SAARBRUECKEN, Jan. 14, 1935 (UP) - A semi-official check of 500,000 voters in the Saar plebiscite indicated tonight nearly 80 per cent in favor of reunion with Germany.
The figure may be increased or decreased by the remainder of the count, but reliable predictions were that it would be greater, insuring the return of the Saar to Germany.
The votes were being counted by 140 neutrals locked up in the Wartburg Hall under military guard. The ballot determines the fate of 800,000 inhabitants of the Saar's 738 square miles.
The count had been delayed because of confusion in the ballot boxes and the tellers spent most of the day sorting them by districts. They hoped to complete their count by 2 A.M. tomorrow. It is to be announced to the world at 8 A.M. tomorrow (2 A.M. New York time).
The vote, held yesterday, was absolutely secret. Interviews with voters, selected at random and giving a cross section of sentiment, indicated that from 60 to 75 per cent of the electorate, possibly more, cast their ballots for return to German nationality.
As announcement of the expected Nazi victory neared, the first of 40,000 persons who must leave the Saar if it goes German - refugees from Nazi displeasure - crossed the border into France, where special customs posts had been set up to receive them and route them to towns which were ready to offer shelter and work.
The counting was done under floodlights. Members of the Plebiscite Commission, sitting on thrones, watched the proceedings. The 400 newspaper men, representing the press of forty countries, were allowed in the hall.
Thousands of Saarlanders outside sang Nazi and anti-Nazi hymns, but made no effort to break through the thin but efficient cordon of British soldiers.
There were 539,300 names on the voting lists - Saarlanders and persons who were living in the Saar when the Versailles treaty was signed. Estimates of the proportion of eligibles who voted ranged as high as 98 per cent. There were three courses open: - To remain under League rule, to become French or to return to German nationality.
A great majority for German nationality will be a victory for Nazism, because yesterday's vote was as secret as impartial experts could make it.
At nightfall the population massed in the streets of Saarbruecken and other towns and sang German songs and Nazi hymns. Beacons along the frontier blazed into flames in token that the Saar was German again.
Italian tanks and British armored cars patrolled roads all night to make sure there was no interference with the ballot trucks.
When the count was started the neutral tellers worked in relays. Coffee and sandwiches were provided. They may not leave the counting rooms until the count is complete and the result has been telephoned to the League Council at Geneva tonight.
The building was surrounded all night and today by Saarlanders, giving the Nazi salute and the "Heil Hitler" shout.
The plebiscite itself will not automatically fix the Saar's status. The League Council must interpret the vote and make a decision in the best interests of Saarlanders. A close vote would bring an international crisis, and statesmen all over Europe, notably in France, hoped fervently that there would be a tremendous majority whatever the sentiment of voters.