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Dithmarschen is a region and a district in Schleswig-Holstein between the North Sea , Eider , Elbe and the Kiel Canal . The borders have existed since the Middle Ages . Dithmarschen is traditionally referred to as a (former) free peasant republic . This is not true insofar as Dithmarschen was never feudal independent (i.e. formally free). But because some lords, such as the Bremen archbishops , their suzerainty exercised not tight, a kind could emerge self-government. (See Forty (Dithmarschen) ) The landscape Dithmarschen therefore belongs together with the landscapes Eiderstedt and Fehmarn to the areas in Schleswig-Holstein in which no noble manors developed.

In the course of administrative reform in 1970, the circles were Norderdithmarschen and Süderdithmarschen to Dithmarschen combined and Heide intended for county seat. This eliminated the almost uninterrupted fragmentation of the former landscape into initially three, then for centuries two parts.

Important places besides Heide are the former capital Meldorf with its parish church known as Dithmarscher Dom , as well as Brunsbüttel , Burg , Marne , Wesselburen and the well-known holiday resorts Büsum and Friedrichskoog .

Starting from the North Sea coast that borders the country to the west, Dithmarschen consists of marshland , in the interior of Geest areas. The border to Holstein in the narrower sense or today to the Steinburg district was formed by the Holstenau , which is now cut through by the Kiel Canal.


Prehistory and early history

The oldest finds from Dithmarschen come from the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic and are located in the Geest near Schalkholz .

In particular, the settlement history of the coastal area has been well researched. Archaeological research shows that the old marsh, which was formed 2500 years ago, was settled in the early 1st century. A low storm surge level initially allowed the construction of flat settlements (Tiebensee, Haferwisch west of Heide). Rising storm surge levels have required the construction of Wurten (including Süderbusenwurth) since 50 AD . After the coastal area in the 3rd / 4th Apparently largely abandoned in the 17th century AD, the marshes have been repopulated since the 7th century. Excavations on early medieval village sausages were carried out in Wellinghusen and Hassenbüttel . Since the 12th century co-operative associations (sexes) put dikes on the marches ; as a result, the Sietland marshes, which had been marshland until then, were drained . In the years that followed, numerous Marschhufensiedlungen ( e.g. Barlt , Wennemannswisch , Haferwisch and Hödienwisch ) emerged here.

middle Ages

Dithmarschen belonged to the Saxon tribal duchy and was allegedly conquered by Charlemagne in 804 together with the Holstein and Stormarngau . In fact, only a single Franconian castle, the Esesfeldburg near Itzehoe , was built in 809/810 , which was abandoned again around 830. Charlemagne encouraged the Slavic Abodrites to appropriate the three northern Elbe Sachsengaue Stormarn, Holstein and Dithmarschen. His plan to push such a Slavic wedge between Denmark and the Franconian Empire failed because the Abodrites quickly switched sides and allied with Denmark against the Franconian Empire. Therefore only one base in northern Albingia - the castle near Itzehoe - could be held. Instead, in 811, the Eider was established as the border between the Danish and Frankish empires. It was only Karl's successors who succeeded in establishing a dependent buffer state between Denmark in the north, the Limes against the Slavs in the east and Lower Saxony as part of the Frankish Empire. Around 860 they allowed the Danish king Rorik, who fled the country and ruled as a liege of the emperor until 867 in West and East Friesland as far as Cuxhaven (where a Nordic fort was excavated), the land "between the Eider and the sea" - Dithmarschen and the Hademarschen region  - to occupy and to settle there with a few hundred Danish and Frisian followers and their wives and children. It is not known when this Danish rule in Dithmarschen ended.

The Dithmarsch Urkirchspiele. In black: today's coastline

Adam von Bremen reports in 1075 (Book II, Chapter 15): Transalbianorum Saxonum populi sunt tres: primi ad occeanum sunt Tedmarsgoi, et eorum ecclesia mater in Melindorp , that means: “The North Elbian peoples of the Saxons are three: the first at the ocean (meaning is the Oceanus Britannicus , the North Sea) are the Dithmarschers, and their mother church (is) in Meldorf . ”He also reports that Hamburg is the capital for all three Saxon tribes north of the Elbe - which is only to be understood in terms of church politics.

In fact, the power of the foreign nobles, who formally ruled the Counties of Holstein and Dithmarschen, initially barely extended beyond Hamburg. Dithmarschen and Holstein were politically independent districts, which were probably self-administered by the Ting of all free men and who chose Hertoge (military leader) and Overboden from their midst in regular Ting meetings . This political independence is expressed in the treaty between Eddelak and other Dithmarsch parishes with the Hamburg merchants around 1200, among other things to prevent the beach robbery of Hamburg goods. The formal feudal lord was not even involved in the matter. In Holstein, going-ting remained a political institution of the free peasantry and the local nobility until 1550 or 1602 (but since 1400 in the presence of the Count or Duke of Holstein). However, since the 12th century, the Counts of Schauenburg succeeded in gradually consolidating their rule over Holstein and Stormarn and adding the Slavic areas in Ostholstein to their sphere of influence. Since the 14th century they tried to extend their influence to Dithmarschen.

