MINELRES: New book: Minorities in the Danish-German border area 1945-2000

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.delfi.lv
Fri Jan 3 08:00:02 2003

Original sender: JÛrgen KØhl <jk@ifg.dk>

A European Model?
The Danish Institute of Border Region Studies publishes an edited volume
on national minorities in the
Danish-German border area 1945-2000

Recently, the Danish Institute of Border Region Studies published an
edited volume on national minorities in the Danish-German border area
1945-2000. Danish and German historians discuss, whether the minority
regulations in this region can be described in terms of a European model
concerning minority issues. Further, selected aspects of the minority
issues in the Danish-German border area after World War II are described
and analysed as well. The volume includes illustrations, including
figures, maps and tables. Finally, the book includes a chapter of
documents with the most important Danish, German and international acts
concerning minority rights. The documents are printed in a Danish
translation. The volume is published in cooperation with the
Schleswig-Holstein Institute on Regional and Contemporary History in

En europæisk model? Nationale mindretal i det dansk-tyske grænseland
1945-2000 Edited by Jørgen Kühl. Institut for
grænseregionsforskning/Danish Institute of Border Region Studies 2002.
599 pages, 280,00 kr/ 37,90 EURO. With summaries in English and German.

Contact and book orders: ifg@ifg.dk.

Danish Institute of Border Region Studies
Persillegade 6


A European Model?
National Minorities in the Danish-German Borderlands 1945-2000

In March 2001, the Danish Institute of Border Region Studies and the
Institut für schleswig-holsteinische Zeit- und Regionalgeschichte
(Schleswig-Holstein Institute for Contemporary and Regional History)
organised a joint Danish-German conference on the national minorities in
the Danish-German borderlands after World War II. The revised and
updated papers from this conference are published in this book. The
chapters in this volume offer a coherent description of selected aspects
of the history of the national minorities since 1945. The chapters are
written by experts with a profound knowledge of the issues addressed.
Their contributions present results from ongoing research. Further,
key-actors presenting views of practitioners have been asked to
contribute to the volume as well.

Jørgen Kühl introduces the issue of the volume. In the chapter Nationale
mindretal i det dansk-tyske grænseland: En indledning (National
minorities in the Danish-German Border Area: An Introduction) he offers
definitions of the region and the minorities and he discusses their
actual numbers and distribution. He also gives a brief overview of
previous research concerning the three minorities in the border area. He
concludes that although many scholarly works have been published on
issues of the Danish, German and Frisian minorities, still many issues
have not yet been analysed. Thus, there are still numerous relevant
research issues to be addressed, especially concerning the period after
1955. Finally, he gives a short introduction to the following chapters.

The Danish-German experience concerning national minorities in the
post-war period is embedded into certain general frameworks. Thus, the
bilateral Danish-German relationship is of foremost interest. This issue
is regarded in two chapters. Robert Bohn analyses the issue from above.
In his chapter Et belastet naboskab. Udvalgte sider af det dansk-tyske
forhold efter 1945 (A strained relationship. Selected aspects of the
Danish-German relations after 1945) he shows the difficulties of a new
beginning in the bilateral relations between the two states after World
War II caused by the Danish experience with Germany’s occupation of the
country 1940-45, German refugees, the South Schleswig question and the
minority issue. The Kiel Declaration of 1949 and the Bonn Declaration of
1955 provided a solution of the minority question in South Schleswig.
During the Cold War, both states cooperated on security policy. Bohn
also shows that Denmark played a limited role in the context of Federal
German politics. The main German interests focused on the issues economy
and trade and the persons, who had been sentenced in the course of the
Danish process of legal reckoning after 1945. The minority issue, which
was of predominant interest to the Danish and Schleswig-Holstein
perception, did not leave larger traces in the documents of the West
German foreign ministry. He concludes, that the Danish prime-minister
H.C. Hansen’s speech during a visit in Kiel in June 1956, defined a
fundamental new political perspective for future bilateral relations of
the two states.

