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Aktuell: Kurse Musikschule Peter Unbehauen :: Kalligrafiekurse in Klingberg/Ostsee


This page contains 3 articles:

  • History of Fehmarn
  • Fehmarn during the harvest
  • Rauert of Fehmarn

  • History of Fehmarn

The Fehmarn Cousins Newsletter Issue #18, Oct., 2001

During our recent trip to Fehmarn (May - June 2001), Dorothy Gossel arranged for our tour group to visit the St. Petri Church in Landkirchen.

Karin Kleingarn, a local historian on the island, gave us a tour of the Church.

The following narration is the presentation she gave to our group.

We found this very interesting and wanted to share it with others through this Website.

Tressie Hughes Welcome to our church of Saint Petri. A few hundred years ago the Danish King "Erik the Pommer" set foot in this church. The Organ started playing by itself and blood sweated down from the crown of Maria. What had happened? There existed between the Danish King and the Counts of Holstein much discontent for centuries. In 1420 King Erik wanted to occupy the Isle of Fehmarn. He was unsuccessful in landing on the island twice.


Fehmarn Burgstaaken Gastwirtschaft Unbehauen Aufnahme 1920


The inhabitants ridiculed the Danish army by standing at the coast showing their backsides and shouting: "If a cow can spin silk, then King Erik shall win our land!" Due to that, the Danish got furious. Finally, King Erik succeeded in landing on the island by using a trick. Now a terrible massacre began, People were tortured and killed, buildings were set on fire, and churches were devastated. This incident is the saddest tragedy in the history of the Isle of Fehmarn.

Even today people tell the legend of this horrible tragedy in this way: At last, while the whole island was burning, King Erik came in this church. Somehow the organ started playing by itself and Maria's crown sweated blood, Now the King got anxious. He changed his mind and immediately stopped the massacre, he then shouted: "If there is anyone in this church, he shall stay alive." Thereupon a man came from behind the altar. His name was "Mackeprang".

The Pope excommunicated King Erik who was troubled by his bad conscience. So he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Grail in Jerusalem. The legend tells about three people who survived the massacre: Mackeprang, Witt and Rauert.

In 1424 The Count of Holstein got Fehmarn back. The Count called for settlers. They didn't have to pay taxes for five years. Now the Count couldn't pay the soldiers at their time of dismissal. He had to borrow money from Lubeck. At this time Lubeck had been a rich town. The Count of Holstein gave the Isle of Fehmarn to Lubeck as security. This was during 1435 to 1490. Lubeck's rule over Fehmarn was very beneficial for the island trade, industry, shipping and businesses developed.

In 1580 the Danish King Friedrich II had a meeting on the isle of Funen which is a Danish island located north of Fehmarn. The King gave the Isle of Fehmarn a banner: a golden Danish crown in blue damask. Today we interpret our flag as: "Our Fehmarn is so beautiful, it's the crown of the blue Baltic Sea!" In 1617 Count Friedrich legislated in his "Confirmation of Liberty" that the aristocracy should never be allowed to buy land or buildings on Fehmarn. He protected the privileges and freedoms of the inhabitants. Due to that legislation Fehmarn developed differently from the rest of Holstein.


Einer der 66 Schemel in der Kirche St. Petri in Landkirchen/Fehmarn: Elsche Unbehauen 1701
One of the 66 stools in the Church of St. Peter in Landkirchen/Fehmarn: Elsche Unbehauen 1701
Una de las 66 sillas en la Iglesia de San Pedro en Landkirchen/Fehmarn: Elsche Unbehauen 1701


Fortunately, the inhabitants of Fehmarn never became serfs like inhabitants of Grossenbrode. Serfs couldn't change their jobs; they also could neither move to another place nor marry without permission of their ruler. They lived like slaves.

The Isle of Fehmarn remained free! The ruler was the Count of Schleswig and he also was the King of Denmark. Fehmarn was a part of Schleswig but not a Danish island. The governor (Landvogt) of Fehmarn was a representative of the Danish king who controlled taxes etc.

