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Saarland (German)
Sarre (French)
Anthem: "Ich rühm' dich, du freundliches Land an der Saar"
("I praise you, you friendly land at the Saar")
Coordinates: 49°23′N6°50′E / 49.383°N 6.833°E / 49.383; 6.833
Country Germany
Capital Saarbrücken
  Body Landtag of Saarland
   Minister-President Anke Rehlinger (SPD)
  Governing party SPD
   Bundesrat votes 3 (of 69)
   Bundestag seats 9 (of 736)
  Total2,570 km2 (990 sq mi)
 (31 December 2018)
  Density390/km2 (1,000/sq mi)
Demonym Saarlander or Saar
  Total€38.505 billion (2022)
  Per capita€38,994 (2022)
Time zone UTC+1 (CET)
  Summer (DST) UTC+2 (CEST)
ISO 3166 code DE-SL
HDI (2018)0.936 [2]
very high · 9th of 16
Website OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg

Saarland (German: [ˈzaːʁ̞lant] , Luxembourgish: [ˈzaːlɑnt] ; French : Sarre [saʁ] ) is a state of Germany in the southwest of the country. With an area of 2,570 km2 (990 sq mi) and population of 990,509 in 2018, it is the smallest German state in area apart from the city-states of Berlin, Bremen, and Hamburg, and the smallest in population apart from Bremen. [3] Saarbrücken is the state capital and largest city; other cities include Neunkirchen and Saarlouis. Saarland is mainly surrounded by the department of Moselle (Grand Est) in France to the west and south and the neighboring state of Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany to the north and east; it also shares a small border about 8 kilometres (5 miles) long with the canton of Remich in Luxembourg to the northwest.


Having long been a relatively small part of the long-contested territories along the Franco-German linguistic border, Saarland first gained specific economic and strategic importance in the nineteenth century due to the wealth of its coal deposits and the heavy industrialization that grew as a result. Saarland was first established as a distinct political entity in 1920 after World War I as the Territory of the Saar Basin, which was occupied and governed by France under a League of Nations mandate.

Saarland was returned to Nazi Germany in the 1935 Saar status referendum. Following World War II in Europe, the territory was occupied by France then became the Saar Protectorate on 17 December 1947. After the 1955 Saar Statute referendum, it joined the Federal Republic of Germany as a state on 1 January 1957. Saarland used its own currency, the Saar franc, and postage stamps issued specially for the territory until 1959.


Before World War I

Map of the Saar region in 1793 Historical map of the Saarland 1793.gif
Map of the Saar region in 1793

The region of the Saarland was settled by the Celtic tribes of Treveri and Mediomatrici. The most impressive relic of their time is the remains of a fortress of refuge at Otzenhausen in the north of the Saarland. In the 1st century BC, the Roman Empire made the region part of its province of Belgica, and the Celtic population mixed with Roman immigrants. The region became wealthy, which can still be seen in the remains of Roman villas and villages.

Roman rule ended in the 5th century, when the Franks conquered the territory. For the next 1,300 years the region shared the history of the Kingdom of the Franks, the Carolingian Empire and the Holy Roman Empire. The region of the Saarland was divided into several small territories, some of which were ruled by sovereigns of adjoining regions. Most important of the local rulers were the counts of Nassau-Saarbrücken. Within the Holy Roman Empire these territories gained a wide range of independence, threatened, however, by the French kings, who sought from the 17th century onwards to incorporate all the territories on the western side of the river Rhine. They invaded the area in 1635, 1676, 1679, and 1734, extending their realm to the river Saar and establishing the city and stronghold of Saarlouis in 1680.

It was not the king of France but the armies of the French Revolution who terminated the independence of the states in the region of the Saarland. After 1792 they conquered the region and made it part of the French Republic. While a strip in the west belonged to the Moselle department, the centre in 1798 became part of the Sarre department, and the east became part of the Mont-Tonnerre department. After the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, the region was divided again. Most of it became part of the Prussian Rhine Province. Another part in the east, corresponding to the present Saarpfalz district, was allocated to the Kingdom of Bavaria. A small part in the northeast was ruled by the Duke of Oldenburg.

On 31 July 1870, the French Emperor Napoleon III ordered an invasion across the River Saar to seize Saarbrücken. The first shots of the Franco-Prussian War of 187071 were fired on the heights of Spichern, south of Saarbrücken. The Saar region became part of the German Empire which came into existence on 18 January 1871, during the course of the war.