Uwe Danker’s chapter Året 1955 og grænsefreden (The year 1955 and the
border peace) has its point of departure in the author’s personal
experiences with this issue in his childhood and as an adult. Then he
analyses the background of the Copenhagen-Bonn Declarations of 1955,
which he describes in terms of the “high art” of border borderland
diplomacy. He focuses on the South Schleswig issue and analyses the Kiel
Declaration of 1949 as well. He concludes, that the Danish and German
governmental declarations of 1955 sealed the peace on the joint border.
This peace has proven sustainable. Finally, Danker points out a number
of elements of the Schleswig experience, which might be possible to
export from the Danish-German border region to other regions with
minorities in Europe: the acceptance of the individual’s right of
national self-determination, unilateral obligations by the states, and
the renunciation of ultimative revenge. Finally, the resolution in the
case of Schleswig was induced from the outside.

In the Danish-German borderlands, the period 1945-1955 was characterised
by national conflict and antagonism. The outcome of World War II created
a new situation for both the Germans in Denmark and the Danes in
Germany. Frank Lubowitz analyses the situation of the German minority in
the first post-war decade in his chapter Det tyske mindretal i Danmark
1945-1955 (The German minority in Denmark 1945-1955). Beginning with
Germany’s capitulation in May 1945, he describes Denmark’s process of
legal reckoning with the German minority, which included the temporary
internment and imprisonment of large parts of the German group. The
Germans were mostly interned in the Faarhus Camp, where many adult male
members of the German minority were placed. Here, a special “Faarhus
mentality” emerged, characterized by both the lack of facing their own
guilt and articipation in Nazism and the perception of being victims
themselves. Meanwhile, new and unprejudiced members of the German
minority without any previous share in Nazism took up the reorganisation
of the German minority. This
was based on the pledge of loyalty towards Denmark and the explicit
acknowledgment of the permanent character of the border between Denmark
and Germany. Thus, the German minority abandoned it’s foremost political
objective, which had been pursued since the reunification of Northern
Schleswig with Denmark in 1920: the demand of a revision of the border.
However, in the late 1940’s the previously dominant elites within the
German minority had returned and involved themselves in the minority’s
organisations that had been developed based on the principles of
democracy and loyalty towards Denmark. Lubowitz also describes the
strained and difficult relations between the German minority and Danish
society. He presents the so-called Copenhagen Memorandum of October
1949, where the Danish government confirms a number of legal principles
regarding the
German minority. This statement eventually contributed to the
consolidation of the minority. Finally, he sketches out the development
after the Copenhagen Declaration of 1955.

Martin Klatt focuses on the situation of the Danish minority in Germany
after World War II. In his chapter Det danske mindretal 1945-1955:
Hjemstavnsbevægelse  flæskedanskere  flygtningefjender? (The Danish
minority 1945-1955: regional movement - bacon-Danes  or enemies of
refugees?) Klatt offers a balanced analysis of the situation of the
minority with special regard to the relationship between the Danish
movement and the German refugees arriving in Southern Schleswig in the
end of and after World War II. The Danish minority attempted to utilize
the refugees to further its ambitions of a revision of the state border.
This sharpened the regional profile of the minority, which especially
became evident around the political elections during the years
1948-1951. Anyway, this approach could not prevent a general decline of
membership-figures. Thus, the Danish minority lost both members and
voters at the elections. In the early 1950’s, it became evident that the
refugee issue had lost its impact. The minority was on the road to
become an absolute minority like in the period 1920-1945 without any
realistic possibility of changing the border. Klatt points out that the
Bonn Declaration of 1955 contributed to a clarification of the
situation: it became obvious, that no revision of the border would take
place. Finally, he discussed whether the conflict resolution in
Schleswig might be relevant as well for other regions with ongoing

