Danish minority in Germany

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In addition to the Dannebrog , the Danish people from southern Schleswig also use a flag with the Schleswig lion

The Danish minority in Germany (Danish South Schleswig) is an autochthonous ethnic group in Schleswig-Holstein in the Schleswig ( South Schleswig ) part of the country and, according to official sources, comprises around 50,000 members. According to a study by the University of Hamburg from 2015, the number is even more than 100,000 members, of which 42,000 live in the traditional part of Schleswig in the northernmost state, 37,000 in Holstein and 25,000 in Hamburg .


Hiort Lorenzen-Skolen, Schleswig. One of the schools for the Danish minority.

Like the Frisians , Sorbs and Roma , the Danish people from southern Schleswig-Holstein enjoy special minority protection as a national minority in accordance with the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities ratified by Germany in 1997 . In the Bonn-Copenhagen Declaration of 1955, the German government committed itself to protecting the Danish minority; the Danish government guarantees similar minority rights for the German minority .

The five percent hurdle has been lifted for the representation of the Danish minority in the Schleswig-Holstein state parliament ; There are grants for the Danish-speaking schools , and the maintenance of religious, cultural and professional relationships with Denmark is guaranteed.


Members of the Danish minority in Südschleswig call themselves "Danish Südschleswigers" (danske sydslesvigere) or simply as "Südschleswigers" (sydslesvigere). As a rule, Danish citizens of southern Schleswig have sole German citizenship (with Danish national beliefs), but there is currently a discussion in Denmark about opening up dual citizenship , which should also enable members of the Danish minority to obtain Danish citizenship. To distinguish between Danes in southern Schleswig and in the Kingdom of Denmark, the latter are also referred to as "rigsdanskere" (imperial Danes, similar to citizens of Germany). Individual voices in the minority also see themselves as multicultural German-Danish and emphasize the regional cross-border aspect more strongly than people from Schleswig in contrast to a purely national point of view as Danes, Germans or possibly Frisians.


Since 1965, all questions of federal domestic policy concerning the Danish minority have been discussed by the “Advisory Committee on Questions of the Danish Minority at the Federal Minister of the Interior”. The Committee is composed of the Federal Minister of the Interior, a State Secretary of the Federal Interior Ministry , two members of the parliamentary groups of the German Bundestag , three members of the Danish minority (two of Südschleswigscher voters association, SSW and the Südschleswigscher Association, SSF ) and the minority representative in the country Schleswig-Holstein as the representative of the State Chancellery and is the source of all official information and communications that are distributed in print and internet media. Depending on the problem and the task at hand, employees from other ministries can also temporarily attend the committee.

The data and figures passed on by the committee, such as the size of the Danish minority of 50,000 people, come from the two Danish associations SSW and SSF. On the one hand, the organizations used the number of voters and, on the other hand, added up the number of users and members of all Danish cultural and sports associations, kindergartens, schools, libraries and the church and tried to reduce the amount to a level that takes multiple memberships into account. On the one hand, it is problematic that the data records of the organizations are not networked with one another, so that an exact consideration of multiple memberships would theoretically only be possible with a great deal of effort, and on the other hand, that the differently high, sometimes significantly predominant, proportion of non-members depending on the organization - Danes are not taken into account. Based on the Bonn-Copenhagen Declaration - “Anyone who calls themselves Dane is a Dane” - the use of the facilities is by definition already seen as a commitment to Denmark.

The number of Danes of 50,000, based on the self-reports of the SSW and SSF, is opposed to official estimates, which use the language as a basis, of over 10,000 to 20,000, as well as the historical figures. Nevertheless, the information provided by the committee alone forms the basis for all official information published below by German federal, state or local authorities and is used as a source for reference works such as Fischer's World Almanac, Meyer's Lexicon or Brockhaus, so that the number 50,000 in publications by other institutions is cited as the "real size" of the Danish minority, although the practice of minority regulation deviates from the common definitions of the UN, the Council of Europe and others in that it completely dispenses with objective definition criteria. This then leads, for example, to phenomena such as the sudden increase in the world almanac by Fischer, who until 1994 always spoke of 30,000 Danes, then from 1995 ad hoc 60,000 Danes and since 2001 only 50,000 Danes. Since 2015, the differences in the figures have been completed by the aforementioned survey by the University of Hamburg (see above), according to which the minority consists of around 104,000 members who live not only in the Schleswig region (42,000), but also in Holstein (37,000) as well in Hamburg (25,000). However, it is unclear whether the University of Hamburg's estimate also includes the 7,000 to 8,000 Danish citizens in Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein.

