TO THE average American the word Saar conveys little if anything; to the unhappy few who specialize in the problems of Europe it labels one of the points in dispute between Germany and France; to the extremely few who personally took part in the peace negotiations preceding the Versailles Treaty it may recall the most heated and excited controversy between President Wilson and the French at the time when the breakdown of the negotiations seemed imminent and the President ordered the George Washington to be kept in readiness for his return to America.
The Saar, as it exists today, is a wholly artificial creation which corresponds to nothing grown-up in history. For the most part, the Saar region was arbitrarily cut out from Prussian territory, to a lesser extent from the Bavarian Palatinate. The reason for the creation of the territory as it exists today was to meet the French desire to possess and exploit the rich coal deposits. The surface boundary lines were devised without any attention to the needs or desires of the people living there, but with regard exclusively to the coal seams underground. The deposits are important; experts estimate them at about 12½ billion tons.
None of the documents enumerating French war aims mentioned the Saar, neither the official government declarations of December 31, 1916, and January 10, 1917, nor the resolution of the French Parliament of June 5-6, 1917. On the other hand, the secret treaty between France and Russia of February 1917 does mention the Saar. The agreement made between France and the Powers, particularly the United States, defining the aims to be attained by the Versailles Treaty, makes no mention of the Saar.
When it became clear that the whole of Alsace-Lorraine as annexed by Germany in 1871 would return to France, industrialists familiar with the conditions of iron and steel making in Alsace-Lorraine must have clearly perceived that the vast steel industry which German enterprise had built up there would be in a precarious position without the Saar coal deposits, on
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