Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ballot for Saarland referendum 1955

Saarland was a German state occupied by France after World War II.  Being rich in natural resources, France did not want the region to join the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) when it was formed in 1949, and wanted it to be incorporated in France.  Eventually West Germany and France compromised: they signed a treaty in 1955, where Saarland would become an autonomous state under the tutelage of the Western European Union.  In practice, it would become independent. 

The treaty, called the "European Statute for Saarland", required that Saarland's new status be put to a referendum of Saar residents.  A picture of the ballot is available here:

The question is either very convoluted or very difficult to translate with my rudimentary German: "Do you agree with the agreement on the government of Saarland between the government of the Federal Republic of Germand and the government of the French Republic of the 23rd of October 1955 agreed upon European Statute for Saarland?"

If someone can do a better translation, I would appreciate it. 

The ballot is very wordy, with a 16-word title and a 31-word question.  It also contains a reference to the European Statute, presupposing that everyone has read it.  It seems to me that "Do you agree with the European Statute for Saarland?" would have been shorter and .  "Do you agree with Saarland becoming an autonomous state under the auspices of the Western European?" would have been more direct and to the point.

As West Germany had a near-universal literate population, the black and white text-only ballot seems appropriate.  It may have been preferable to have a black ballot with white words and circles, in order to discourage people from making marks outside the designated areas.  This may have contributed to the relatively high spoiled ballot percentage (2.4%, or 15,725 of 641,132) votes:


  1. Dear Chris Dye, I found your blog by accident when I googled "Saarland independence" for fun.
    As an "ethnic Saarländer" I try and translate the ballot question. While i am a native german speaker, my english is not that perfect, but I try.
    "Do you agree with the european statute for the Saarland, which has been agreed upon by the government of the Federal Republic of Germany and the French Republic on October 23, 1954, with consent of the government of the Saarland."
    And by the way, there had been the other saarland referendum in 1935, when Saarland residents had to decide if they want to become part of Germany, or part of France, or stay a leage of Nations mandate. That ballot was a three way question, and voters decided 90% for Germany, 9% for continuing the mandate, and 1% for joining France. But I am not sure if continuing the mandate would have legally meant independence. Greetings from Germany, Jan

  2. This is great. As a Saarländer living in the Montreal area to learn that we could have become an independent state is quite fun. This would have elevated our famous Schwenkbraten to the level of a national dish! Greetings from Montreal, Stephan Becker. Saarländer living in Quebec, send me an email to discuss the opening of the first Saarland embassy in Canada :-) stephanmontreal@gmail.comm

  3. Do you approve of the European Statute for the Saarland agreed between the Federal Republic of Germany and the French Republic with the consent of the Government of the Saarland on 23 October 1954?