Historical data can also be used as an indicator for a realistic assessment of the size of the Danish minority:

  • the result of the census of 1900 in the German Empire, in which, among other things, the nationality of all residents was recorded: in this census, around 140,000 people in the entire administrative district of Schleswig (today's Schleswig-Holstein and the former Danish office Sønderjylland) declared themselves to be Danish about 20,000 in the area of ​​today's German part of Schleswig - the percentage of Danish-minded people was determined explicitly for each district, for example for the former urban and rural districts of Flensburg (including what is now the Danish part north of the border) as Danish "strongholds" with 6.8% or 6.3%, for the former districts of Husum, Eiderstedt, Schleswig and Eckernförde shares of less than 5% - it is also interesting that almost 21,000 people described themselves as Frisians, 11.6% of them in the former district of Husum and 11.6% in the former District of Tondern (today half Danish and half German) 22.5%
  • The result of the vote on the national affiliation of Schleswig in 1920: In voting zone II, which consists of the former urban district of Flensburg, the southern, now German part of the former district of Flensburg, the southern, now German part of the former district of Tondern and a northern border strip of the former district of Husum and today corresponds to the northern part of today's Schleswig near the border, around 12,800 people voted for Denmark
  • the information from the Society for Schleswig-Holstein History on the development of the size of the Danish minority in the period from 1920 to 1945: this is given for the period immediately after 1920 with around 10,000, for the period up to 1930 with around 7,000, for the period up to 1945 with around 3,000–6,000
  • The information from the Sydslesvigsk Forening after 1945 about its membership numbers : This was 12,000 in 1946, then increased within a year to over 68,000 in 1947, then was around 75,000 until the Federal Republic of Germany was founded in 1949 and then decreased continuously by almost 10% annually. In 1958 the number of members was still around 33,000, then continued to decrease by around 3 to 4% annually until the mid-1970s, remained largely constant until the beginning of the 1980s, then continued to decrease by 2% annually until it rose again by 3 for the first time in 2005 % to 14,000 members
  • The information provided by the Society for Threatened Peoples or by the Danish Institute for Border Region Research on the number of people who use Danish in everyday life, which is given as 8,000 or 10,000 people, can be mentioned as an additional criterion for verifying all the figures discussed. These figures are consistent with the information provided by the Danish Cultural Association, which assumes there are more than 10,000 Danish native speakers .
  • The number of members of the Danish Church in southern Schleswig can be used as a further criterion; 6,300 people are committed to this. It is still a common practice in Denmark to be a member of the Church. See also: Religion in Denmark

The rector of the Danish AP Möller School in Schleswig, Jörgen Kühl, as the author of numerous publications on the Danish minority, has developed a model that describes the minority as circles of different density and distance from a center. At its core are the members of the minority, whose families mostly made up the core of the minority even before 1945. Kühl estimates this at a few thousand. Circles then follow concentrically, which are characterized by the fact that they each include (significantly) more people than the core population, and with increasing distance from the "center" usually less Danish language skills and a less pronounced national - often a pronounced regional - self-perception have.

As a result of the Bonn-Copenhagen Declarations of 1955, both an explicit survey of the number of minorities and the verification of any self-assessment of the Danish or third-party associations by state authorities are inadmissible. According to the Institute for Border Region Research, “it can still neither be falsified nor verified, but rather has to be described as an estimate due to the lack of alternatives”, as “no surveys that allow an exact assessment” exist.


Both the Danish minority in southern Schleswig and the German minority in Denmark emerged from the division of Schleswig after the referendum in 1920.

The coexistence of “German” and “Danish” caused few problems in times when only dynastic affiliation was important, or in the later phase of liberal Danish absolutism . In the 19th century, however, along with the rise of nationalism and demands for civil rights, it led to conflicts between the population groups.