Interwar history

In 1921 the Saargebiet was occupied by Britain and France under the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. The occupied area included portions of the Prussian Rhine Province and the Bavarian Rhenish Palatinate. In practice the region was administered by France. In 1920 this was formalized by a 15-year League of Nations mandate.

In 1933, a considerable number of communists and other political opponents of Nazism fled to the Saar, as it was the only part of Germany that remained outside national administration following the First World War. As a result, anti-Nazi groups agitated for the Saarland to remain under French administration. However, with most of the population being ethnically German, such views were considered suspect or even treasonous, and therefore found little support.

When the original 15-year term was over, a plebiscite was held in the territory on 13 January 1935: 90.8% of those voting favoured rejoining Germany.

Nazi period

Following the referendum Josef Bürckel was appointed on 1 March 1935 as the German Reich's commissioner for reintegration ( Reichskommissar für die Rückgliederung des Saarlandes). Once the reincorporation was accomplished, on 17 June 1936 his title was changed to Reichskommissar für das Saarland (Reich Commissioner for the Saarland). In September 1939, in response to the German invasion of Poland, French forces invaded the Saarland in a half-hearted offensive, occupying some villages and meeting little resistance, before withdrawing. After 8 April 1940 Bürckel's title was changed again to Reichskommissar für die Saarpfalz (Reich Commissioner for the Saar Palatinate); finally, after 11 March 1941, Bürckel was made Reichsstatthalter in der Westmark (Reich Governor of the Western Borderland). He died on 28 September 1944 and was succeeded by Willi Stöhr, who remained in office until the region fell to advancing American forces in March 1945.

History after World War II

After World War II, the Saarland came under French occupation again and became the Saar Protectorate. France did not annex the Saar or expel the local German population, in contrast to the fate of the territories which were merged by Poland and the USSR. In his speech "Restatement of Policy on Germany", made in Stuttgart on 6 September 1946, United States Secretary of State James F. Byrnes stated the U.S. position on detaching the Saar from Germany: "The United States does not feel that it can deny to France, which has been invaded three times by Germany in 70 years, [Note 1] its claim to the Saar territory".

The Saar and Ruhr areas were historically a central location for coal mining. This attracted the steel industry, which is essential for the production of munitions. [4] :346 The Treaty of Paris (1951) established the European Coal and Steel Community, which led to the termination of the International Authority for the Ruhr (whose purpose was to regulate Ruhr coal and steel production and distribution). However, the Treaty sidestepped the issue of the Saar protectorate: an attached protocol stated Germany and France agreed the Treaty would have no bearing on their views of the status of the Saar. [5]

In 1948, the French government established Saarland University under the auspices of the University of Nancy. It is the principal university in the state, the other being Saarland University of Applied Sciences  [ de ] (HTW Saar).

The Saarland was headed by a military governor from 30 August 1945: Gilbert Yves Edmond Grandval (1904–1981), who remained, on 1 January 1948, as High Commissioner, and from January 1952 – June 1955 as the first of two French ambassadors, his successor being Éric de Carbonnel (1910–1965) until 1956. Saarland, however, was allowed a regional administration very early, consecutively headed by:

In 1954, France and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) developed a detailed plan called the Saarstatut (Saar Statute) to establish an independent Saarland. It was signed as an agreement between the two countries on 23 October 1954 as one of the Paris Pacts, but a plebiscite held on 23 October 1955 rejected it by 67.7%.

On 27 October 1956, the Saar Treaty declared that Saarland should be allowed to join West Germany, which it did on 1 January 1957. This was the last significant international border change in Europe until the fall of Communism over 30 years later.

The Saarland's unification with West Germany was sometimes referred to as the Kleine Wiedervereinigung ('little reunification', in contrast with the post-Cold War reunification with the GDR). After unification, the Saar franc remained as the territory's currency until West Germany's Deutsche Mark replaced it on 7 July 1959. The Saar Treaty established that French, not English as in the rest of West Germany, should remain the first foreign language taught in Saarland schools; this provision was still largely followed after it was no longer binding.

Since 1971, Saarland has been a member of SaarLorLux, a euroregion created from Saarland, Lorraine, Luxembourg, Rhineland Palatinate, and Wallonia.


