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France on the threshold of the 20th century
The goal: Never again 1870!
Despite their chassepot rifles, the French soldiers could not withstand the assaults of the German forces, which were supported by high-powered artillery. Backed by the confidence of the War Minister Roon and chancellor Bismarck, General Moltke, army chief of staff since 1858, led the Prussians to victory. For Field Marshall Moltke, a united political point of view had proven useful. On the other hand, the French troops, at Seden and Metz, offered up "the sorry spectacle of an inert, passive and overwhelmed high command" (R. Girardet).
After the siege of Paris-during which the Christmas menu at the Grand Hotel featured jugged cat, leg of dog and rat stew-the defeat of France's armies ended in the Treaty of Frankfurt of 10 May 1871. Under its terms, Germany annexed Alsace and a large portion of Lorraine. Those living in these two regions were allowed to keep their French nationality, but only on condition that they leave their homes-an option that they were allowed to exercise only until 1 October 1872.
The liberation of the territory
The presence of occupying forces in 18 of France's 96 departments was explained by the fact that it guaranteed that five billion francs in compensation would be paid to a victorious Germany. The liberation of the territory came about in September of 1873, because the loans needed to pay the compensation as well as the costs of supporting the occupying troops found a great many subscribers (330,000 in July 1871, and 900,000 the following year).
The idea of revenge, of getting back the lost provinces, would live on until the Great War. In his novel The Debacle, Emile Zola described the French collapse but also the bravery of the troops, and presented the Prussian "caponscapons
As opposed to brave soldiers, this old term was used to describe cowards." who would be paid back later. Some hoped that "the unjust suffering" of the troops "will remain an indelible lesson to those who govern and those who command" (C. de Gaulle).