Any national minority has the need to represent its political interests.
In the Danish-German borderlands both minorities have organised their
political activities within separate parties. Gösta Toft offers a
conclusive description of the political activities of the German
minority in his chapter Slesvigsk Parti 1945-2000 (The Schleswigian
Party 1945-2000). Initially, he gives a brief account of political
activities in the inter-war period and during Germany’s occupation of
Denmark 1940-45. His main focus is on the period 1945-2001. He explains
the issue of political representation of the minority in the Folketing
(Danish parliament) and the political profile of the minority party. The
party held a seat in the Folketing during the period 1953-1964. When the
seat was lost, the Danish government established a liaison committee
with the German minority, compensating for the lack of political
representation. From 1960, the Schleswigian Party worked for the opening
of the border and Denmark’s participation in the ongoing process of
European integration. As a consequence of the nation-wide reform of
local and regional government, the County of Southern Jutland
(Sønderjyllands Amt) was created in 1970. Simultaneously, 23
municipalities with decentralised tasks were established as well. The
Schleswigian Party decided to put priorities on local and regional
politics in both the county assembly and the municipal councils. In
1973, the party decided to cooperate with the centrist party

Thus, the German minority regained a seat in the parliament. However, it
was lost again in 1978, and the following year the cooperation with the
Centrum-Demokraterne was ended. The liaison committee had been suspended
during the years, the German minority had regained its representation in
the Folketing, but it was re-established as soon as the seat was lost.
In 1983, a special office for the German minority was established in
Copenhagen. Currently, the Schleswigian Party defines itself as the
party of the German minority and as an independent regional party in
Southern Jutland, aiming at cross-boundary cooperation and European
integration as well.

The political activity of the Danish minority in Germany is the subject
of the second contribution by Jørgen Kühl. In the chapter Dansk
mindretalspolitik i Tyskland: Sydslesvigsk Vælgerforening (Danish
minority politics in Germany: The South Schleswigian Voters Association)
he offers a thorough account focusing on the minority and regionalist
party SSW, representing the interests of both the Danish and the
National Frisian minority in Germany. He describes the political
activities of the Danish minority in the inter-war period and up till
the founding of the SSW in 1948. Then, the political activities at
federal, state and local level are explained. The Kiel Declaration of
September 1949 is introduced as well. The conflict between the Danish
minority and the Schleswig-Holstein government in the years around 1950
is analysed. In 1954, the SSW lost its representation in the state
parliament Landtag, when it failed to meet the minimum requirement of 5%
of the votes. 

Consequently, the political
representation and the situation of the Danish minority became a
political issue in Denmark. Correlating with West Germany’s admission to
the NATO, the minority questions became the subject of bilateral
negotiations between the governments in Copenhagen and Bonn. The outcome
was two unilateral, but parallel governmental declarations: the
so-called Bonn-Copenhagen Declarations of 29 March 1955. The SSW was
exempted from the general minimum requirement of 5% of the votes in
state elections, and in 1958 it regained its representation in the
Landtag. In 1965, the federal German government created a liaison
committee with the Danish minority similar to the one established
regarding the German minority in Denmark. The political activities of
the SSW up till present-day is analysed as well, including the
relationship between the party and the cultural minority organisation
Sydslesvigsk Forening (South-Schleswigian Association). Other issues
regarded are the Schleswig-Holstein state constitution of 1990 with its
extension of minority protection, and SSW’s massive gain of votes in the
1990’s. Finally, the Schleswig experience concerning minority politics
is put into a wider perspective, pointing out other ways of political
representation among European national minority groups.

Although there are no religious or confessional differences between
Danes and Germans in the borderlands, church life is anyway very
important for the identity of both national minorities. Günter Weitling
takes a closer look at the importance of the church for the German
minority in his chapter on Kirke og identitet  Tyske menigheder i
Nordslesvig 1945-2000 (Church and Identity  German Congregations in
North Schleswig 1945-2000). In the first part, he gives an account of
the situation before 1945, including the years 1933-45, when the German
minority was nazified. Then he describes, how the church of the German
minority is organised. In the four towns of Southern Denmark (Aabenraa,
Haderslev, Sønderborg, Tønder), the Danish state church Folkekirken
provides a German minister for the German-speaking members of the
congregations. In the rural districts, the German church is organised as
a free church, cooperating closely with the North Elbian Church in
Germany. Both branches of the church life of the German minority are
Evangelical-Lutheran, and they work closely together.

