Building a University to try to turn Germans French

Welcome readers to todays offering from The Philatelist. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. We have an interesting story to tell about how France tried gently to build a barrier with Germany.

The stamp today looks like what it is. A German stamp that is under a large amount of French influence. So you see German language on a stamp with paper and currency resembling the French. The library building, in the modern mid century Euro style even gives a sense of the coming Euro integration.

This is issue A72, a 30 Saar Franc stamp issued by the Saar, now the German state of Saarland, in 1953. It is part of a 14 stamp issue depicting local architecture. This stamp features the University Library of Saarland University. According to the Scott catalog it is worth 95 cents used. The 500 franc stamp from this issue is worth $65 used, so that is one to look out for.

The Saar is most famous for being taken from Germany after World War I. France was desirous of a barrier with Germany and the area contained rich deposits of coal from which to pay reparations. A plebiscite in the Saar was won by the side favoring reunification with Germany and this was achieved in 1935.

After World War II, again France desired the Saar. The USA stated that after being invaded by Germany three times in 70 years they could not deny France it’s ambitions in the Saar. The area was considered separate from the French occupied zone of post war West Germany.

France set out to turn Saar French despite the people being ethnic German. French was taught in the schools and a Saar version of the French Franc replaced the German Mark. Relating directly to this stamp, a new university was founded under French leadership that would teach in both French and German. This sounds like mild stuff and West Germany agreed in 1952 that Saar could remain outside of West Germany easing toward independence and part of Franco-German industrial cooperation that was the beginning of the long project of European integration. Indeed a early version of the twelve star Euro flag had 15 stars with one representing an independent Saar.

The will of the people was again allowed to hold sway. Another election favored integration with Germany and this was accomplished in 1959. With that came the end of the Saar version of the French Franc and the end of stamps from the Saar. Saarland today is one of the smaller German states but also one of the most conservative and religious.

The Saarland University still exists and the international character of the institution has served it very well in attracting a large international student community. The library building on the stamp is still in use.

Well my drink is empty and so it is time to open up the conversation in the below comment section. Compared to some of the ethnic cleansing that seems so common in the Balkans and elsewhere, the failed French effort in the Saar seem mild and almost friendly. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.