War indemnity or social welfare: Danish agitation prior to the referendum in Schleswig


This pro-Danish poster refers to the spending of tax-payer’s money in Denmark and Germany respectively. While taxes from the well-dressed Dane are destined for social welfare, the German citizen pays installments on the German war debt. The economic advantages of being ruled by Denmark were used as a lever in a referendum deciding between Danish and German nationality.

As a result of the Second Schleswig War (1864) Denmark had been forced to surrender the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. This meant that large numbers of Danish-minded residents of north Schleswig (now Sønderjylland) were forced to live under German rule.

At the end of World War One, the Treaty of Versailles (Art 109) stated that plebiscites or referendums should be held in Schleswig to determine the future nationality of the region. A referendum was an opportunity for every member of an electorate to cast their vote on a single issue, usually of national or international relevance. The general assumption in Denmark was that people of the northern part, Zone 1 (Sønderjylland), would vote in favour of Danish nationality while the results from the southern provinces, Zone 2, remained to be seen. Most were likely to vote in favour of Germany, but the self-contained city of Flensburg, could turn out in favour of Denmark.

The fight for votes in Flensburg, the main city of Schleswig, became cutthroat. During the days leading up to the vote streets were filled with Danish, German and regional Schleswig-Holstein flags, and posters were seen everywhere in an attempt to influence voters. The result turned out to be a majority of 75% voting in favour of German nationality.

Full title:
War indemnity or social welfare: Danish agitation prior to the referendum in Schleswig
Poster / Illustration
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Det Konglige Bibliotek