The administration of justice, he represented together with 3 elected honorary officials, 3 chamberlains and 18 judges. They were the top of the jurisdiction of the Isle of Fehmarn. They could even decide about life or death, together with the governor and the King's Counsel (secretary, scholar, lawyer). Let's have a look at this plaque. Here you can see the governor (Landvogt) Peter Witte. He was a merchant shipper. Once he was caught in a storm in the Baltic Sea. He prayed to God and vowed if God would save him, he would support to the best of his ability the people of the Isle of Fehmarn. And so he did. Here you see another governor (Landvogt): Jurgen Gossel.

He is an ancestor of Dorothee's husband. Gossel means in German a gosling. It's the heraldic animal of the Gossel family. I will tell you about the text. It's the life of Jurgen Gossel, born in 1606 here on the Isle of Fehmarn. In 1635 he married Catharina Brandt. Her father was a judge and a noble merchant. They had 10 children, 6 of them died, the name of the others were Jurgen, Heinrichm, Catharina and Anna. In 1642 he was elected a judge.

In 1645 he became governor (Landvogt). In 1651 his wife died. In 1652 he married Anna Mackeprang. Her father was Chamberlain and a big landowner. She died in 1653. In 1654 he married for the third time to Gerdrut, widow of the judge Karsten Folff, She died in 1667. In 1669 he married Anna Bentem. They had one daughter. Here we look at Jakob Mackeprang. He was the son-in-law of Jurgen Gossel. He was born in 1633. In 1660 he married Catharian Gossel. In 1686 he was elected to be a judge. His son, also named Jakob, was chamberlain.

He donated the altar together with his wife Emerentia, a daughter of the Landvogt Peter Witte. What's over here? The name of this chest is "Landesblock". It's as old as our church, more than 700 years.

The most important and valuable documents as well as seals were garnered in here. You see three locks, each lock requiring a separate key. Each chamberlain had one key, so no one could go alone to retrieve the documents. This was how it was done: After the prayer-bell had rung at noon, the oldest chamberlain stepped to the chest and spoke the words: "Help God!" Then all three chamberlains prayed together: "God you alone are endless. You know everything there is. God you are able to see everything that will happen." Now let's look at the model ship. For a long time this model ship has been hanging here. After the renovation the model was put behind glass.

Through the mirror you are able to see a painting below the ship. This painting shows how people imagined life under water. This model ship represents a warship from Lubeck constructed in 1617 and was donated by the merchant shippers. These pews belong to the "Vetterschaft der Mackeprangen und Witten". In former times there was no pension, neither health nor social insurance. Therefore families are united by nepotism. They promised to be there for each other in misery and hardship.

There were many nepotisms but the one that remains is the Mackeprang-Witt, which is placed here. Every male by the name Mackeprang or Witt whose ancestors are from Fehmarn can become a member, but only men.

At his induction he has to promise that he will give 5% of his fortune to nepotism if he dies without a legitimate heir. Formerly this money was used to support widows and orphans. Landvogt Peter Witte donated a silver tumbler to the nepotism, which still exists. Once a year all members of the nepotism come together for a meeting. If one of them dies 4 Mackeprangs and 4 Witts will carry him to the grave. The first chairperson is the spokesman; he is the one who knows all the rules.

The nepotism is so old that in the beginning the rules used to be delivered verbally. In the 19th century, the Danish kingdom wanted to make the dukedom Schleswig, which included Fehmarn, a part of the Danish kingdom. In March of 1848 the inhabitants of Schleswig-Holstein decided to establish their own government in the town of Kiel. In the whole district and on Fehmarn the people rejoiced. They prepared an offensive against the Danish. Armed conflicts followed and in 1851 Danish troops occupied Fehmarn. Patriots in the whole area of Schleswig-Holstein had to leave their homeland. Many of them immigrated to the USA.

The Danish government didn't give up its plans to take over Fehmarn. In 1864 a war began. Prussia and Austria helped Schleswig-Holstein. Prussian troops had landed on the island and took the Danish soldiers by surprise. In the end Schleswig-Holstein became a province of Prussia. Many people were very disappointed by that. They wanted a government of their own. In 1871 the Prussian king was crowned as the emperor of the new German empire.

