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Schleswig-Holstein ( ) is the northernmost of the sixteen states of Germanymarker, comprising most of the two historical duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. Its capital city is Kielmarker, other notable cities are Lübeckmarker and Flensburgmarker.

Schleswig-Holstein borders Denmarkmarker (Region Syddanmarkmarker) to the north, the North Seamarker to the west, the Baltic Seamarker to the east, and the German states of Lower Saxonymarker, Hamburgmarker, and Mecklenburg-Vorpommernmarker to the south.

The former English name was Sleswick-Holsatia, the Danish name is Slesvig-Holsten, the Low German name is Sleswig-Holsteen, and the North Frisian name is Slaswik-Holstiinj. Historically, the name can also refer to a larger region, containing both present-day Schleswig-Holstein and the former South Jutland County (Northern Schleswig) in Denmarkmarker.


 on the base of Jutland Peninsulamarker between the North Seamarker and the Baltic Seamarker. Strictly speaking, "Schleswig" refers to the German Southern Schleswig, whereas Northern Schleswig is in Denmarkmarker. The state of Schleswig-Holstein further consists of Holstein as well as Lauenburgmarker, and the formerly independent city of Lübeckmarker. This makes it one of the few nations with a boundary where the name is used in two countries; usually it is two counties villages that share the same name, as in Somersetmarker.

In the western part of the state, there are lowlands with virtually no hills. The North Frisian Islandsmarker, as well as almost all of Schleswig-Holstein's North Sea coast, form Schleswig-Holstein's Wadden Sea National Parksmarker (Nationalpark Schleswig-Holsteinisches Wattenmeer) which is the largest national park in Central Europe. Germany's only high-sea island, Heligolandmarker, is situated in the North Sea.

The Baltic Sea coast in the east of Schleswig-Holstein is marked by bays, fjords and cliff lines. There are rolling hills (the highest elevation is the Bungsberg at ) and many lakes, especially in the eastern part of Holstein, called the Holsteinische Schweizmarker ("Holsatian Switzerland") and the former Duchy of Lauenburg (Herzogtum Lauenburg). Fehmarnmarker is the only island off the eastern coast. The longest river besides the Elbe is the Eider; the most important waterway is the Kiel Canalmarker which connects the North Sea and Baltic Sea.


Schleswig-Holstein is divided into 11 Kreise (districts):

  1. Dithmarschenmarker
  2. Lauenburgmarker (formally Herzogtum Lauenburg or "Duchy of Lauenburg")
  3. Nordfrieslandmarker
  4. Ostholsteinmarker
  5. Pinnebergmarker
  6. Plönmarker
  1. Rendsburg-Eckernfördemarker
  2. Schleswig-Flensburgmarker
  3. Segebergmarker
  4. Steinburgmarker
  5. Stormarnmarker

Furthermore, there are four separate urban districts:

  1. KI   - Kielmarker
  2. HL   - Hansestadt ("Hanseatic town") Lübeckmarker
  3. NMS - Neumünstermarker
  4. FL   - Flensburgmarker


The official language is German based on the standard dialect used by the Federal German government in Berlinmarker. Low German, Danish and North Frisian enjoy legal protection or state promotion.

Historically, Low German, Danish (in Schleswig) and Frisian (in Schleswig) were spoken. Low German is still used in many parts of the state, and a pidgin of Low and standardised German (Missingsch) is used in most areas. Danish is used by the Danes in Southern Schleswig, and Frisian is spoken by the North Frisians of the North Sea Coast and the Northern Frisian Islands in Southern Schleswig. The North Frisian dialect called Heligolandic (Halunder) is spoken on the island of Heligolandmarker.

High German was introduced in the 16th century, mainly for official purposes, but is today the predominant language.


Schleswig-Holstein combines Danish and German aspects of culture. The castles and manors in the countryside are the best example for this tradition; some dishes like Rote Grütze are also shared.

The most important festivals are the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, an annual classic music festival all over the state, and the Nordische Filmtage, an annual film festival for movies from Scandinavian countries, held in Lübeckmarker.

The annual Wacken Open Airmarker festival is considered to be the largest heavy metal rock festival in the world.