The Archbishop of Bremen already exercised suzerainty over Dithmarschen around 1100. However, this right was later passed on to the Counts of Stade. Their last representative, Count Rudolf II of Stade, was murdered by the Dithmarschers in 1144, and Dithmarschen fell back to the original liege lord through an exchange contract between Rudolf's brother Hartwig and the Archdiocese of Bremen.

After the Battle of Bornhöved in 1227, the area belonged to the Archdiocese of Bremen , although the influence of Bremen in Dithmarschen was not very pronounced. In the course of the 14th century, the regional Ting structures in Dithmarschen developed into a federation of independent parishes.

In 1447 the Dithmarsch land law was recorded. A higher court was created with 48 judges appointed for life ( forty-eight ). These developed into the actual self-governing body of the emerging peasant republic of Dithmarschen.

Especially in the late Middle Ages and early modern times, Dithmarschen was characterized by the wealth of the upper class of the large farmers, a high level of self-confidence and, in fact, extensive independence. Violent attempts at submission failed repeatedly ( Battle of Wöhrden against Holstein in 1319, Battle in the Süderhamme in 1403/04 against Albrecht von Holstein and Gerhard VI. Von Holstein-Rendsburg ).

In February 1500, the Dithmarschers under Wulf Isebrand defeated a Danish-Schleswig-Holstein army under King Johann in the battle of Hemmingstedt , in personal union King of Denmark, Norway and Sweden and Duke in the royal parts of Schleswig and Holstein , as well as his brother Friedrich , Duke in the Gottorf part of Schleswig and Holstein.

The invading force consisted mainly of a specialized marching war infantry troops consisting of mercenaries assembled Black Guard , and some noble equestrian units, but was poorly managed. The peasants were able to destroy this army surprisingly. At first they avoided an open battle, opened the dikes in the marshland and let the advancing army fall into a wet trap on the narrow embankment of the road from Meldorf to Heide at Dusenddüwelswarft near Hemmingstedt . Their battle cry was “Wohr di, Goor, de Buur, de kump!” (“Beware, guard, the farmer who is coming!”). Most of the mercenaries who marched closely at the head of the army, and the heavily armored knights from Schleswig-Holstein, perished when they left the completely clogged and barely defensible road embankment and were caught in the flooded march by the farmers who were superior here.

The next, now thoroughly prepared invasion of Danish-Schleswig-Holstein troops under the general Johann Rantzau , the so-called last feud , could not be stopped by the Dithmarschers in 1559. The peasants were defeated and lost their freedoms.

Westerkoog (Dithmarschen)

Early modern age

After the conquest, Dithmarschen was divided into three parts: Duke Adolf I of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf received the northern part, his brother Duke Johann von Schleswig-Holstein-Hadersleben the middle and King Frederick II of Denmark the southern part. After the death of Johann in 1581, Adolf and Friedrich Johann divided the shares between the Gottorfer and the royal line. Norder- and Süderdithmarschen exist from now on as landscapes with their own landscape order and a governor or governor at the top. This was not only obliged to the authorities, but also to the parish people. After 1864, the two landscapes were redesigned into districts of the same name. The Dithmarscher Landrecht remained in a reformed version from 1567 into the 19th century, the continued prosperity is also shown by the fact that in 1585 Büsum (then "Busen") could be diked and thus made an island part of the mainland .

Dikes in Dithmarschen

In the following decades, Dithmarschen suffered several wars and storm surges, which severely affected the landscape. In the Thirty Years' War , it was mainly Swedish and imperial troops who fought each other , while Swedish and ducal troops met Danish troops in the Northern War . While the Burchardi flood hit North Friesland in particular in 1634 and caused less devastation in Dithmarschen, the landscape suffered above all from the Christmas flood of 1717.

Modern times

In 1773 Norderdithmarschen was subordinate to the Danish king in his capacity as Duke of Holstein. At the end of the 18th century, the Danish king reformed the landscape, which had been destroyed by frequent wars, by dividing the Meente ( common property), linking the individual farms and the construction of Knicks, and restructured the rural network of paths. After 1814 Dithmarscher took part in the uprisings against Napoleon .

After the German-Danish War (1864) and the War of Prussia against Austria (1866), Dithmarschen was united with Schleswig and the rest of Holstein to form the Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein in 1867 .

Kohlfeld near Neuenkirchen

At the end of the 19th century, cabbage cultivation began on a large scale in the region, which is still popular today. After the boom associated with the Kiel Canal (formerly “Kaiser Wilhelm Canal”), the First World War brought a decline.