The state borders France (department of Moselle, which forms part of the region of Grand Est) to the south and west, Luxembourg (Grevenmacher District) to the west and Rhineland-Palatinate to the north and the east. It is named after the river Saar, a tributary of the Moselle (itself a tributary of the Rhine), which runs through the state from the south to the northwest.

While slightly larger than the combined area of the three city-states, Saarland is by far the smallest of the Flächenländer ("area-states"). It is less than one sixth the size of Schleswig-Holstein, the next smallest German state. One third of the land area of the Saarland is covered by forest, one of the highest percentages in Germany. The state is generally hilly; the highest mountain is the Dollberg with a height of 695.4 m (2,281 ft).

Districts of Saarland (towns dark-coloured, position of number in the capital) S L.svg
Districts of Saarland (towns dark-coloured, position of number in the capital)

Most inhabitants live in a city agglomeration on the French border, surrounding the capital of Saarbrücken.

See also List of places in Saarland.


Saarland is divided into six districts (German : Landkreise):

  1. Merzig-Wadern
  2. Neunkirchen
  3. Saarbrücken
  4. Saarlouis
  5. Saarpfalz-Kreis
  6. Sankt Wendel


Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
source: [6]
Significant foreign resident populations [7]
NationalityPopulation (31 December 2022)
Flag of Syria.svg  Syria 30,470
Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 18,620
Flag of Ukraine.svg  Ukraine 16,810
Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey 12,260
Flag of France.svg  France 11,305
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania 9,510
Flag of Poland.svg  Poland 6,095
Flag of Bulgaria.svg  Bulgaria 5,180
Flag of Luxembourg.svg  Luxembourg 4,870
Flag of Kosovo.svg  Kosovo 2,910

Largest cities

The following table shows the ten largest cities of Saarland: [8]

Pos.NamePop. 2017Area (km2)Pop. per km2
1 Saarbrücken 180,9661681,080
2 Neunkirchen 46,76775621
3 Homburg (Saar) 41,93483508
4 Völklingen 39,37667587
5 Sankt Ingbert 35,95150720
6 Saarlouis 34,53243798
7 Merzig 29,818109274
8 Sankt Wendel 25,959114229
9 Blieskastel 20,770108192
10 Dillingen 20,14322914

Vital statistics


Saarland is the most religious state in Germany. The adherents of the Catholic Church comprise 56.8% of the population, organised in the two dioceses of Trier (comprising the formerly Prussian part of Saarland) and Speyer (for the smaller eastern formerly Palatine part). 17.5% of the Saarlandic population adhere to the Protestant Church in Germany (Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland, EKD), organised in the two Landeskirchen named Evangelical Church in the Rhineland and Evangelical Church of the Palatinate, both following the same former territorial partition. 25.7% are not affiliated with one of these churches. [10]

Saarland has the highest concentration of Roman Catholics of any German state, and is the only state in which Catholics form an absolute majority (over 50%).

Religion in Saarland – 31 December 2018 [10]
Roman Catholics
EKD Protestants
Other or none


Except for the periods between 1985 and 1999, as well as since 2022 – when the centre-left Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) has held a majority of seats in the Landtag (state diet) – the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has governed the Saarland, either alone or in coalition, since the accession of the state to the Federal Republic of Germany in 1957.

After the 2022 state elections the previous Grand Coalition between the CDU and SPD, the two largest parties in the Landtag, was replaced by an SPD majority government, the only single-party majority government of any German state, led by minister-president Anke Rehlinger.

Current government of the Saarland

Minister-president of the Saarland Anke Rehlinger 2022 SPD
Vice Minister-president of the Saarland and
Minister for the Economy, Innovation, Digital Matters and Energy
Jürgen Barke 2022 SPD
Minister for the Interior, Construction and Sport Reinhold Jost 2022SPD
Minister for Education and Culture Christine Streichert-Clivot 2019 SPD
Minister of Justice and
Minister for the Environment and Consumer Protection
Petra Berg 2022 SPD
Minister for Social Affairs, Health, Women, and the Family Magnus Jung 2022 SPD
Minister for Finance and Science Jakob von Weizsäcker 2022 SPD
Head of the State Chancellery David Lindemann 2022 SPD


The gross domestic product (GDP) of the state was €35.4 billion in 2018, accounting for 1.1% of German economic output. GDP per capita adjusted for purchasing power was €32,800 or 109% of the EU27 average in the same year. The GDP per employee was 93% of the EU average. The GDP per capita was the second lowest of all states in West Germany. [11]

Important income sources are the automobile industry, steel industry, ceramic industry and computer science and information systems industry. In the past, coal mining was an important branch of industry. However, the last coal mine in Saarland closed in 2012, ending 250 years of coal mining history in the region. [12] The decision to close the mines was motivated by safety concerns about earthquakes in the region. [13]

The unemployment rate stood at 5.8% in October 2018 and was higher than the national average but below the EU28 average. [14]

Year [15] 2000200120022003200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018
Unemployment rate in %


Saarland is home to the Saarland University and the administrative headquarters of the Franco-German University.