An uprising of the Schleswig-Holsteiners against Denmark in 1848-1851 ultimately led to a war between Denmark on the one hand and Prussia and Austria on the other. From 1864 to 1920 all of Schleswig was Prussian. In 1920, after the referendums in 1920, the northern part fell to Denmark, and today's border (→ Clausen Line ) was created with the result that minorities lived on both sides.

Development of the minority

1920 to 1945

The Danish minority in southern Schleswig emerged after the referendum in Schleswig in 1920. When Schleswig was divided at that time, a deliberate decision was made not to draw a line between German and Danish in order to give Denmark as large an area as possible. National minorities of different sizes remained on both sides of the border: south of the new state border (in the 2nd zone), 12,800 people voted in the referendum for Denmark; further south, where there was no vote, the Danish orientation was likely to have been poor. During the National Socialist era between 1933 and 1945, the minority was subjected to reprisals, even if not directly persecuted. However, members of the minority were also the only Reich citizens who were exempt from compulsory participation in Nazi organizations. During this time, around 1,000 members left the minority, but this does not mean that they were not Danish-speaking or devoted to Denmark. The Society for Schleswig-Holstein History speaks of only "2,700 organized Danes towards the end of the war", which in turn does not indicate the actual spread of the Danish language.

1945 to 1955

In the first years after the war, the associations of the Danish minority saw massive access. Just two years after the end of the war, around 100,000 people identified with the minority (Kühl 120,000–150,000, GSHG 62,000, see each web link below). While in 1945 there were only nine Danish schools with fewer than 500 students, in 1948 there were already 60 schools with 14,500 students. The public commitment to Denmark was no longer associated with reprisals or discrimination. In the first state election in 1947, Danish candidates received 99,500 votes. At the beginning of 1948 the Danish cultural association, the Südschleswigsche Verein, reached its highest number of members (78,000). However, the later decline in membership does not necessarily mean a decline in the number of Danish-speaking citizens.

Experts believe that most of the “New Danes” won during this period were not of Danish origin. For example, Kühl speaks of the fact that the motives are “partly ... political , national , genealogical , but especially also material motives ”, and goes on to say that “the influx of refugees and displaced persons from the east ... also the turn many locals to the Danish minority, who demanded the removal of the refugees and the formation of a separate country in southern Schleswig ”. The GSHG states something similar: “Among the 'new Danes' there were also many who were foreign to the Danish culture and language. They hoped and demanded that South Schleswig would be separated from Germany and come to Denmark. This was combined with the wish that afterwards the refugees who were perceived as a burden and danger to their own identity would be expelled. ”To this end, a group of prominent Danish-minded South Schleswig residents from Flensburg submitted an application to the British occupation authorities in September 1945 to deliver all refugees from the Schleswig region remove. The letter also contained z. T. racist attacks against the refugees. Until 1955, there was also an internal ban on members of the Danish minority from marrying refugees. Such information was passed on to the leadership of the minority via "informants" in the registry offices.

See also: Bacon Danes

Schleswig-Holstein was particularly affected by displaced persons from the former German eastern regions . The Society for Schleswig-Holstein History estimates the ratio between the native population and displaced persons in October 1946 to be 4: 3. Virtually every house had to accommodate refugees; Rationing and food shortages prevailed. In 1950 displaced persons made up 33% of the population of Schleswig-Holstein, by far the largest proportion in the Federal Republic.

Social democrats in particular were oriented towards the north, but Denmark was also occasionally promoted on the bourgeoisie. In the summer of 1945, the later CDU Prime Minister Friedrich Wilhelm Lübke agitated among the Angelner farmers for Denmark, but only one year later he was an opponent of the movement to move borders.

In 1953 the state government launched the North program . The aim was to address the general need in the structurally weak northern part of the country, which was exacerbated by the high proportion of refugees. This funding program also hoped to limit the number of people coming to the Danish movement. In the sparsely populated communities directly on the border, many newly built farms were distributed to refugees. This was considered controversial for the Danish movement and led to constant changes in the population. The southern Jutian colloquial language, which was still spoken in communities on the Geest without any relation to national orientation, was pushed back further.

