Freistaat Flaschenhals /
Bottleneck Free State
(Jan. 10th, 1919-Feb. 25th,1923)
This page was made possible by the combined effort of diverse members of the
Unrecognised States Numismatic Society
FLASCHENHALS: In the 20th century, Allied forces occupied Germany not just once, but twice. The better-known (and longer-lasting) occupation took place in the decades after World War II. The lesser-known one occurred after World War I. For a few years after 1918, British, French and American forces took up positions in the Rhineland, wholly occupying the area west of the river Rhine – but eventually also some areas on the Rhine’s right bank.
One of the unintended consequences of that expansion of Allied military sovereignty over the Rhine was the creation of the so-called Freistaat Flaschenhals, literally translated: the Free State of Bottleneck, after its geographic shape. This miniature quasi-state existed for just a bit over four years, from 10 January 1919 until 25 February 1923.
Flaschenhals came into being after the Allies extended their jurisdiction in a 30 km radius from the Rhine-side cities of Cologne (UK), Koblenz (US) and Mainz (France). Because of the proximity of Mainz and Koblenz, the US and French ‘circles’ of occupation across the Rhine didn’t quite overlap. The resulting bottleneck-shaped area between both circles contained the Wisper valley, which comprises the towns of Lorch and Kaub, and the villages of Lorchhausen, Sauerthal, Ransel, Wollmerschied, Welterod, Zorn, Strüth and Egenrod.
The Wispertal wasn’t just hemmed in on two sides by the American and French zones of occupation, but also cut off from the rest of unoccupied Weimar Germany by the Taunus mountain-range in the east. Thus effectively left to fend for themselves, the approximately 8.000 people of the Wisper Valley declared their independence in early 1919, declaring Lorch its capital and electing the mayor of that largest city in the valley its president. Herr Präsident Pnischneck oversaw the administration of the ministate, which even produced its own stamps, paper currency and passports.
Since transportation by land, air and water was impossible and trains were not permitted to stop in Flaschenhals, the main source of income of the ministate was smuggling. At one time, this even involved hijacking a French coal train in nearby Rüdesheim and driving it to Flaschenhals, where the contents were distributed among the population.
Flaschenhals felt confident enough to draw up plans for an embassy in Berlin. The Free State was abolished before this could happen. Following the French occupation of the Ruhr area in 1923, Flaschenhals was eventually reincorporated into the Prussian province of Hesse-Nassau.The history of the Flaschenhals may not be widely known outside the area itself, but there it is an added tourist attraction, mainly in the towns of Lorch and Kaub. Not that tourists are scarce in the area, which is part of the Unesco World Heritage Site of the Rhine Gorge.
To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the establishment of the Free State, the Freistaat Flaschenhals Initiative (FFI) was started in 1994 by the area’s winegrowers and gourmets/gastronomists, with the goal of promoting the rich culture/history of the region and to increase tourism. The FFI has also printed a passport (reisepass) which entitles the bearer to receive special deals and discounts from area wineries, hotels and restaurants. Furthermore, the FFI has issued an undated commemorative 10 Taler medallion. As a spendable item, the coin was valid from January 10, 1999 to February 25, 2003. This corresponds to the life-span of the Freistaat, as well as to the amount of time during which its original money circulated. Not only is the coin a collectible, but folks in the region could use it as a gutschein (coupon/voucher) — worth 30 Deutsche Marks and later 15 Euros — in local wineries and restaurants (for special bottles of wine and specialty dishes).
© 2009 Tædivm / C.D. Shiboleth. info thanks to Wikipedia, E.V.M. McCrea & P. Geelen; Layout thanks to G. Cruickshank / USNS.