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The occupation zones (Rhineland and Ruhr) 1919–1930. green (Saar): League of Nations (France), blue: France, brown: United Kingdom, yellow: Belgium, blue/yellow (Ruhr): France/Belgium

The Occupation of the Rhineland took place following the armistice that brought the fighting of World War I to a close on 11 November 1918. The occupying armies consisted of American, Belgian, British and French forces. The terms of the armistice provided for the immediate evacuation of German troops from Belgium, France, and Luxembourg as well as Alsace-Lorraine within 15 days.[1]


  • First Armistice
  • First prolongation of the armistice (13 December 1918 – 16 January 1919)
  • Second prolongation of the armistice (16 January 1919 – 16 February 1919)
  • Third prolongation of the armistice (16 February 1919 – January 1920)
  • Foundation of Inter-Allied Rhineland High Commission

Occupying forces

Belgian forces

This consisted of five divisions with its headquarters at Aachen, and its troops stationed in Krefeld.[2]

British forces

The British Army entered German territory on 3 December 1918.[3] The British Army of the Rhine was established as the occupying force in March 1919. They were based at Cologne and published The Cologne Post.

French forces

French troops observing the Rhine at Deutsches Eck, Coblence.

The French Eighth Army and Tenth Army originally constituted the French forces involved in the occupation. On 21 October 1919, they were combined to form the French Army of the Rhine.

In 1919, there were between 25,000 and 40,000 French colonial soldiers based in the Rhineland.[4] Racist anxieties concerning the presence of Black soldiers in the French occupation army led to allegations of rape and other atrocities targeting the German civilian population and attributed mainly to Senegalese Tirailleurs.[5] The events resulted in a widespread campaign by the German right wing press that dubbed them as "The Black Shame" (Die schwarze Schande or Die schwarze Schmach) and were depicted as a form of French humiliation of the German nation.[6] Furthermore, some German women married African soldiers from the occupying forces, while others had children by them out of wedlock (hence the disparaging label "Rhineland Bastards")[7] and were considered to increase the public disgrace.[8] General Henry Tureman Allen reported to the US Secretary of State that "the wholesale atrocities by French negro Colonial troops alleged in the German press, such as the alleged abductions, followed by rape, mutilation, murder and concealment of the bodies of the victims are false and intended as political propaganda".[9]

In response to German failure to pay reparations under the Treaty of Versailles in 1923, France and Belgium occupied the industrial Ruhr area of Germany, the center of German coal and steel production, until 1925.

United States forces

A US soldier guarding the limit of the Coblence bridgehead

The US forces originally provided around 240,000 men in nine veteran divisions, nearly a third of the total occupying force. General Pershing established the US Third Army for the purpose, under the command of Major General Joseph Dickman.[10]

On 24 January 1923, the US Army withdrew from the occupation of the Rhine, vacating the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, which was promptly occupied by the French.


  1. Edmonds, (1943), p. 1
  2. Pawley (2008) p. 41
  3. Philip Gibbs on the Allied Occupation of the Rhineland, December 1918 accessed 11 September 2010
  4. Wigger (2010) p. 35
  6. La « Honte Noire ». Racisme et propagande allemande après la Première Guerre mondiale, Estelle Fohr-Prigent
  7. Tina Campt, Other Germans: Black Germans and the Politics of Race, Gender, and Memory in the Third Reich (University of Michigan Press, 2004), p. 50 ff.
  8. Julia Roos, Women's Rights, Nationalist Anxiety, and the "Moral" Agenda in the Early Weimar Republic: Revisiting the "Black Horror" Campaign against France's African Occupation Troops. Central European History, 42 (September 2009), 473–508.
  9. 'FINDS NEGRO TROOPS ORDERLY ON RHINE; General Allen Reports Charges Are German Propaganda, 'Especially for America, New York Times, 20 February 1921
  10. Pawley (2008) pp. 32–33


  • Edmonds, J.E. (1943/1987). The Occupation of the Rhineland 1918–29. HMSO. ISBN 978-0-11-290454-0. 
  • Pawley, Margaret (2008). The Watch on the Rhine: The Military Occupation of the Rhineland, 1918–1930. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84511-457-2. 
  • Wigger, Iris (2010). "'Black Shame' – the campaign against 'racial degeneration' and female degradation in interwar Europe". Institute of Race Relations. ISBN 978-1-84787-414-6. ISSN 0306-3968. 

See also

External links

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