Schleswig, plebiscite (1920)

ALBUM – view my Schleswig Album

Fast Facts

Region: Germany / Danish area
Group: Occupations and Plebiscites post wwI
Classification: Plebiscite
Prior Regime: The German Empire
Key Dates:
  1919, Jun – Treaty of Versailles
  1920, Feb 10 – Zone 1 plebiscite conducted
  1920, Mar 14 – Zone 2 plebiscite conducted
  1920, Jun 15 – North Schleswig officially becomes part of Denmark
Following Regime: Kingdom of Denmark (for North Schleswig)
Scott Catalogue: (Schleswig) #1-28, O1-14
Pick Catalogue: none, however many local notes (notgeld) were issued during the plebiscite era.


Distribution of Danish flags in the city of Flensburg prior to the referendum - from Det Konglige Bibliotek
Distribution of Danish flags in the city of Flensburg prior to the referendum – from Det Konglige Bibliotek
After the defeat of the German Empire in World War 1, the terms of surrender were ultimately agreed and codified in the Treaty of Versailles, signed on 28 June, 1919. The terms of the treaty required Germany to give up territory to neighbors in Europe as well as all of its foreign colonies in Africa and Asia. In the East Prussia area: a large portion of land would be given to the newly independent Poland, Danzig (Gdansk) would become a Free City, Memel (Klaipėda) was made a protectorate of the League of Nations (although Lithuania occupied and annexed the region in 1923), and Allenstein and Marienwerder were allowed to have a vote (or plebiscite) to determine whether they would become a part of Germany or Poland. To the north, Schleswig would conduct a plebiscite to determine whether it would be part of Denmark or Germany. To the West, Eupen and Malmedy would go to Belgium, Alsace and Lorraine would become part of France, and Saar would be administered by the French for the League of Nations, and referendum would be held 15 years later, in 1935 to determine their fate. To the southeast, Upper Silesia and Eastern Silesia also planned to conduct plebiscites to determine their fate.

Schleswig is an area that borders Germany and Denmark, and for centuries was part of the Kingdom of Denmark, known as the Duchy of Schleswig. In 1864, the Kingdoms of Prussia and Austria conquered the Duchy of Schleswig, and jointly ruled the region until the Austro-Prussian war of 1866, where Prussia assumed sole possession of Schleswig. The Prussians joined Schleswig with the region just to the south, creating the provice of Schleswig-Holstein. The province continued when Prussia joined with other nations to become the German Empire in 1871.

At the end of World War 1, a plebiscite was called in the Schleswig region to determine the border between Germany and Denmark. The Schleswig plebiscite area was divided into two zones: Zone I, the northern and largest part of Schleswig, was populated by a majority of ethnic Danes, and Zone 2, in the middle of the region, consisted of about 80% Germans. There was a third zone to the south, but since the region was primarily populated by ethnic Germans, no vote was taken. The drawing of the border between the two zones caused considerable controversy and hot debate between Denmark and Germany, but ultimately a compromise was agreed based on population, and the results were a foregone conclusion.

The plebiscite for Zone 1 took place on 10 Feb, 1920, and as expected, the region overwhelmingly chose to become a part of the Kingdom of Denmark. In Zone 2, the vote was held on 14 Mar, 1920, and the region, also by a large margin, chose to remain with Germany.

North Schleswig (Zone 1) was transferred to Denmark on 15 June, 1920 and became Southern Jutland.

GER - Schleswig, Pleb Map


GER - Schleswig, Pleb StampALBUM
As with most plebiscite areas, postage stamps were issued in the region to “advertise” the event. In Schleswig, a set of 14 stamps were issued on 25 Jan, 1920, and was denominated in German currency, pfennig and marks. The pfennig stamps were smaller in size and depicted the coat of arms of Schleswig, while the top four stamps with denominations in marks were larger and depicted a Schleswig landscape.

Additionally, stamps overprinted “CIS”, standing for “Commission Interalliee Slesvig” were issued for official government use within Schleswig.

On May 20th, after the votes, Schleswig stamps were reissued in Zone 1 with new denominations in øre and kroner, the Danish currency, and were overprinted “1. ZONE”. These stamps were used until 30 June 1920, when they were replaced by Danish stamps.


GER - Schleswig, pleb BanknoteALBUM
Although no “official” banknotes were issued in the region for the plebiscite, over 100 local notes (notgeld) were issued by the various communities in the region (on both sides).
Notgeld (or “emergency money”) was issued before and after the plebiscite, and in addition to serving as local currency, they were often printed with intersting propaganda notes for the plebiscite.


Schleswig Plebiscites from Wikipedia
The re-unification of North Schleswig with Denmark in 1920 from Dansk Center for Byhistorie
Schleswig Plebiscite from Stamp Collecting World
Schleswig-Holstein Paper Money from Numismondo

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