Internationale Bildungsstätte Jugendhof Scheersberg: Zentrum für die kulturelle, soziale und politische Jugendbildung in Schleswig-Holstein

Turmoil in the border region

First floor

Bronze relief

The bronze relief was commissioned in 1963 by the then district administrator Gerd Lausen and created by the Glücksburg sculptor and graphic artist Siegberg Amler for DM 2,700.

The inscript that was originally stipulated was a remark made by Bismarck in 1851:

“We are not in this world to be happy and enjoy ourselves, but to perform our duty.”

Bismarck in 1851

Scheersberg in the New York Times

In July 1968, students from Kiel and Flensburg removed the sign on the Bismarck Tower during a seminar on Scheersberg. The reason for the uproar was Bismarck’s nationalist quotation. Some demanded that the relief be sunk in the Baltic Sea. The students called for a debate about whether it was appropriate to uphold Bismarck’s national-conservative traditions in the Federal Republic of Germany, which was still in its infancy. This question was evidently of interest to others besides the small group of students. Local people and politicians and civil servants from the ministry of culture in Kiel gathered on Scheersberg to take part in the debate. The discussions about the bronze relief lasted several days. 

One proposal was to insert the words “only” and “also” into Bismarck’s sentence.

“We are not in this world only to be happy and enjoy ourselves, but also to perform our duty.”

Toned-down version of the Bismarck quotation

The proposal was accepted by mutual agreement, but was never implemented. In addition, the then director Horst Röper was instructed to prepare information material about the bronze relief and make it available for visitors. This resulted in a mutually agreed and peaceful solution and it was decided not to remove the plaque from the tower. The seminar on political education attracted enormous attention in the media – not merely regionally, but also nationwide. Even the New York Times reported on the events in Angeln.


The dream of freedom

Insurrection in Schleswig and Holstein
On 24 March 1848, a “provisional government” was proclaimed in Kiel. The members, liberal-minded democratic and conservative citizens of Schleswig-Holstein, demanded that their ruler, Denmark’s King Frederik VII, divide the Duchy of Schleswig along a national line and that the rest of “Schleswigholstein” be declared a part of the German Confederation. This was insurrection, since Schleswig and Holstein had been ruled by the Danish king for centuries.

The conflict was part of the European revolutions of 1848. Dreams of freedom and constitutions went hand in hand with the desire for united nations. While the revolutionaries in all countries had liberal and national ideas, they were also very similar. However, a united Danish national state would divide Schleswig from Holstein, stretch as far as the Eider and also include the German Schleswig. Conversely, a German “Schleswigholstein” reaching almost to Kolding would include the Danish part of Schleswig.

The “uprising” led to a war that lasted several years. In the end in 1852, everything remained the same. There were a host of reasons for the failure: lack of unity, incorrect assessments, military incapacity and the failure to include the “simple people” – but above all the intervention of the major European powers, which wanted to avoid change, was decisive. The mighty Prussia was also pursuing purely power-driven interests and restoration at home after the revolution had been quashed.

“Every citizen of Schleswig-Holstein has the right to express his opinion freely. Censorship is and shall remain abolished. The freedom of the press may not be restricted either by the need to make concessions or consider public safety."

Article 23, Constitution for the Duchies of Schleswig-Holstein, of 15 September 1848

The most liberal constitution in Europe
Although the revolution had failed, a “national assembly” worked on a constitution for Schleswig-Holstein in 1848. The assembly, consisting solely of men, was elected in a fairly democratic, general and direct manner and adopted important reforms: freedom of assembly and association, freedom of the press and freedom of expression, arming of the people and military service, abolition of some taxes and privileges. The “state constitution” adopted on 15 September 1848 was later described as the “most democratic constitution that had been seen in Europe up till then”. Schleswig-Holstein was thus home to liberal ideas that pointed far into the future. 

01) The later painting of the artist Hans Olde (the Elder) (1855-1917) depicts the proclamation of the provisional government before the Kiel Town Hall. The political leaders can be seen in the middle of the painting. Theodor Olshausen, Prince Friedrich von Augustenburg, Wilhelm Beseler and Count Reventlou-Preetz can be seen on the left. The Kiel student bodies and fraternities are on the right. The flag of the German revolution waves above them. It was so “new” that the painter’s arrangement of the three horizontal colours is incorrect. The flag also clearly reflects the message of the students, namely their desire for a German Schleswig-Holstein. To the left, craftsmen and workers can be seen, waving the flag in Schleswig-Holstein colours. Above the door one, can read the inscription “up ewig ungedeelt” (forever united). Picture cropped: On the left and right at the edges of the picture, coats of arms from Schleswig and Holstein are not depicted.


