On the 13th January 1935, the Territory of the Saar Basin voted to reunite with Germany. Having been administered by the League of Nations for 15 years following the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, the overwhelming plebiscite result of over 90% in favour of reunification surprised many observers.
In 1918 the Saar Basin was a heavily industrialised area, boasting a large number of coal mines. Following the Treaty of Versailles the area was occupied and governed by France and Britain under the auspices of the League of Nations. France was also given exclusive control of the coal mines. However the Treaty called for a plebiscite to decide the long-term future of the Saar region after a period of fifteen years.
By the time of the plebiscite Adolf Hitler had come to power in Germany, which had led a number of Nazi opponents to move to the area since it was the only part of Germany free from their rule. They were keen for the area to remain under the League’s administration, but maintaining the status quo was unpopular with ordinary Germans.
Meanwhile the Nazis began an intensive pro-Germany campaign led by propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels. As early as 1933, complaints that the Nazi campaign amounted to a “reign of terror” had been noted by American political scientists Sarah Wambaugh, one of the members of the commission overseeing the plebiscite. Although the Nazis did tone down their tactics by the end of 1934, the League of Nations provided a peacekeeping force to monitor the plebiscite.
Voter turnout plebiscite was 98%, with 90.8% voting to re-join the German Reich.