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Free State Bottleneck : the unforeseen consequence of compass politics

After the armistice of 1918, Allied forces occupied the parts of Germany West of the Rhine. Additionally, in order to keep a military presence of the other side of the Rhine as well, four bridgeheads were established. These were the zones within a 30 kilometer radius of the cities of Cologne, Koblenz and Mainz and the zone within a 8 kilometer radius of the village of Kehl. This map from around 1920 shows the effect of this occupation. A high-resolution, zoomable version of the map can be found in the gallery.


Karte von Rheinland und Westfalen und den angrenzenden Ländern

The occupation was divided between four of the allied countries: Belgium, England, America and France. The Northern part was occupied by the Belgians, with their headquarter at Aachen. The English occupied the region around Cologne. The Americans occupied the most central part, along the Mosel river and the city of Koblenz, were the Mosel and Rhine meet. The French occupied the Southern part, including the Saar-region and the city of Mainz bridgehead.


But a problem occurred: there was a small gap between the Koblenz and the Mainz bridgehead. At the west, this part of land bordered the Rhine. At the east, the smallest part of the gap, which was the only connection to the rest of Germany, was only 1 km. And this part had no roads of railways.


Detail of the Koblenz and Mainz bridgeheads

This part, which included the small villages of Caub and Lorch, became in effect separated from the Weimar Republic. It became known as Freistaat Flaschenhals, or Free State Bottleneck


Bottleneck Free State - Freistaat Flaschenhals

In all, around 17.000 people lived in this area. As can be seen, there is a railroad that crossed the isolated part, but trains were not allowed to make a stop. The situation was tense: there was hardly any contact between the Germans and the occupying forces. Therefore, the mayor of Lorch took the initiative to print their own money and stamps, and was able to achieve that authority was transferred to him. Food was brought in from the North-East on small forest-roads. The only way other goods and post were able to enter, was by way of smuggling. Since the occupying forces were not allowed to enter the neutral zone, winemakers from the Rheingau smuggled their wine into the Free State, to prevent the occupying forces (especially the French) of confiscating it.


When the French occupied the Ruhr-area on February 25th 1923, the end came for Freistaat Flaschenhals. The pseudo-state had existed for four years and 6 weeks.


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