January 25th, 2021

Stamps recognize post-war plebiscites

By Submitted Article on March 12, 2020.

Walter Kerber


Plebiscites: a way of determining where people belonged. That brings out a whole puzzling bunch of stamps in the Germany collection. Most people ignore them because they are the plainest and worst-designed stamps. They have no beauty. As it turns out, these stamps were not well received when they were issued after the First World War.

January 1919, the world looked to Paris, where the conference of the victors took place with 10,000 state officials from 27 countries. Unfortunately, the losers had no say in the process, which ended in the Treaty of Versailles. The main participants were the United States, France, Great Britain and Italy, all interested in weakening the losing states, but keeping the Werimar Republic strong enough to prevent communism from entering middle Europe. Germany was with reparation payment of hundreds of billions, de-militarization, handing over shipping fleets, as well as giving up territory west of the Rhine River. They dictated peace.

Plebiscites were ordered in various regions. Some areas left, some stayed in Germany. The Saar was taken for 15 years by France, before a referendum was allowed, finally returning to Germany in 1957. Danzig became a Free State in 1920. The Memel area was under French occupation, becoming under Lithuania in 1923. The plebicites were in Schleswig, Marienwerder, Allenstein and Upper Scilesia. Schleswig was split in two with the upper part going to Denmark in 1920. Marienwerder, a part of West Prussia, stayed in Germany, but in 1920 postage required special stamps.

Allenstein, an area south of East Prussia also stayed in Germany, featured overprinted Germania stamps. Upper Silesia was different with a third and a lot of heavy industry going to Poland. Special stamps were used from 1920 to 1922.

Walter Kerber is a long-time member of the Lethbridge Philatelic Society

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