Version française

The Affair of Saverne - 1913

  On the 6th of November 1913, two articles in two local newspapers, the Elsässer and the Zaberner Anzeiger, reveal to the public that a Prussian lieutenant (from a noble german family), Lieutenant von Forstner, called the alsacian recruits Wackes (hooligans). Further, he promised ten marks to the one who would knife one of them. This incident, which took place during a young soldiers instruction session, can appear as banal. The information which relates it is local. Nevertheless, they will start an astonishing affair, with an international spreading.

A crisis will occur in Alsace and in Germany, and in a few days it will reach the highest levels of the State. Journalists and caricaturists have written and drawn a lot about this subject. Many postcards treat it in a humorous mode. Here are some of them.

This card makes a reference to the word "Wackes" (hooligan) used by lieutenant von Forstner to qualify the alsacian recruits. Hansi (alias Jean-Jacques Waltz, the famous caricaturist) shows him some famous "Wackes": generals Kellerman, Kléber, Rapp, Lefebvre, who have all fight against the prussian or german armies during the Napoleonic conquests.

Famous Wackes

This second card of Hansi illustrates another episod of the Affair: in order to buy some chocolates, lieutenant von Forstner went to the cake shop with an armed patrol, under the gibes of the population.


Here is a card stemming from a serie that was printed in Nancy (Nancy belonged to France at that time). It shows the day where the firemen were called by the german troops to break up the crowd of people. They wanted to use their fire-hose nozzle but someone well-intentioned cut the hose. As we were in november, it could have been a very cold shower for the people around.

Firemen (recto)

More interesting is the back of the card. It was used in Saverne, to send comments about the events to friends. The comments were written in french. This is the back of the card with a translation of the manuscript text.

Firemen (back)

My dears, Louis cannot come tomorrow, we are almost in a state of siege, it's forbidden to laugh and to remain standing in the city. All these things are getting very serious. Louis and I went yesterday for a walk in the town. We narrowly missed being thrown in jail. The rest verbally by Louis.

Posted on the 29th of november 1913, from Saverne (Zabern) to Westhalten near Rouffach, in the departement of Haut-Rhin.

If you want to know more about this Affair, which belongs to the History of the annexation of Alsace-Moselle to the German Empire, I recommend to you the excellent booklet written by Mr Pierre Vonau, archivist of Saverne:

L'Affaire de Saverne - 1913

It was published in 1993 by the Saverne and Surroundings Historical and Archeological Society (SHASE). It's the number 162bis of their periodical Pays d'Alsace, which gives a summary of the facts and replaces them in the geopolitical context of that time. You can obtain this booklet (in french) by writing to the:

Centre Alphonse Wollbrett,
Parc du Château

[Back to start] [Hotels, restaurants, cafés] [End of the walk]
© Thierry Heitmann - 1997-2001