Prussian canons and Danish fortifications

The Second War of Schleswig
The end of the “Schleswig-Holstein Uprising” in 1851 marked the end of the first Schleswig War, which culminated militarily in the Battle of Idstedt in 1850. In Denmark, the war entered the history books as the “Three Years’ War” (Treårskrigen). The London Protocol of 1852, which ended the conflict, granted the Danish king “personal union” in the duchies of Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg. A few years later, the London Protocol became the focal point for a rekindling in the conflict between Denmark, Austria and Prussia – the Second War of Schleswig.


Dispute over the November constitution
In the autumn of 1863, Denmark proclaimed a joint constitution for the Kingdom of Denmark and the Duchy of Schleswig. The November constitution was a violation of the London Protocol. This led to the so-called “federal execution” (Bundesexekution) – after an ultimatum had ended with no solution – troops of the German Confederation occupied the Duchies of Holstein and Lauenburg and pushed the Danish troops back into Schleswig. Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) – at that time the Minister President of Prussia – insisted on occupying the Duchy of Schleswig as well in order the enforce the annulment of the November Constitution.


Storming of the Dybbøl fortifications
Denmark remained set on confrontation and entrenched its troops behind the Danewerk and along the Schlei. As the Austrian-Prussian troops outnumbered the Danish and had superior weapons, the Danes withdrew to the Dybbøl fortifications ("Düppel" after the German victory) – situated just in front of Sønderborg ("Sonderburg"). During the retreat, battles were fought in Missunde and Oeversee/Sankelmark. On 18 April 1864, the Prussian troops stormed the Dybbøl fortifications after a siege lasting weeks. As a result, Denmark was defeated militarily.

Dybbøl fortifications – situated just in front of Sønderborg. During the retreat, battles were fought in Missunde and Oeversee/Sankelmark. On 18 April 1864, the Prussian troops stormed the Dybbøl fortifications after a siege lasting weeks. As a result, Denmark was defeated militarily. 

However, no agreement was reached afterwards. It was only the seizure of the entire Danish island of Alsen that paved the way for the Treaty of Vienna of 30 October 1864.


Schleswig and Holstein became Prussian
Under the Treaty of Vienna, Denmark had to surrender the duchies of Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg to Prussia and Austria. However, unrest continued in Schleswig and Holstein. A conflict erupted between the two victorious states about the future of the duchies, culminating in a war in 1866. Prussia emerged victorious from the war against Austria and annexed the duchies in 1867, turning them into the Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein.

01) The photo taken at that time by the Flensburg photographer Friedrich Brandt shows part of the battlefield at the Düppel fortifications. On 18 April 1864, Prussian soldiers stormed the Düppel fortifications after a siege lasting nearly five weeks and defeated the Kingdom of Denmark. Destroyed canons and horse carriages are visible in the foreground. In the background, victorious Prussian soldiers have posed for the photo on the elevation.


Do not falter, my fatherland

Tense situation around 1840
Music gives content a deeper power. It can often be difficult in terms of content, political or provocative. This is far from being a current phenomenon. The highly charged nationalist sentiment was also repeatedly rekindled in “Schleswig Holstein” in the 1840s by songs. The Duchy of Schleswig belonged to the Kingdom of Denmark. The Duchy of Holstein was part of the German Confederation, although the king continued to rule over it.

The emerging national ideas increasingly found their way into the heads of the people – throughout Europe. Denmark demanded a unified state up to the Eider, while the Holstein Assembly wanted Schleswig to join the German Confederation.

Singing associations
In 1839, the first society of singers was founded in Schleswig. Further societies followed and after just a few years more than 60 associations had been registered. Most of them were in towns and cities. In Angeln, however, singing took place in the villages as well. The meetings of the singing associations, however, involved only men. Their function went beyond that of communal singing. Instead, their purpose was to create a feeling of community and support the national idea. They became meeting points for political discussions. Later, this resulted in proper festivals, processions and the opportunity for political speeches.


Schleswig-Holstein, embraced by the sea,
Guardian of German customs,
Stay faithful to what you have struggled to attain,
Until a better tomorrow comes.
Schleswig-Holstein, one kin,
Do not falter, my fatherland.
Schleswig-Holstein, one kin,
Do not falter, my fatherland.

