German occupation of north-east France during World War I

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German soldiers resting during the occupation of the town of Hautmont

The German occupation of north-east France refers to the period in which French territory, mostly along the Belgian and Luxembourgish border, was held under military occupation by the German Empire during World War I. Owing to the speed of the German invasion of Belgium in 1914, fighting reached French soil early in the war. Though their advance was stopped at the First Battle of the Marne in September 1914, the Germans gained control of a portion of French territory which remained under German occupation behind the stabilized Western Front for much of the rest of the war.

The occupied zone represented about 3.7 percent of French landmass and included some of the most industrialized parts of the country.[1] 64 percent of France's pig-iron production, 24 percent of its steel manufacturing and 40 percent of the total coal mining capacity was located in the zone, dealing a major setback to French industry.[2] A number of important towns and cities were situated within it too, notably Lille, Douai, Cambrai, Valenciennes, Maubeuge and Avesnes. Partly because of its proximity to the front, occupied north-east France was ruled by the military, rather than by a civilian occupation administration. Economic exploitation of the occupied zone increased throughout the war. Forced labor became increasingly common as the war dragged on.

Much of the 1928 novel Schlump by Hans Herbert Grimm is set in German-occupied France where the protagonist works in the occupation administration.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wegner 2014.
  2. ^ Kennedy 1989, pp. 265–6.


  • Wegner, Larissa (2014). "Occupations during the War (France and Belgium)". International Encyclopedia of the First World War. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  • Kennedy, Paul (1989). The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-72019-7.

Further reading[edit]

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  • McPhail, Helen (2001). The Long Silence: The Tragedy of Occupied France in World War I (2nd ed.). London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1784530532.
  • Connolly, James (2014). "Fresh Eyes, Dead Topic? Writing the History of the Occupation of Northern France in the First World War". In Broch, Ludivine; Carrol, Alison (eds.). France in an Era of Global War, 1914-1945: Occupation, Politics, Empire and Entanglements. London: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781137443489.
  • Connolly, James (2014). "Mauvaise Conduite: Complicity and Respectability in the Occupied Nord, 1914-1918". In De Schaepdrijver, Sophie (ed.). Military Occupations in First World War Europe. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-1138822368.