Liberated Alsace

Liberated Alsace

  • Post card.


  • "In Alsace! The real plebiscite".

    SCOTT Georges Bertin (1873 - 1942)

  • Photograph of the film "Alert".


To close

Title: Post card.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : 1914

Date shown: 1918

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: photograph, postcard

Storage location: Private collection

Contact copyright: © All rights reserved

© All rights reserved

To close

Title: "In Alsace! The real plebiscite".

Author : SCOTT Georges Bertin (1873 - 1942)

Creation date : 1914

Date shown: 1918

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Front page of L'Illustration newspaper, August 15, 1914. Photograph

Storage location: Illustration

Contact copyright: © The illustration - rights reserved

Picture reference: 192 989

"In Alsace! The real plebiscite".

© The illustration - rights reserved

To close

Title: Photograph of the film "Alert".

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : 1918

Date shown: 1918

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Frame

Storage location: Historial of the Great War of Péronne website

Contact copyright: © Historial de la Grande Guerre - Péronne (Somme) - Photo Yazid Medmoun

Photograph of the film "Alert".

© Historial de la Grande Guerre - Péronne (Somme) - Photo Yazid Medmoun

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

The terrible defeat of France in 1870 resulted in the loss of Alsace-Lorraine to Germany.

Hostility to Prussia in the two provinces is then very strong, the annexation is a violence suffered but not accepted. We stigmatize "forced Germanization" and swear to recover sooner or later these "two children torn" from the "motherland".

Image Analysis

Document no 1 is a color postcard, dating from 1914, illustrating the return of Alsace to France. The general organization (the arrangement of the characters who seem frozen in an astonishing freeze frame, the painted canvas type decor, the historical analogy, the clothing, the accessories, etc.) is characteristic of popular patriotic imagery. . This young woman in regional costume is Alsace as she was represented at the time. She faces, all smiling, a French soldier in his cap and red pants who is holding a tricolor with which she covers her shoulders. At its feet lies the emblem of the German presence since 1870: the border post surmounted by an escutcheon with an imperial eagle and the inscription "Deutsches Reich" (German Empire). Above them, in a cloudy sky, we can make out a winged allegorical figure (symbolizing victory) waving a French flag. She looks upwards where scenes of heroic battles appear (references to the participation of the Alsatians in the battles of the Revolution and in the imperial epic), and extends her arm downwards in the direction of the two characters, thus making the link between the past and the present.

Document no 2 is a variant of the previous one. Entitled “In Alsace! The real plebiscite ", this is a famous drawing by Georges Scott dated August 2, 1914 which made the front page of the newspaper The Illustration (August 15) before being reproduced in countless postcards and posters. The artist realized it when the announcement of the entry of French troops into Mulhouse. There are roughly the same elements as in document no.o 1. However, this time, unhappy Alsace, finally freed from the terrible yoke that the Germans were placing on it, threw itself into the arms of a young French lieutenant (perhaps of Alsatian origin? that the French army had many officers from annexed territories) who participated in the victorious assault. This touching gesture is meant to signify the great attachment and loyalty of Alsace to France. As in the background, intrepid soldiers, bayonets, charge across the border, trained by another officer, saber clear.

Document no 3 is a photograph taken during the shooting of a fiction film. Perhaps Alert! (1918) by G. Pallu and E. Berny. Still, the composition is absolutely identical to that of the drawing by Georges Scott (document no.o 2) which obviously served as a model. We can note another quite comparable case: The Anniversary of the Treaty of Frankfurt (May 1918) produced by the Cinematographic Section of the French Army (SCA). This little fiction [1] (5 min) on the status of Alsace since 1871 also uses Scott's drawing.


Historiography provides proof that, in the acceptance of the war in August 1914, the desire to reconquer Alsace-Lorraine or to take revenge on Germany held little place. However, French claims on the lost provinces resurfaced immediately after the first battles.

This theme is most often used in the form of images that are the subject of multiple prints. The attached documents give a striking idea. Until 1916, such representations were probably in keeping with the aspirations and the sensibilities of the vast majority of contemporaries (it is too often forgotten in retrospect). Things change later, and a large part of the public no longer accepts these naive and outdated images. However, they will never disappear completely, proving how much certain mentalities, despite the duration of the war, resisted change.

  • allegory
  • Alsace Lorraine
  • War of 14-18
  • patriotism


Pierre VALLAUD, 14-18, World War I, volumes I and II, Paris, Fayard, 2004.

François ROTH, The war of 70, Paris, Fayard, 1990.


1. The famous film critic Louis Delluc denounced the grotesque side of this film: “We recently projected a madness of this kind, to the glory of Alsace I believe. Alsace has seen others. All the same, this stripped-down girl, tied to the border post, detached by a hairy, oh ingenuous symbol seasoned with old war news! For me, I cannot believe that the SCA had something to do with it. Rather, I thought of certain cheerful drawings which, before the war, sometimes symbolized Parisian taste in the eyes of foreigners. These drawings came from Berlin. The films I am talking about come from Paris. It’s sadder to think ”(in Paris-Midi, July 13, 1918).

To cite this article

Laurent VÉRAY, "Liberated Alsace"

Video: France in 1944: Occupation, Collaboration, Resistance, Liberation ENGLISH SUBTITLES