Translation of the first verse of the Schleswig-Holstein anthem


Singing festival of Schleswig
The song “Schleswig-Holstein, meerumschlungen”, which was well-known then – and indeed still is – evolved into a political instrument at the large singing festival in Schleswig in July 1844. 12,000 people flocked to Schleswig, a small town at that time with fewer than 11,000 inhabitants. Given such a large number of people, only a few were able to hear the more than 500 singers from 32 different groups. However, all those present were acquainted with the Schleswig-Holstein anthem. The song very clearly expressed the sentiment and national idea of a Schleswig-Holstein “fatherland” within the German Confederation. It developed enormous explosive political force. 

01) The contemporary drawing depicts the public prosecutor Matthäus Friedrich Chemnitz (1815-1870) from Schleswig. He wrote and composed the song “Schleswig-Holstein, meerumschlungen” jointly with the cantor of the Monastery of St. John Carl Gottlieb Bellmann (1772-1861). The original name was “Wanke nicht, mein Vaterland” (Do not falter, my fatherland), which became a big success at the singing festival in Schleswig in 1844 for the German-minded people in the heart of the Danish duchy.

02) In 1894, the monument of the architect Paul Peterich was erected in honour of Matthäus Friedrich Chemnitz and Carl Gottlieb Bellmann on the Hesterberg “Festwiese” – today the site is known as “Schützenkoppel” – in Schleswig. Here, we can see a contemporary drawing of Julius Fürst. The front side of the plinth shows the two portraits of Chemnitz and Bellmann.

Below the portraits are the first two lines from the Schleswig-Holstein anthem “Schleswig-Holstein, meerumschlungen, deutscher Sitte hohe Wacht”. In 1844, the festival of singing took place on the site on which the statue was erected.


Tug of war over the region

No end to the national conflict
In 1867, the entire Duchy of Schleswig was incorporated into Prussia and became the province of Schleswig-Holstein. The national conflict in the border region continued. Southern Schleswig was largely German, although it did not lean towards Prussia. In contrast, the population was predominantly Danish-minded and found itself forced to live within a German state. Segregation from the “German-minded people” and Danish national awareness played a large role for the people. 


Desire for self-determination
Towards the end of World War I when it became clear that the German Empire would be defeated, the border question in Denmark and among the Danish minority returned to the agenda. In a speech before the German Reichstag in 1918, the member H. P. Hanssen (1862-1936) pointed out that under clause 5 of the Treaty of Prague of 1866, Northern Schleswig was entitled to a plebiscite to determine whether it belonged to Denmark or Prussia. The Danes succeeded in putting the Danish border question on the agenda of the Paris Peace Conference.


Mobilisation on both sides
After lengthy discussions in Schleswig, Denmark and between the victorious states of World War I, two voting zones were defined. Voting took place on different dates. The northern part of Schleswig voted on 10 February 1020, while the southern part voted a good one month later on 14 March. Ahead of the voting, the two national parties whipped up sentiment for their own interests in the two regions. This was reflected in flags depicting the respective views, speeches and meetings throughout the border region.


Result of the plebiscite
In the northern part of Schleswig, nearly 74% voted for Denmark and 24% for Germany. In the southern part, almost 80% of the voters opted for Germany. In the city of Flensburg, 75% of the voters chose Germany. In response, the German government generously donated “Deutsches Haus” (German House) to Flensburg as an expression of its gratitude. An international commission proposed that the borders be drawn in accordance with the results of the referendum. On 15 June 1920, the governments of Denmark and Germany were informed of the new border. Since then, it has run through the historically established region of Schleswig. The border has remained unchanged to this day. National minorities continue to exist on both sides.

01) This part of an election poster from the second plebiscite zone in around 1920 clearly shows the pro-Danish intention. On the Danish side (right), young, dynamic and forward-looking men are tugging. The opposite German side (left) appears rather lethargic. A pastor, a man wearing a suit and further men can be seen. Photo cropped. The photo does not depict the large arrow pointing to the Danish side and the cry of support in Low German “Jungs holt fast” (stay strong, young men).

02/03) The two posters of 1920 display a very emotional argument, both on the German and Danish side. Both posters work with children as symbols. Translated from Danish: “Mother! Vote Danish – think of me.” In contrast, the German poster unequivocally states “I am German.”