Lars N. Henningsen describes the importance of the church for the Danish
minority in his chapter on Kirkeliv og identitet Dansk Kirke i
Sydslesvig 1945-2000 (Church Life and Identity  The Danish Church in
South Schleswig 1945-2000). Following a brief account of the roots and
background of Danish church life in South Schleswig, Henningsen shows,
how the upheavals of 1945 also led to the creation of new structures
within the Danish minority church. The national awakening was tied
together with the request for Danish ministers and religious services.
Dansk Kirke i Udlandet (The Danish Church Abroad) decided to extend its
activities in South Schleswig. Hitherto, only three Danish ministers
served the Danes in the area. In the following years a Danish church
organisation was created, which was embedded within the Dansk Kirke i
Sydslesvig (The Danish Church in South Schleswig). In 1956, a total of
24 ministers served the Danish minority. In 1969, the pastors served 56
congregations with ca. 6,000 members. Currently there are 24 ministers,
39 congregations and ca. 6,600 members. Henningsen discussed, whether
this tremendous growth was caused by a national-political or a religious
church movement. He concludes that the religious and national-political
aspects were intertwined. However, this caused tension in the relations
to the German church. Still, the minority succeeded in establishing an
independent Danish church life. Nowadays, the Dansk Kirke i Sydslesvig
cooperates with the German church in Schleswig-Holstein, but as
independent entities with different national identities.

Next to the two large, well-organised national minorities of Germans in
Denmark and Danes in Germany there is a third minority group in the
Danish-German border area: the North Frisian community on the coastline
of South Schleswig and on the North Frisian Islands. The Frisians are a
distinct community, which differs from the other two nationalities in
the region, although the general Danish-Germans relations have heavily
influenced the organised life of the Frisian minority. In his chapter
Friserne i det dansk-tyske grænseland 1945-2001: En tredje factor? (The
Frisians in the Danish-German borderlands 1945-2001: A third player?)
Thomas Steensen discusses, whether the Frisian community since 1945 has
been able to achieve the role of the third player next to the Danish and
German minorities or if the Frisians have been unhitched. First, he
gives an exact description of the divided Frisian community, where most
Frisians since 1920 have identified with Germany, but a small group
claimed and demanded the status of a national minority. The latter group
organised itself as National Frisians and initiated cooperation with the
Danish minority. This cooperation was extended after 1945 and still
prevails today. Thus, the political party SSW both represents Danes and
Frisians, and the National Frisians are represented in the cultural
Danish organisation Sydslesvigsk Forening and within the Danish schools
association in South Schleswig. On the other hand, severe tension
characterised the relationship of the two Frisians branches. The
Nordfriesischer Verein (North Frisians Association) joined the German
line. However, both branches maintained contact through the
inter-Frisian cooperation, which also includes Frisians in the German
state of Niedersachsen and in the Netherlands. The inter-Frisian
cooperation mitigated the national-political antagonism in North
Frisland. Thus, the North Frisian section of the Frisian Council was
able to develop into a joint voice of all Frisian associations in the
region. Steensen structures his analyses along the years 1945, 1949,
1955, 1965, 1978, 1987-90, 1998-1999 and 2000-2001. In each case he
gives an account of the situation of the Frisian community at that time.
He concludes that the Frisian community mostly has not been able to act
as the “third player”, and that the Frisian minority cannot be described
as a European model, as it is often the case regarding the two other
national minorities in the region.