After 1990

Similarly, a large part of the increase in SSW voters in recent years has come from people who have moved here from other federal states (Kühl / Bohn p. 190/191). A classic example of one of the many new Danes ("it has become fashionable to be a Dane in Germany", "and this number is still rising") can be found under the link "Self-Presentation of the Danish Minority". In Kühl's analysis (Kühl / Bohn p. 186) this point is seen as a major problem for identification: For example, after its increasing success in the 1990s, the SSW had to use both the Danish language and information about the mediate Danish minority themselves from the ground up. In the last ten years, however, the number of members in the Südschleswigschen Verein has decreased by around 3,500 people, whereas the number of pupils in the schools of the minority only decreased by around 300 in the same period. A fundamental study by the Danish linguist Karen Margrethe Pedersen, who examined the use of language within minority organizations, is interesting. Accordingly, German was the predominant language used in many affiliated associations; Danish was spoken most frequently in the school association or requested by the members of the events she observed as a means of communication; this was least observed at SSW events and in the numerous Danish sports associations. She also found that up to 80% of the pupils who went to Danish secondary minority schools had grown up monolingual in German by the time they went to (compulsory) Danish kindergarten. Again and again, teachers at the minority schools, who mostly came from "Reich Denmark", complain that their students speak German in the schoolyard - a language that they themselves understand little or not at all. The Danish minority is of course shaped by the German-speaking environment and since its members live without any problems in the majority society, the German language is part of everyday life. The Danish dialect that grew out of this daily language contact is known as Südschleswigdänisch or Sydslesvigdansk . It is characterized by the use of special vocabulary borrowed from German or directly translated from it, as well as by the German sentence structure when using Danish words. Overall, it can be observed that with the end of the "border struggle" and the national antagonism, the cultural and linguistic friction surface disappears, which is necessary, among other things, for a minority to cultivate its core cultural competencies such as mastering their own national language. Since the minority is evidently also very attractive for Germans and the minority cannot make language skills a criterion for membership (see principle of confession), this development is particularly dynamic and has been recognized as a problem by the minority.


Many of the Danes living in the south of Schleswig are now organized in the Südschleswigschen Verein . There are also Danish schools , libraries and churches in the region . The Danish minority works with a part ( Friisk Foriining ) of the Frisian minority living on the west coast in the district of North Friesland .

In addition to the Danish minority, around 6,000 Danish citizens live in Schleswig-Holstein, so-called Reich Danes, who are not on an equal footing with the native ethnic group of the Danish southern Schleswig-Holstein but with other non-German EU citizens.


The South Schleswig Voters' Association (SSW) is known nationwide as the political representative of the Danish minority. According to the electoral law for the state parliament of Schleswig-Holstein, every party of the Danish minority of Schleswig-Holstein is exempt from the five percent threshold in state elections. The share for the SSW amounted to 20,000 to 25,000 votes in the Schleswig region (first votes) until the end of the 1980s. Since the change of the Schleswig-Holstein suffrage (against the vote of the SSW) with the introduction of the second vote in 2000, which also makes the election of the SSW in Holstein possible, the share of the SSW has grown by around 25,000 second votes (45% more second votes ) from Holstein, i.e. an area that historically has no indigenous Danes, to over 50,000 second votes today, which are relevant for the distribution of seats in the state parliament and for determining the size of the minority (although there has also been an increase in votes in the state part since then Schleswig gave, so the increase in votes cannot be explained solely by the increase in votes in Holstein, albeit to a large extent). The election results of the SSW in the Holstein region have shown that even locally up to 4% of the votes were obtained in an area in which a Danish minority has never lived before. In the state of Schleswig, on the other hand, the SSW achieved values ​​of over 10 and locally around 20 percent.


  • Jørgen Kühl: A European model? National minorities in the German-Danish border region 1945–2005 . Ed .: Robert Bohn . Publishing house for regional history, 2005, ISBN 3-89534-541-5 .
  • Bodo Pieroth / Tobias Aubel: The concept of the Danish minority in Schleswig-Holstein state suffrage . In: NordÖR . 2001, p. 141-147 .
  • Society for threatened peoples (ed.): About the situation of the language minorities in the EU . Bolzano 2000.
  • Immo Doege, Manfred Jessen-Klingenberg : The national minorities in the Schleswig border region 1920-1955 (=  Schleswig-Holstein history in photos, booklet to the slide series . No. 3 ). Kiel 1990, OCLC 873067714 .
  • Study on the Rights of Persons belonging to Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. UN Document E / CN. 4 / Sub. 2/384 / Add. 1-7, 1977 and Proposal Concerning a Definition of the Term 'Minority'. UN Document E / CN. 4 / Sub. 2/1985/31, 1985.
  • Jan Schlürmann : Sydslesvigs farver - traditional eller modern, en eller flere farver? In: Flensborg Avis, March 10, 2016.