Local dialect

People in the Saarland speak Rhine Franconian (in the southeast, very similar to that dialect spoken in the western part of the Palatinate) and Moselle Franconian (in the northwest, very similar to that dialect spoken along the river Moselle and the cities of Trier or even in Luxembourg). [16] Outside of the Saarland, specifically the Rhine-Franconian variant spoken in the state capital Saarbrücken is generally considered to be the Saarland dialect. The two dialect regions are mainly separated by the das / dat isogloss; in the northwestern portion of the state, including cities such as Saarlouis, standard German das is pronounced with a final [t] instead of an [s].

In general, both dialects are an integral part of Saarland identity.

Both dialects, particularly in their respective Saarland flavour, share many characteristic features, some of which will be explained below.

Women and girls are often referred to using the neuter pronoun es, with the pronunciation being something like Ähs: Ähs hat mir's gesaat ('it told me so', instead of 'she told me so'; vs. High German: Sie hat es mir gesagt). This stems from the word Mädchen (girl) being neuter (es is correct when referring to words like Mädchen but would not be used by itself in reference to a woman).

The subjunctive in Rhine Franconian is normally composed with the words dääd (High German täte = "would do") or gänge ("would go") as auxiliary verbs: Isch dääd saan, dass... ("I would say that...") instead of the High German Ich würde sagen, dass....

Declension is rather different:

Diphthongs are less common than in Standard German. This is because the Standard German diphthongs ei and au are each the result of a merger of two Middle High German vowels – however, these mergers did not take place in the Saarland, and only one of the two merged vowels is pronounced as a diphthong. The front rounded vowels ö, ü, and eu are replaced by e, i, and ei respectively.

Both the Rhine Franconian and Moselle Franconian dialects (and Luxembourgish) have merged the palatal fricative sound as in ich with the post-alveolar fricative as in frisch 'fresh', causing High German minimal pairs such as Kirche 'church' and Kirsche 'cherry' to be pronounced in the same way. [17]

French has had a considerable influence on the vocabulary, although the pronunciation of imported French words is usually quite different from their originals. Popular examples include Trottwaa (from trottoir), Fissääl (from ficelle), and the imperative or greeting aalleh! (from allez!).

The English sentence "My house is green" is pronounced almost the same in the Rhine Franconian variant: Mei Haus is grien. The main difference lies in the pronunciation of the r sound.

Regional beer brewer Karlsberg has taken advantage of the Saarlandish dialect to create clever advertising for its staple product, UrPils. Examples include a trio of men enjoying a beer, flanked by baby carriages, the slogan reading "Mutter schafft" (meaning "Mum's at work" in Saarlandish, but plays on the High German word Mutterschaft 'motherhood'); another depicts a trio of men at a bar, with one realizing his beer has been drunk by one of the others, the slogan reading "Kenner war's" (meaning "It was no one" [Keiner war es] in Saarlandish, but playing on the High German word Kenner 'connoisseur', translating to "It was a connoisseur"); a third shows an empty beer crate in outer space, the text reading "All" (meaning "empty" in Saarlandish, but playing on the same High German word meaning "outer space").


The French language has a special standing in Saarland due to its geographical proximity to France. Today, a part of the population is able to speak French, and it is compulsory at many schools. [18] Saarbrücken is also home to a bilingual "Deutsch-Französisches Gymnasium" (German-French high school). In January 2014 the Saarland state government announced its aim of making the region fully bilingual in German and French by 2043. [19]


The Saar competed in the qualifying section of the 1954 FIFA World Cup, but failed after coming second to West Germany but ahead of Norway. It also competed as Saar in the 1952 Summer Olympics and the field handball world championships in the beginning of the 1950s.



  1. In 1870, 1914, and 1940.

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Further reading