Minority politics and minority policy have two sides: On the one side
the minorities are the actors, on the other the states define and make
the actual minority policy. This can either lead to a negative policy
towards minorities, to a neutral approach regarding minorities as other
groups of interest within a given society, or to a positive and
inclusive policy with special regard to the minorities. Renate Schnack
explains the minority policy of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein
in her chapter Slesvig-Holsten og mindretallene i 1980’erne og 1990’erne
(Schleswig-Holstein and the minorities in the 1980’s and 1990’s). She
shows, how minority policy during the last 20 years have become a
separate and important political area in Schleswig-Holstein, based on
the consent of all political parties in the state parliament. This does
not only concern the three minorities in the borderland, but also
includes the fourth minority group in Schleswig-Holstein: the German
Gypsies Sinti and Roma. This assessment follows a brief description of
tensions concerning minority politics in the previous decades. The
Copenhagen-Bonn Declarations of 1955 mark a historical milestone,
eventually leading to détente and peaceful coexistence.

The crucial change of policy took place under the conservative state
prime minister Uwe Barschel in the 1980’s, but it was developed further
under the reign of the succeeding social-democrat prime ministers Björn
Engholm and Heide Simonis. This development took place within the
framework of political consent, which also became evident with the
adoption of a revised article on minorities in the new
Schleswig-Holstein state constitution of 1990. Finally, Schnack offers
an assessment of the European dimension of minority policies, which have
become still more prominent during the 1990’s. She concludes that the
political successes of the 1980’s and 1990’s constitute a fascinating
result of joint endeavour with structures pointing into the new Century.

In Denmark, there is no similar public political figure, which has
defined a concept of minority policy. There is neither a commissioner on
minorities nor an ombudsman. However, the alternating Danish governments
and the parliament have since 1955 carried out a positive, open and
inclusive minority policy towards the minorities in the Danish-German
borderlands. This also includes the adoption of European and
international agreements and obligations on minority rights. There are
even certain parallels between the Federal German and Danish minority
policy. Since the federal system of government is irrelevant to Denmark,
it is not possible to compare the minority policy of Schleswig-Holstein
with a similar Danish level of regional government. However, at the
sub-state level the county of Southern Jutland, since it was established
in 1970 has had an inclusive practise concerning the German minority in
the region, and it pursues a continuous dialogue with the Danish
minority in Germany.

The contact between Denmark and the Danish minority is not only
maintained at the political and administrative level. There is also
extensive contact at the non-governmental level. This takes place in
many ways and in a multifariously organised and an informal context. The
Danish border associations have been a key-element in this continuous
contact. Niels Henriksen introduces in his chapter on Grænseforeningen
(The Danish Border Association), the largest of these popular,
non-governmental borderland associations in Denmark. He explains the
objective of the Grænseforeningen: “to support Danishness in the
borderland, especially South of the border, to disseminate the knowledge
of the conditions in the borderland and to preserve and strengthen
Danish language and culture”. He further shows, how this clause of
objectives is implemented in practical work. He also describes the
historical background of the Grænseforeningen and the association’s
current situation. The Grænseforeningen cooperates with both the Danish
state and the Danish minority. On the one hand, it administrates parts
of the Danish state funding for the minority. On the other,
Grænseforeningen each year collects additional funds through the sale of
so-called Dybbøl stickers and the Southern Jutish Lottery to support the
work of the Danish minority. The latter activity has enabled
Grænseforeningen to give complementary funds of 20 million DKK over the
last 20 years. Grænseforeningen consists of ca. 140 local branches with
a total of 31,500 members all over Denmark. For a number of years the
membership-figures have been declining due to natural reasons; but in
the last years it has become more stabile, and the association has been
able to recruit some 3,000 new members annually. Henriksen argues, that
there is interdependence between the situation of the Danish minority
and the membership-figures of Grænseforeningen: When the situation is
bad for the minority, more Danes join Grænseforeningen; if the status of
the minority is good, the membership-figures decrease. 