The state's most important museum of cultural history is in Schloss Gottorfmarker in Schleswig.

The old city of Lübeckmarker is a world heritage site.


The term "Holstein" derives from Old Saxon, Holseta Land, meaning "the land of those who dwell in the wood" (Holz means wood in modern Standardised German). Originally, it referred to the central of the three Saxon tribes north of the Elbe river, Tedmarsgoi, Holcetae, and Sturmarii. The area of the Holcetae was between the Störmarker river and Hamburgmarker, and after Christianization their main church was in Schenefeld. Saxon Holstein became a part of the Holy Roman Empire after Charlemagne's Saxon campaigns in the late eighth century. Since 811 the northern frontier of Holstein (and thus the Empire) was marked by the river Eider.

The term Schleswig takes its name from the city of Schleswigmarker. The name derives from the Schleimarker inlet in the east and vik meaning inlet or settlement in Old Saxon and Old Norse. The name is similar to the place-names ending in the "-wick" or "-wich" element along the coast in the United Kingdommarker.

The Duchy of Schleswig or Southern Jutland was originally an integral part of Denmark, but was in medieval times established as a fief under the Kingdom of Denmark, with the same relation to the Danish Crown as for example Brandenburgmarker or Bavariamarker vis-à-vis the Holy Roman Emperor. Around 1100 the Duke of Saxony gave Holstein, as it was his own country, to Count Adolf I of Schauenburg.

Schleswig and Holstein have at different times belonged in part or completely to either Denmark or Germany, or have been virtually independent of both nations. The exception is that Schleswig had never been part of Germany until the Second War of Schleswig in 1864. For many centuries, the King of Denmark was both a Danish Duke of Schleswig and a German Duke of Holstein, the Duke of Saxony. Essentially, Schleswig was either integrated into Denmark or was a Danish fief, and Holstein was a German fief and once a sovereign state long ago. Both were for several centuries ruled by the kings of Denmark. In 1721 all of Schleswig was united as a single duchy under the king of Denmark, and the great powers of Europe confirmed in an international treaty that all future kings of Denmark should automatically become dukes of Schleswig, and consequently Schleswig would always follow the same line of succession as the one chosen in the Kingdom of Denmark.

The German national awakening following the Napoleonic Wars led to a strong popular movement in Holstein and Southern Schleswig for unification with a new Prussian-dominated Germany. However, this development was paralleled by an equally strong Danish national awakening in Denmark and northern Schleswig. It called for the complete reintegration of Schleswig into the Kingdom of Denmark and demanded an end to discrimination against Danes in Schleswig. The ensuing conflict is sometimes called the Schleswig-Holstein Question. In 1848 King Frederick VII of Denmark declared that he would grant Denmark a liberal constitution and the immediate goal for the Danish national movement was to ensure that this constitution would not only give rights to all Danes, i.e., not only in the Kingdom of Denmark, but also to Danes (and Germans) living in Schleswig. Furthermore, they demanded protection for the Danish language in Schleswig since the dominant language in almost a quarter of Schleswig had changed from Danish to German since the beginning of the 19th century.

A liberal constitution for Holstein was not seriously considered in Copenhagenmarker, since it was a well-known fact that the political élite of Holstein had been far more conservative than Copenhagen's. This proved to be true, as the politicians of Holstein demanded that the Constitution of Denmark be scrapped — not only in Schleswig but also in Denmark. They also demanded that Schleswig immediately follow Holstein and become a member of the German Confederationmarker, and eventually a part of the new united Germany. These demands were rejected and in 1848 the Germans of Holstein and Southern Schleswig rebelled. This was the beginning of the First War of Schleswig (1848–51) which ended in a Danish victory at Idstedtmarker. Elements of this period were fictionalized in Royal Flash, the second of George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman novels.

