The former Duchy of Schleswig is currently divided between Germany and Denmark. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
“I hope that Southern Schleswig will one day come home to Denmark,” Martin Henriksen, the former deputy chairman of the party in Copenhagen, wrote in a post on Facebook on Tuesday. “There are still many Danes in Germany. We Danes are children of Denmark and children belong with their parents.”
Henriksen made the post ahead of the 100th anniversary next month of the referendum that returned Northern Schleswig to Denmark in February 1920, something he said was “a beautiful and historic event for the whole country”.
He recognised though, that his hope was unlikely to be fulfilled. “Of course, I do not have any plans to propose that the border should be moved by force or something like that. But you are allowed to hope.”
But his comments were not welcomed by the local leader of the Danish People's Party in Aabenraa, capital of the northern Schleswig.
“I am simply speechless. They don't know what they're talking about,” Ejler Schütt, who sits on Aabenraa council, told the local Sønderjysk newspaper, adding that he hoped Henriksen was disciplined by the party leadership. “They should put both Martin Henriksen and Søren Espersen in their place.”
Schütt said that a clear majority in Southern Schleswig had in 1920 voted to remain part of Germany, and that the evidence was there for all to see at the Folkehjem, a large 19th century building in Aabenraa built in 1901 as a centre for Danish culture in the then German province.
“They should just pop into the Folkehjem. There there's a map of the 1920 referenda, and that shows clearly that the border now lies exactly where it should.”
He said he was worried such statements will damage cooperation with the German region across the border.
“We have a really good cross-border collaboration both professionally and culturally,” he told the newspaper.
This is not the first time a senior Danish People's Party figure has called for Denmark to regain the province.
Two years ago Søren Espersen, the party's foreign spokesman, called for Denmark to extend once again to the river Eider, as it did from the 11th century until the Napoleonic era.
The river, which cuts across northern Germany from Tønning in the North Sea to Kiel in the Baltic, lies roughly 60km south of where the Danish border now stands.
During the 19th century, the province came under dispute for reasons so complex that the then British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston is reported to have said that they were near impossible to understand.
“Only three people have ever really understood the Schleswig-Holstein business,” he said. “The Prince Consort, who is dead, a German professor, who has gone mad, and I, who have forgotten all about it.”
In the Treaty of Versailles which followed the First World War, Germany and Denmark agreed to hold referenda, and in 1920 Central Schleswig voted to become part of Germany, and northern Schleswig part of Denmark.
Here is a map of the border as it was in 1864. The blue border line starting at Tønning follows the Eider river.
Denmark's current border cuts across the Jutland peninsular 7km north of Flensburg.