The status of a national minority in any society is interrelated with
the rights of the group. In the Danish-German borderlands, the rights of
the minority groups were fundamentally defined by the Copenhagen and
Bonn Declarations of 1955. These are unilateral and confirm the rights,
which are guaranteed by the constitutions of both states. Minority
rights are also provided by the principles of the Schleswig-Holstein
state constitution of 1990 and the obligations, Denmark and Germany have
committed themselves to with the ratification of European and
international agreements on minorities. Sten Harck offers a thorough
examination of the rights of the Danish, German and Frisian minorities
in his chapter Fra Bonn til Strasbourg: Danskernes, tyskerne og
frisernes mindretalsrettigheder 1945-2000 (From Bonn to Strasbourg: The
minority rights of the Danes, Germans and Frisians 1945-2000). Firstly,
he compares the protection of the three groups in the past, including
the whole period 1840-2000. Based on this comparative analysis he offers
an appreciation of the Copenhagen-Bonn Declarations of 1955, and he
relates these instruments to the Council of Europe’s Framework
Convention on the protection of national minorities of 1995. Finally, he
compares the legal situation of the three minorities with legislation
concerning minorities adopted in other parts of Germany and in Europe
within recent years. Harck concludes, that the minority model achieved
in the Danish-German borderlands perhaps might be viewed as a success in
sociological terms, but in legal terms it is behind compared with the
development in Europe, even in other parts of Germany. He points out,
that the laws and acts concerning the Sorbian community in the German
states of Brandenburg and Saxony might offer inspiration. He recommends,
that legislators in Denmark, Germany and Schleswig-Holstein should
considers legal actions explicitly securing the rights of the minorities
concerned, if the governments have the ambition to become a positive
example regarding legal standards as well.

The question, whether the minority arrangements in the Danish-German
borderlands might be categorised as a European model, forms the
leitmotif of several of the chapters in this book. A number of
contributors offer their assessment. Jørgen Kühl summarizes the
key-elements of the experience in his chapter En europæisk model? Den
slesvigske erfaring og de nationale mindretal (A European model? The
Schleswig Experience and the national minorities). He discusses, which
elements might have a general significance. The perspective is widened
to include actual examples from other European border regions and areas
with minority conflicts as well, and it is tested, if and how the
elements of the “Schleswig model” or the “Schleswig peace” can be
transposed piece by piece or as a whole to other European minorities.

Minorities are multifarious entities. There are several different kinds
of affiliation and identification with national minorities. A common
denominator is, however, that minorities need to organise themselves to
be enabled effectively to preserve their distinct characteristics with
regard to language, culture and traditions, and to articulate and
represent their cultural/political interests. The organisations and
institutions of the three minorities are characterised in three separate
chapters. Frank Lubowitz explains the structure of the German minority
in his chapter Det tyske mindretals organisationer (The organisations of
the German minority). Jørgen Kühl describes the structure of the Danish
minority in his chapter on Det danske mindretals organisationer (The
organisations of the Danish minority), and Jens Owe Petersen explains
the organisations and institutions of the Frisian community in his
chapter Frisiske organisationer og institutioner i Slesvig-Holsten
(Frisian organisations and institutions in Schleswig-Holstein). All
three contributions offer statistical data, information on the relations
to the governments and authorities and on the financial basis of the
work of the organisations.

The public discourse on the minorities in the Danish-German borderlands
regularly makes references to a number of agreements of importance,
especially the Copenhagen-Bonn Declarations (1955) and also the
provisions of the Schleswig-Holstein state constitution (1990). In
recent years, European and international legal standards have become
more important as well, especially the Council of Europe’s Charter for
regional or minority languages (1992) and the Framework Convention for
the protection of national minorities (1995). Thus, the final part of
this volume is devoted to a Documentation section with a number of
relevant documents concerning the minorities in the Danish-German
borderlands after 1945. This includes unilateral notifications such as
the Kiel Declaration, the Copenhagen Memorandum, both governmental
declarations and the Schleswig-Holstein constitution as well as
provisions made by treaties subject to the United Nations and the
Council of Europe. Finally, the European Union’s charters on civil
rights’ provisions concerning minorities are quoted as well. All
documents are printed in a Danish translation. 

Dr Jørgen Kühl
Danish Institute of Border Region Studies
Persillegade 6