have the same nationality as their parents chose. Those from the region who were overseas had to choose by October, 1873. Those who chose became known as the optants, the "choosers".

It resulted in mayhem with thousands of people boarding overcrowded trains to France. Many hoped to get around the law by leaving and then returning, crowding the trains going back. People were camping in the streets of Nancy. In Marseille, a charity was established to help pay the passage for any optants who wanted to emigrate to Algeria
French Algeria
French Algeria lasted from 1830 to 1962, under a variety of governmental systems. From 1848 until independence, the whole Mediterranean region of Algeria was administered as an integral part of France, much like Corsica and Réunion are to this day. The vast arid interior of Algeria, like the rest...

, where the colonial government gave them some of the best land. More than five thousand people took up the offer. In all, the total number of people in the region, in France, and worldwide who chose to remain French came to more than half a million.


This treaty polarized French policy towards Germany for the next forty years. The reconquest of Alsace-Lorraine
The Imperial Territory of Alsace-Lorraine was a territory created by the German Empire in 1871 after it annexed most of Alsace and the Moselle region of Lorraine following its victory in the Franco-Prussian War. The Alsatian part lay in the Rhine Valley on the west bank of the Rhine River and east...

, the "lost provinces", became an obsession characterized by a revanchism
Revanchism is a term used since the 1870s to describe a political manifestation of the will to reverse territorial losses incurred by a country, often following a war or social movement. Revanchism draws its strength from patriotic and retributionist thought and is often motivated by economic or...

 which would be one of the most powerful motives in France's involvement in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...


In 1918, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913...

 addressed the issue as Point 8 in his Fourteen Points
Fourteen Points
The Fourteen Points was a speech given by United States President Woodrow Wilson to a joint session of Congress on January 8, 1918. The address was intended to assure the country that the Great War was being fought for a moral cause and for postwar peace in Europe...

Alsace-Lorraine returned to France under the 1919 Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

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