Some old traditions and rights of the community of the Isle of Fehmarn were lost. But most of the people were satisfied. Presented by Karin Kleingarn in the St Petri church in Landkircken The old Fehmarn large-scale Farmer's house. Niendorf, on the island Fehmarn had until 1920 an old Fehmarn large-scale farmer's house [Fehmarn Grossbauernhaus], dating back to the 16th century. It was located on the lot Nr. 8. - Ownership belonging in 1834 to Hans Ehler, in 1846 to H. Voderberg, in 1885 to Hinrich Wohler, in 1891 to Matthaeus Kunz. In the periodical "Heimat" of 1937, number 12 Theodor Moeller reports the following:

One of the most charming Fehmarn large farmer's estates [large-scale enterprise] 'Grossbauernhaus', stood in Niendorf, Fehmarn. After advise in 1914, to preserve the building and turn it into a museum, all offers were rejected. Houses of the same antiquated and similar artistic value were found in Avendorf, Fehmarn. That building was erected in 1787. Much older was the property owned by Hans Buegge in Wulfen, as Building memorial exceptionally valuable; but both were torn down.

More mention about the farm houses: Stately buildings from the 16th century had large and wide windows with 2 - 3 posts and many small window-panes with leaden enclosures. The two windows facing the large front entrance door, are set higher than the other windows. The outer windows are set very low. This great variety, with peculiar effect, stems from the uneven ceiling height in the center arch or nave of the building, [compared to a cathedral ceiling]. The heavy oak beams were oiled [treated w. carbolic oils](Phenol), as to preserve and protect the wood, this caused the beams to turn very dark.

The framework [of the timber-framed-houses] were often decorated with inlaid red stone in ornate fashion. The roofing protruded forward, the top-piece [hood] and crescent show simple well-formed moldings. Above these a row of carved fan-shaped ornamentations.

The ornamented gable end [Giebelspiess], which mostly displays an artistically forged roof-marking with a weather vane, carved semicircular crescents, generally representing the heavenly bodies, like the sun, stars and the moon, which add to the charm of the gable. Such houses used to be no rarity on the island Fehmarn, because over 300 years ago there were large-estate farmers 'Grossbauern' who invested so much in their homes, at times as majestic as estates owned by nobility in Holstein. In the beginning it was a single house, after growing expansion, they were built larger. Later barns were built.

Already in the 16th century the Fehmarn wheat was such a preferred export commodity and shipped to France, Italy, Spain and other countries. A large-scale farmer [Grossbauer], around 1610, had on the average about 21 horses, 6 cows, 20 young cattle and oxen, 25 pigs and 50 sheep. Living rooms, sleeping rooms, kitchen and chambers, built-in oven and storage chambers were located on both sides of the great hall [called Grotdoens]. On the small and lower side were the stables, where the animals were kept. The daily living quarters, also called the smaller hall [or Luettdoens], had a window toward the street, also called the front room [Voerstuv].

Toward the back is the extension of the great hall called the (luettdoens), with the same width and height as the great hall. The saal, used to be called great hall or [Grotdoens] corresponds to situation, interior decoration and used as festivity hall, as well as storage place for trunks, boxes and wardrobes, compared to the living quarters [Pesel] of the farmhouses in Dithmarschen. This shows an introduced art that may have been previously brought by emigrants from Dithmarschen to Fehmarn. With great stubbornness did age-old custom and antiquity linger here for centuries. Not only in the farm houses, but also in the old bourgeois homes in the town of Burg. Also here we find the same suggested floor plan with great hall,[Diele], and festivity hall [Saal] or (Pesel) in the center, and living quarters on the sides.

The house in Niendorf still showed in all parts these characteristics of the old Fehmarn single farm house. It was a large building with many different rooms, as was necessary to maintain a farm of about 44 ha (108.7284 acres). With a length of 27 Meter (88.5816 feet) and a width of 14 Meter (45.9312 feet) as to amount to about 380 square meter (4090.2820 sq. feet). Yet later such a building was not adequate anymore and barns were added. In the only 3 Meter (9.8424 feet) wide offsides, beside the great entrance door was the small hall or [Luetdoens.] Folled by the kitchen, chambers [Kamer] with bake room and oven.

The other side had several different chambers and stalls for the animals. Also next to the great hall, called [Grootdoens] were many different chambers, two on each side. All together there were 10 rooms or chambers. Voluminous and manifold was the economic life in the house; plain and simple were the daily living requirements, for a room of 10 square meter (107.639 sq. ft.) was adequate.