In 1863 conflict broke out again as King Frederick VII of Denmark died leaving no heir. According to the line of succession of Denmark and Schleswig, the crowns of both Denmark and Schleswig would now pass to Duke Christian of Glücksburgmarker (the future King Christian IX); the crown of Holstein was considered to be more problematic. This decision was challenged by a rival pro-German branch of the Danish royal family, the House of Augustenburg (Danish: Augustenborg) who demanded, as in 1848, the crowns of both Schleswig and Holstein. The passing of a common constitution for Denmark and Schleswig in November 1863 then gave Otto von Bismarck a chance to intervene and Prussiamarker and Austriamarker declared war on Denmark. This was the Second War of Schleswig which ended in a Danish defeat. Britishmarker attempts to mediate failed, and Denmark lost Schleswig (Northern and Southern Schleswig), Holstein, and Lauenburgmarker to Prussia and Austria.

Following the Austro-Prussian War of 1866marker, section five of the Peace of Prague stated that the people in northern Schleswig should be granted the right to a referendum on whether they would remain under Prussian rule or return to Danish rule. This promise was never fulfilled by Prussia.

Following the defeat of Germany in World War I, the Allied powers arranged a referendum in northern and central Schleswig. In northern Schleswig (10 February 1920) 75% voted for reunification with Denmark and 25% voted for Germany. In central Schleswig (14 March 1920) the results were reversed; 80% voted for Germany and just 20% for Denmark, primarily in Flensburgmarker. No vote ever took place in the southern third of Schleswig, although it was planned. For the referendum under authority of an international commission (CIS, Commission Internationale de Surveillance du Plébiscite Slesvig) two (primarily three) election-zones were created. Primarily three zones were planned, Zone III should involve the rest of Southern Schleswig. Denmark passed on an election in this zone. Just the votes for the whole zone were crucial, not dissent votes in a single Kreis (district) or city:

Zone I
  1. Kreis (district) Hadersleben (Haderslev): 6.585 votes (16.0%) for Germany, 34.653 votes (84.0%) for Denmark - thereunder: city of Hadersleben: 3.275 votes (38.6%) for Germany, 5.209 votes (61.4%) for Denmark;
  2. Kreis (district) Apenrade (Aabenraa): 6.030 votes (32.3%) for Germany, 12.653 votes (67.7%) for Denmark - thereunder: city of Apenrade: 2.725 votes (55.1%) for Germany, 2.224 votes (44.9%) for Denmark;
  3. Kreis (district) Sonderburg (Sønderborg): 5.083 votes (22.9%) for Germany, 17.100 votes (77.1%) for Denmark - thereunder: city of Sonderburg 2.601 votes (56.2%) for Germany, 2.029 votes (43.8%) for Denmark;
  4. northern part of Kreis (district) Tondern (Tønder): 7.083 votes (40.9%) for Germany, 10.223 votes (59.1%) for Denmark - thereunder: city of Tondern 2.448 votes (76.5%) for Germany, 750 votes (23.5%) for Denmark;
  5. northern part of Kreis (district) Flensburg (Flensborg) - without the city of Flensburg (Flensborg): 548 votes (40.6%) for Germany, 802 votes (59.4%) for Denmark.

Zone II
  1. southern part of Kreis (district) Tondern (Tønder): 17.283 votes (87.9%) for Germany, 2.376 votes (12.1%) for Denmark;
  2. southern part of Kreis (district) Flensburg (Flensborg) - without the city of Flensburg (Flensborg): 6.688 votes (82.6%) for Germany, 1.405 votes (17.4%) for Denmark;
  3. northern part of Kreis (district) Husum: 672 votes (90.0%) for Germany, 75 votes (10.0%) for Denmark;
  4. city of Flensburg (Flensborg): 27.081 votes (75.2%) for Germany, 8.944 votes (24.8%) for Denmark.

On 15 June 1920, northern Schleswig officially returned to Danish rule. The Danish/German border was the only one of the borders imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles after World War I which was never challenged by Adolf Hitler.

In 1937 the Nazis passed the so-called Greater Hamburg Act (Groß-Hamburg-Gesetz), where the nearby Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg was expanded, to encompass towns that had formally belonged to the Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein. To compensate Prussia for these losses (and partly because Hitler had a personal dislike for Lübeck), the 711-year-long independence of the Hansestadt Lübeck came to an end, and almost all its territory was incorporated into Schleswig-Holstein.