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. The Danish minority. State government of Schleswig-Holstein, archived from the original on October 10, 2009 ; Retrieved September 29, 2009 .
  2. http://www.kn-online.de/Schleswig-Holstein/Aus-dem-Land/Studie-aus-Hamburg-Daenische-Minderheit-doppel-so-gross
  3. Minority Secretariat : Who do we represent
  4. As a result of the Secretary General of Sydslesvigsk Forening, the possibility of dual citizenship internally and externally would underline the fact that the minority belongs to the Danish people more clearly, see Danmarks Radio: Mindretal vil også være danske statsborgere of 4 December 2014
  5. Sydslesvigsk Forening: Dobbelt statsborgerskab - også for danske sydslesvigere
  6. cf. to the interview with Katrine Hoop : Greænseforeningen: I am en slesviger
  7. The Danish language. Danish Cultural Institute, accessed October 14, 2010 .
  8. ^ Dansk. Universitetet i Tromsø, Faculty for humaniora, samfunnsvitskap og lærarutdanning, archived from the original on March 3, 2016 ; Retrieved October 14, 2010 .
  9. ^ [1] , Statistical Office for Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein
  10. The Danish language. Danish Cultural Institute, accessed October 14, 2010 .
  11. http://www.dks-folkekirken.dk/om-dks/kort-kirkehistorie/
  12. Jørgen Kühl: A sustainable minority model. Federal Agency for Civic Education, accessed on September 29, 2009 .
  13. a b Sønderjyllands historie 1945 -. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007 ; Retrieved September 29, 2009 (Danish).
  14. "IV. We demand that our border region South Schleswig be freed of refugees as soon as possible. For months this stream of strangers has been pouring over our homeland and threatens to destroy or even biologically destroy our traditional Nordic folklore. This immigration and Borussification of the purely northern southern Schleswig-Holstein means a serious danger that has threatened the substance of our population for centuries. (…) In contrast to Holstein, whose inhabitants have Lower Saxony and Slavic roots, the majority belong to southern Schleswig-Holstein, apart from the North Frisians on the west coast , to the same Jutian tribe as the inhabitants of today's Danish North Schleswig. (...) But the Schleswig tribe always remained the same biologically. (...) If South Schleswig is not freed from the mass immigration of refugees, that means that our quiet Nordic population would be foreigned and dominated by elements that come from Europe's “Un resting herds "(Danzig, East Prussia, Polish Corridor, Sudetenland) originate." (Translated from the English original, published in: Aktstykker vedr. Det Sydslesvigske spørgsmaal, I: May 9, 1945 - October 19, 1946, published by Vom Udenrigsministeriet, København: 1947, pp. 73–76)
  15. See the detailed study by Martin Klatt: Flygtningene og Sydslesvigs danske bevægelse 1945-1955, Flensborg: Phil. Diss., 2001 Flensborg (Studieafdelingen ved Dansk Centralbibliotek for Sydslesvig).
  16. Refugees - In the beginning there was need. Archived from the original on February 10, 2009 ; Retrieved September 29, 2009 .
  17. see: Displaced persons: Distribution in Germany
  18. North program. Archived from the original on February 10, 2009 ; Retrieved September 29, 2009 .
  19. Karen Margrethe Pedersen: Dansk sprog i Sydslesvig , udgivet af Institut for Grænseregionsforskning, Aabenraa: 2002, 2 vols.
  20. cf. Letter to the editor from Peter vd Wehl, Flensborg Avis, July 26, 2013: [in German translation] "Regarding the debate about the fact that German is spoken in the schoolyards of Danish schools in southern Schleswig, I can only say that it has always been that way. When I went to [Danish] school 60 years ago it was the same! (...) "