Monumenter i købstaden 1864 - 1920

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The re-unification of North Schleswig with Denmark in 1920

The end of the First World War brought about a plebiscite in Schleswig, to determine whether or not the area should be a part of Denmark or Germany. The result of the plebiscite was a division of Schleswig into a southern part called South Schleswig, which was to remain German, while the northern part of Schleswig became Danish under the name of Southern Jutland. The re-unification of the northern part of Schleswig/Southern Jutland with Denmark was celebrated all over the country and in Southern Jutland itself was the cause of great celebration and in addition a large number of monuments were erected to celebrate the event.

The peace treaty of 1919

Already in October 1918 the demand that Schleswig was to be returned to Denmark was brought up in the German parliament by representatives from Schleswig with Danish sympathies. Later the question was also raised as part of the peace conference at Versailles in 1919, which officially ended the First World War.

There it was decided to hold a plebiscite in Schleswig to determine the future of the area. That Germany accepted this demand was due to the fact that the country had just lost the First World War and for this reason was in a weak negotiating position. Also just after the First World War the principles of national self-determination, promoted by the American president Wilson, had become part of the agenda of the post-war settlement in Europe.

After the war had ended Denmark supported the demand for re-unification launched by the political leaders of Schleswig with Danish sympathies. The result of the Paris peace conference was a plebiscite, in which Schleswig was divided into two zones. The result of each zone would determine whether or not the people of that part of Schleswig would be Danish or German.

Zone 1 covered the northern part of Schleswig from the river Kongeåen in the north, the Danish - German border since 1864, to the present day border along the line of the towns of Kruså and Padborg; in other words what is now Southern Jutland. Zone 2 covered the southern part of Schleswig from the town of Flensburg in the north, to the river Eider in the south; in other words what is now called South Schleswig.

The result of the plebiscite of Zone 1 on 10th February 1920 and produced a vast majority in favour of the area becoming Danish, while the results of the plebiscite of Zone 2 was a vast majority in favour of that area remaining German. The end result was that the border was to be drawn between the two zones and congruent with the present day border.

In spite of the weak position of Germany in international politics just after the First World War at no point did Denmark demand a return of the whole of Schleswig. This was no doubt due to the country wanting to make sure, that if Germany again became a strong European power then it could not lay claim to Danish territory, on the grounds that Denmark had taken over the area in spite of a German majority. France, on the other hand, had wanted to give as much of Schleswig to Denmark as possible in order to weaken Germany on a permanent basis. This was due to the two countries having been at war with each other not only in the First World War, but also in the war of 1870-1871.

There were also Danish nationalists in Denmark, who, even after the results of the plebiscite, wanted the area of Zone 2 to become a part of Denmark in spite of its German majority. The Danish king, Christian 10th, agreed with them and the issue of the future of Southern Schleswig was one of the questions of domestic controversy in the so-called Easter-crisis of 1920, which led to the king dismissing the government. By 1920 it was custom in Denmark, that the king no longer played a part in politics. The king was forced to back down and no Danish king or queen has intervened in politics since.

Celebrating the re-unification

On 15th June 1920 it was clear, exactly where the new border between Denmark and Germany would be. This date was therefore chosen to mark the anniversary of the re-unification. A tradition that has survived to the present day, and on that day all government buildings fly the Dannebrog, the Danish national flag. The re-unification, however, was not really completed until the 9th July 1920, which was the day when Northern Schleswig officially became a part of Denmark as Southern Jutland. It was on that day in 1920 and in the days that followed that the re-unification was celebrated in Denmark. On 10th July King Christian 10th crossed the border on horseback for the first time and he did so riding a completely white horse. He crossed the border at Frederikshøj between the towns of Kolding and Haderslev. Some have speculated that the horse had been painted white for the occasion, though nobody knows if this is true. A monument erected in honour of the horse at the Visborggård estate in Northern Jutland. The monument is mentioned in the article about monuments for animals, which is part of this web site.

The day of the re-unification on 9th July and the days immediately after were days of celebration all over Denmark and not least in Southern Jutland. Even in parts of Denmark, which were not particularly close to the old border witnessed great celebrations. The event took up much space in the media not only on 9th July, but also on the days and in the weeks before and after the re-unification took place. For the vast majority of Danes it was one of the greatest days in Danish history.

The main celebration took place at the old battlefield of the wars of 1848-50 and 1864, Dybbøl, just outside of the town of Sønderborg. On 11th July 1920 some 100,000 people gathered there singing Danish patriotic songs. The royal family, the government and the members of both chambers of parliament were present and speeches were made in which national unity was emphasized.


Adriansen, Inge og Eske Wohlfahrt: ”Kulturarv i Database – monument, ideologi og landskab”, i; Annette Lerche Trolle m.fl. (red.): …herfra min verden går. Dansk Identitet i fortid, nutid og fremtid (2002), s. 144-156.

Baltzersen, Jan: ”Genforeningsstenene i Lime, Lemmer og Syvveje” (= The Monuments in Lime, Lemmer and Syvveje commemorating the Re-unification), i; Egnsarkivet, nr. 13, (januar 2003), s 6-11. Udg. Lime og Omegns Lokalhistoriske Forening.

Christiansen, Niels Finn: Gyldendal og Politikens Danmarkshistorie, bind 12 1900 - 1925: Klassesamfundet organiseres, (2. udg., København 2004), s. 275-308.

Fink, Troels: Da Sønderjylland blev delt, 3 bind, (1979).

Genforeningen 1920. Mindeudstilling på Sønderborg Slot (1970).

Hansen, Ole Steen: Danmark under 1. verdenskrig (2000).

Jørgensen, Harald: Nordslesvigs genforening med Danmark i 1920. En samling kronikker (1970).

Kaper, Ernst: Den største stund vor slægt har oplevet. Dybbølfesten 11. juli 1920 (1921).

Petersen, Kai A.: Vort århundredes hvornår skete det (1985).

Vejlager, Johannes: 533 Mindesmærker for Genforeningen (1934).

Vejlager, Johannes: Genforeningsmindesmærkernes Historie (1939). – The record of monuments of National significance run by the National Cultural Heritage Agency, Copenhagen.