Dithmarschen and National Socialism

Dithmarschen was an early stronghold of National Socialism . An anti-republican and anti- modern mood led to the fact that the National Socialist blood-and-soil ideology fell on fertile ground in Dithmarschen and the NSDAP achieved 18 percent in the Reichstag election on May 20, 1928 - in the entire province of Schleswig-Holstein at that time it was four percent. In the 1930 Reichstag election it was 40 percent, and in 1932/33 the NSDAP won over 60 percent of the vote. In the Reichstag elections in March 1933, Hennstedt , Südermeldorf-Geest, Albersdorf and Tellingstedt, four of the ten municipalities with the highest NSDAP results in Germany, were in Dithmarschen, just as the region had the largest number of holders of the golden NSDAP party badge in Germany.

On April 1, 1934, most of the parishes in Norder- and Süderdithmarschen were newly formed from parts of the parishes.

Even in the 1990s, coming to terms with the Nazi era was difficult in Dithmarschen. Since 2005, the victims of National Socialism have been commemorated in various locations as part of the Stolpersteine ​​campaign .

During the Second World War , Dithmarschen was largely spared from fighting except for air raids on the port of Brunsbüttel and the oil refineries in Ostermoor and Hemmingstedt. After the Second World War, Dithmarschen and Eiderstedt (together under 120,000 inhabitants at the time) became the Allied internment area for up to 400,000 Wehrmacht soldiers (restricted area G) . During the war and afterwards, as in the rest of Schleswig-Holstein, a large number of displaced persons from the former eastern regions of Germany were accepted in Dithmarschen.

Post-war and present

Particularly in the 1950s to 1970s, the state government of Schleswig-Holstein ran an extensive industrial settlement program. With the help of a few 100 million DM subsidies, the Brunsbüttel location in particular was expanded. This program promoted the settlement of the chemical industry and the construction of the Elbe port and the nuclear power plant .

The Eider Barrage was completed in 1973 : it serves exclusively for coastal protection and is located between Dithmarschen and the Eiderstedt peninsula , which belongs to North Frisia .

After industrial emigration in the 1990s, there has been a return in the recent past. The region is primarily a holiday destination (North Sea, cycling holidays) and one of the main German producers of wind energy , cabbage and geese. The largest German oil field ( Mittelplate ) is also located in the Dithmarsch district, albeit in the North Sea in the middle of the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park .

Famous pepole


  • Martin Gietzelt (Red.): History of Dithmarschen. Published by the Association for Dithmarsch regional studies. Boyens, Heide 2000, ISBN 3-8042-0859-2 .
  • Christian Jensen, Alfred Kamphausen , Nis R. Nissen, Erich Wohlenberg: Dithmarschen: Land on the coast (3rd edition). Boyens & Co., Heide 1984, ISBN 3-8042-0326-4
  • Dirk Meier : The North Sea coast. Story of a landscape. Boyens-Buchverlag, Heide 2006, ISBN 3-8042-1182-8 .
  • Andreas LJ Michelsen (Ed.): Collection of altdithmarscher legal sources. Hammerich, Altona 1842, digitized .
  • Nis R. Nissen : A short story of Dithmarschens . Westholsteinische Verlagsanstalt Boyens, Heide 1986, ISBN 3-8042-0299-3 .
  • Ulrich Pfeil : From the German Empire to the “Third Reich”. Heath 1890–1933. Self-published, Heide 1997, (at the same time: Hamburg, University, dissertation, 1995/1996).
  • Erwin Rehn , Marie-Elisabeth Rehn : The silent ones. From Ostrowo via Berlin and Peine to Heide in Holstein to the end in Riga, Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. A Jewish family saga 1862–1944. Hartung-Gorre, Konstanz 1998, ISBN 3-89649-259-4 .
  • Marie-Elisabeth Rehn : Heider, gods sorry. Small town life under the swastika. A biography (= writings of the Swiss Society for Folklore. Vol. 73). Swiss Society for Folklore, Basel 1992, ISBN 3-908122-36-8 (new edition as print on demand: Verlag Pro Business, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-939000-31-0 ).


Dithmarschen is the backdrop for numerous German evening series and some feature films. The Tatort episode Wat Recht is, mutt Recht bliewen from 1982, which was the only one to be subtitled because the dialogues are in Low German , takes place in Dithmarschen, but was shot near Cuxhaven .

Web links

Commons : Dithmarschen  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Dithmarschen  - Sources and full texts
Wikivoyage: Dithmarschen  - travel guide

Individual evidence

  1. Frank Omland: You are voting for Hitler. Book on Demand, Norderstedt 2006, ISBN 3-8334-4894-6 , p. 25.
  2. Heiko Buschke: German press, right-wing extremism and the National Socialist past in the Adenauer era (= Campus Research 866). Campus-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main et al. 2003, ISBN 3-593-37344-0 , p. 331.