After the Second World War, the Prussian province Schleswig-Holstein came under Britishmarker occupation. On August 23, 1946, the Military Government abolished the province and reconstituted it as a separate Land.


The coat of arms shows the symbols of the two duchies united in Schleswig-Holstein, i.e., the two lions for Schleswig and the leaf of a nettle for Holstein. Supposedly, Otto von Bismarck decreed that the two lions were to face the nettle because of the discomfort to their bottoms which would have resulted if the lions faced away from it.

The motto of Schleswig-Holstein is "Up ewich ungedeelt" (Middle Low German: "Forever undivided", modern High German: "Auf ewig ungeteilt"). It goes back to the Vertrag von Ripen or Handfeste von Ripen (Danish: Ribe Håndfæstning) or Treaty of Ribe in 1460. Ripen (Ribe) is a historical small town at the North Sea coast in Northern Schleswig. See History of Schleswig-Holstein.

The anthem is usually referred to with its first line "Schleswig-Holstein meerumschlungen" (i.e., "Schleswig-Holstein embraced by the seas") from 1844.


List of Minister-presidents of Schleswig-Holstein

|| 1
|| Theodor Steltzer
|| 2
|| Hermann Lüdemann
|| 3
|| Bruno Diekmann
|| 4
|| Walter Bartram
|| 5
|| Friedrich-Wilhelm Lübke
|| 6
|| Kai-Uwe von Hassel
|| 7
|| Helmut Lemke
|| 8
|| Gerhard Stoltenberg
|| 9
|| Uwe Barschel
|| 10
|| Henning Schwarz
|| 11
|| Björn Engholm
|| 12
|| Heide Simonis
|| 13
|| Peter Harry Carstensen
Minister-presidents of Schleswig-Holstein
No. Name Born-Died Party affiliation Begin of Tenure End of Tenure
1885-1967 CDU 1946 1947
1880-1959 SPD 1947 1949
1897-1982 SPD 1949 1950
1893-1971 CDU 1950 1951
1887-1954 CDU 1951 1954
1913-1997 CDU 1954 1963
1907-1990 CDU 1963 1971
1928-2001 CDU 1971 1982
1944-1987 CDU 1982 1987
1928-1993 CDU 1987 1988
*1939 SPD 1988 1993
*1943 SPD 1993 2005
*1947 CDU 2005 incumbent

Last election (2009)

See also: Schleswig-Holstein state election, 2009


The Schleswig-Holstein state election, 2009 was held on 27 September 2009, and the result of it was a coalition of the conservative CDU and the liberal FDP under the leadership of CDU state premier Peter Harry Carstensen.


See also: Schleswig-Holstein state election, 2005
Seat results — SPD in red, Greens in green, SSW in gray, FDP in yellow, CDU in black

The state election was held on 20 February 2005, and the result of it was a grand coalition of the conservative CDU and the social democratic SPD under the leadership of CDU state premier Peter Harry Carstensen.

Party Party List votes Vote percentage (change) Total Seats (change) Seat percentage
Christian Democratic Union (CDU) 576,100 40.2% +5.0% 30 −3 43.5%
Social Democratic Party (SPD) 554,844 38.7% −4.4% 29 −12 42.0%
Free Democratic Party (FDP) 94,920 6.6% −1.0% 4 −3 5.8%
Alliance '90/The Greens 89,330 6.2% +0.0% 4 −1 5.8%
South Schleswig Voter Federation (SSW) 51,901 3.6% −0.5% 2 −1 2.9%
National Democratic Party (NPD) 27,656 1.9% +0.9% 0 +0 0.0%
Family 11,774 0.8% +0.8% 0 +0 0.0%
Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) 11,376 0.8% −0.6% 0 +0 0.0%
Grays 7,523 0.5% +0.3% 0 +0 0.0%
All Others 9,203 0.6% −0.5% 0 +0 0.0%
Totals 1,434,627 100.0%   69 −20 100.0%


  1. Schwedler, Frank: Historischer Atlas Schleswig-Holstein 1867 bis 1945, Wachholtz Verlag, Neumünster
  2. Ordinance No. 46,

See also

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