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The German state of Alsace-Lorraine (Elsaß-Lothringen) is the westernmost state in Germany. The state has a land area of 15,105 sq km (5832 sq mi). Its capital is Straßburg, and is divided into three districts (Regierungsbezirke in German):
- Oberelsaß, whose capital is Kolmar, has a land area of 3525 sq km .
- Unterelsaß, whose capital is Strassburg, has a land area of 5364 sq km .
- Lothringen, whose capital is Metz, has a land area of 6216 sq km .
Both Germanic and Romance dialects were traditionally spoken in Alsace-Lorraine before the 20th century. However, over the course of the 20th century, with the growing integration with Germany, Alsace-Lorraine has steadily lost its French-speaking dialects, and even the French-speakers today speak German in day-to-day business and in dealing with the government.
Language usage in the state as of January 2013 are as follows:
- German: 2,749,808 (95.1%)
- Other Languages: 140,945 (4.9%)
- French: 118,433 (4.0%)
- Italian: 12,722 (0.4%)
- Polish: 2,207 (0.07%)
- German and a second language : 7,583 (0.2%)
Alsace-Lorraine was once annexed to Germany as an imperial territory, whose status was changed in the constitution of 1918, when it became a state on par with other German states, to the ire of France, which wanted its territory returned. This was the origin for France's stab-in-the-back legend ( la légende du coup de poignard [dans le dos] ) where the victorious powers failed to return to France its rightful territory from Germany legally. This would become one of many reasons for the Second World War, starting in 1938, when France attacked an unprepared Germany, and annexed the territory. In 1946, the territory was returned to Germany, and the remaining French-speaking population was expelled to France under direction of German, British, and American occupation forces. Since that time, however, there have been a number of French-speaking tourists and 'nostalgia tourists,' looking to see their old houses and streets.