1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Schleswig

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SCHLESWIG. — The older “Schleswig-Holstein Question” (see 24.335) had an important sequel as the result of the World War, in the severing from Germany of part of Northern Schleswig.

The Peace of Vienna of 1864 had set up a joint administration of Schleswig-Holstein by Austria and Prussia. In the Peace of Prague (1866) Austria surrendered to Prussia her claims to both duchies. As regards the administration of Northern Schleswig (Nord Schleswig), an eventual cession to Denmark was reserved if the population should decide in this sense by a free vote. In 1878, however, Austria gave up this reservation, and Denmark in the Treaty of 1907 with Germany recognized that by the agreement between Austria and Prussia the frontier between Prussia and Denmark had finally been determined. The Danish population of Northern Schleswig had, it is true, never acquiesced in this settlement. Propaganda for union with Denmark never ceased, although it had greatly diminished in the years which preceded the World War. At the first elections for the Reichstag the Danes of Northern Schleswig won two seats, but after about 20 years they retained only one of them.

During the World War the movement in Northern Schleswig for separation from Prussia seemed to be in abeyance. It was only the Armistice of 1918, which gave prominence to certain points in President Wilson's programme, that once more inspired among the Danish population a vigorous demand for a plebiscite to decide the nationality of the North-Schleswigers. The Danish Government had at first adopted an attitude of reserve. But from the spring of 1919 onwards a propaganda was conducted in Copenhagen for “South Jutland,” the chief leader in the movement being Hansen-Nörremölle, who till then had been the representative of the Danish population in the German Reichstag. The German Government declared its readiness to apply President Wilson's programme for the “self-determination” of nationalities to the Danish portions of Northern Schleswig. The Treaty of Versailles provided for a plebiscite in that region. The original intention was to take the plebiscite throughout the whole of the Duchy of Schleswig, which for this purpose was to be divided into three zones. Finally, the idea of taking a plebiscite in the most southerly zone was abandoned, as the population of that district was purely German.

Article 109 of the Treaty established two zones for the plebiscite. The northern, or first, zone was bounded on the S. by a line passing through the islands of Röm and Sylt, keeping S. of Tondern, and then running to the N. of Flensburg, through the middle of the Flensburger Fjord, and leaving the island of Alsen to the N. of the line. The second zone included the islands of Sylt and Föhr and ran on, after bulging somewhat to the S. to the Flensburger Fjord on the east. Within this second zone lay Flensburg. The whole of the plebiscitary area had to be evacuated by the German troops and civil authorities within 10 days after the Treaty of Peace came into force. Powers of administration were transferred to an Inter-Allied Commission. In the first zone the plebiscite was to take place, at latest, three weeks after the German evacuation; in the second zone, at latest, five weeks after the plebiscite in the first zone. The decision regarding the assignment of territory to Denmark or to Germany on result of the plebiscite was to be taken on the proposal of the Inter-Allied Commission with due consideration for the special economic and geographical conditions of the region. The Danish Government appointed the former Reichstag deputy Hansen to the post of Danish minister for Schleswig, with the task of maintaining Danish interests in the plebiscitary area. All persons, without distinction of sex, who had completed their twentieth year and either had been born in the plebiscitary area or had lived there before Jan. 1 1900, were entitled to vote. On the German side, a German committee for Schleswig was formed, and was entrusted with German propaganda and preparations for the plebiscite.

On Jan. 15 1920 the Inter-Allied Commission, which had previously assembled at Copenhagen, took over the administration of the plebiscitary area. The German officials had to leave this territory, and their place was taken by native Landräte and administrative officials appointed by the Commission. The German troops evacuated the region by Jan. 20. A battalion of British troops was stationed at Flensburg, a French battalion at Hadersleben and another at Sonderburg. The Inter-Allied Commission was composed of Marling (Great Britain), Claudel (France), Heyste (Norway), and von Sydow (Sweden). It promptly issued regulations for the plebiscite, dealing with the voting qualification and the registration of votes. A control over persons entering the plebiscitary area was also established. A vigorous propaganda was initiated both on the Danish and on the German side and led to a number of incidents especially at Flensburg. The plebiscite in the first zone took place on Feb. 10. On the whole it passed off quietly. It resulted in a great Danish majority; 75,151 votes were cast for Denmark and 25,231 for Germany. The larger towns, Tondern, Hoyer, etc., had in all cases a German majority, while the rural population, with the exception of a few German enclaves, voted almost in its entirety Danish. The campaign was much keener in the second zone, where the polling day had been fixed for March 14. There were sharp conflicts, particularly at Flensburg, where the burgomaster, Todsen, was expelled by the Inter-Allied Commission. When a prohibition against the display of flags on the day of the plebiscite was issued on March 6, the German assessors of the Inter-Allied Commission resigned their posts. Repeated collisions with the French troops of occupation took place at Flensburg, and were not unattended by bloodshed. The plebiscite resulted in a great German success; about 51,000 votes were recorded for Germany and only 13,000 for Denmark. There were only two communes which had a Danish majority.

The determination of the frontier took a long time. Germany advocated the so-called Tiedje line, while on the Danish side propaganda was made for the so-called Clausen line. The Council of Ambassadors of the Allies gave its decision at the beginning of June. On June 15 the president of the Paris Peace Conference handed the German delegation a note in which the German-Danish frontier was fixed as follows. It begins at the entrance to the Flensburger Fjord, passes through the middle of that fjord, reaches the mainland immediately to the N. of Flensburg, leaves Flensburg to the S. and then follows a line which reaches the North Sea at Sieltoft. The island of Sylt falls to Germany, the island of Röm to Denmark. On the whole this meant the adoption of the Clausen line. The territory assigned to Denmark was at once handed over to her on June 15, while the territory that remained German was forthwith placed once more under German administration. German troops reentered Flensburg on June 16 after the members of the Inter-Allied Commission had left the town.

The detailed settlement of the territory to be ceded to Denmark was effected by a treaty concluded between Germany and Denmark and signed in the middle of July. At the beginning of July Denmark gradually took over the administration of the ceded districts, the administration of justice being the last department to become Danish. It is worth noting that the day of the plebiscite in the second zone coincided with the Kapp Putsch in Berlin. (C. K.*)