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La poste en Alsace en 1940 - 1945

"The post in Alsace in 1940-1945"
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France and UK declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939. After eight months of "phony war", the Germans broke through the Ardennes on May 10, 1940 and entered Paris victoriously on June 14, 1940. On June 17, German troops entered Colmar and Metz, on June 18 Mulhouse and on June 20 Strasbourg. The clauses of the armistice signed on June 22, 1940 in Rethondes came into effect on June 25. The Franco-German border was moved to its former location of 1871 and, from July 24, a detachment of German customs officers was deployed there. Senior German officials were named to head all the administrations and German district heads were appointed from the beginning of the occupation. On August 8, 1940, the Gauleiters Wagner and Burckel were installed in Alsace and Lorraine and, the next day, Hitler decided to annex Alsace-Lorraine to the Reich.

As soon as the German troops entered Alsace and Moselle, the French post office ceased its activity but post offices quickly reopened and the postal traffic was re-established from June 18th. The reopenings were particularly numerous on July 1st and August 1st. On August 15, 1940, the Alsace post office was incorporated into the Deutsche Reichspost and German stamps bearing the effigy of Marshal Hindenburg overprinted "Elsass" replaced the French stamps. As all the offices were not regularly supplied, the French stamps remained valid on August 15, 16 and 17, 1940 in Alsace. Because of this and for three days only, mixed frankings composed of German and French stamps were authorized.

The post offices were initially provided with temporary German rubber stamps. However, the supply was only gradually increased and the French postmarks remained in use for some time although the largest post offices were equipped very early on with definitive date stamps. Illustrated postmarks appeared in a number of tourist destinations and others were used for Nazi propaganda at various events. The railway post (RPO) was also re-established in August 1940, but the definitive railways postmarks did not appear until October 1, 1941.

The obsessive francophobia of invaders led to an accelerated germanization of the territory. At first, the french name of localities was replaced by a German name. Gauleiter Wagner declared in a speech given in Ribeauvillé: "And in this German Alsace, only German will be spoken. There will be no half measures".

With the continuation of the war and the enormous losses suffered on the Eastern Front, the Germans decided to draft people in the annexed countries. A terrible tragedy befell Alsace and Lorraine: 140,000 young people from Alsace and Moselle could not avoid being drafted into the Wehrmacht. They became the "Malgré-Nous". On August 25, 1942, the classes 40 to 44 were mobilized, then all the classes drafted by force up to the men born in 1907. All these men were sent to the Eastern Front where tens of thousands of them died. Among the survivors, a great number will know the hell of the Soviet prison camps in particular Tambow where approximately 6.500 disappeared forever.

All these events have left an indelible mark on Alsatian philately and marcophily of that time. This book remains an indispensable reference for those who are interested in the postal history of this period.

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