The great hall [Grotdoens] had the same width as the small hall [Diele or Luettdoens] of 7 Meter (22.9656 ft.), of the 12 partitions, the length of the house, this took up 4 partitions (which amounts to 9 Meter (29.5272 ft). It was 6 times as large as the daily living room. The floor was as all other floors, made of tampered clay. This room was used for storage of many household goods, like wardrobes and trunks etc. Weddings and funeral festivities were held here.

They had rare old murals on the walls and the wooden ceilings. Concentrated halve moons, down- and upwards opening in precision. Perhaps telling of the same meaning as the carved halve crescents decorating the gable area. The house offered a great amount of stimulations. To restore it to it's original being, with old household goods and furniture, trunks and wardrobes and to make it into a Museum, was for Fehmarn too costly. But instead torn down, as last witness of the disappearing Middle-ages.

The farmhouse, in spite of it's age between 3 - 400 year's, was still stable in it's basic core. In 1920, after the tearing down of some farmhouses, some pillars and beams from the Luettdoens and the Grotdoens made long journeys, they went all the way to Hamburg as well as over the big pond [overseas] toward North America, and what wasn't good for Fehmarn anymore, became respected, and at times decorating some Homes of a dollar-millionaire in a new form, as a Lower Saxony Hall or a Holstein Farmer's Vestibule, [Bauernstube].

Sumitted by: Dieter Klahn

Translated into English by: Else Buegge-Wood 3096-1A Maryland Ave. Columbus, OHIO-USA 43209 - Phone: (614) 237-4972


  • Fehmarn during the harvest

When I was a small child I remember the harvest in the small village of Wulfen. All the people from the village worked together. The children were allowed to go to the fields, where the people had shocked the wheat and all kind of grain; we would ride on the horses from one heap of sheaves to the other. The men would load the sheaves unto the wagon and another man would pack them in the right place. Grandfather would say: "Be careful, that you don't fall off the horse. But we would be especially careful. The horses were put into position, all the different harnesses and yokes had to be put on them.

We had to learn to do that as a child. There was a little responsibility for everybody. It made you very proud when you could help at such an important job. The ladies sent some special hot cakes to the farm and everybody was invited to eat. That was so much fun. The men would drink their "Erntebeer" harvest beer and the food was plentiful. When the last load of grain was hauled there was a celebration. The ladies made a beautiful wreath with lots of colorful ribbons.

On the wagon a man with his button-Box "Quetsche" or accordion sat with other people on the last wagon of grain and they sang. When they got back to the village they hung the wreath on the barn door, so all people could see, that farmer has all his grain in the barn and the party can begin. The ladies already sent some special hot cakes to the farm and everybody is invited to eat. That was so much fun. The men would drink their "Erntebeer" harvest beer and all were welcome.

On Fehmarn during the harvest. By: E. Buegge-Wood.


  • Rauert of Fehmarn

From the book -Rauert of Fehmarn- compiled by Ken Harders of Grand Island Nebraska.

(The following are some informative paragraphs of history of Fehmarn from the beginning of his book)

FEHMARN

The tiny island of Fehmarn is situated in the Baltic Sea between Germany and Denmark. Its strategic position between mainland Europe and Scandinavia meant that Its history at times has been turbulent. Originally settled by Slavs in the eighth century, the twelfth century saw a wave of Christianization and Germanization sweep the area. German has been spoken from this time. Although there have been strong links both geographically and politically with Denmark, only a few leading citizens would have spoken Danish. Certainly our ancestors would have been German speaking. Fehmarn Is flat and small (8 x 12.5 miles) with a population to- day of 14,000. The capital Burg, established in the early thirteenth century contains half the Island's population. The last century has seen a thirty percent increase in Fehmarn's population. This however occurred entirely within the city of Burg. This stagnant population growth means that the forty villages scattered throughout the island have been able to retain much of their character from previous centuries. In these villages, already established by the early 1600's, little development has occurred in the past fifty years and approximately thirty-five percent of the homes still standing are from pre 1850. Each possess common features; a village pond, cobbled streets, huge brick barns and clusters of trees. A number of these villages are coastal and the Island also boasts a small fishing fleet. Between the villages fields under cultivation and pastures for grazing exist much as they have for centuries.

THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY

At the time our story begins, the end of the fourteenth century, Fehmarn was prospering. Although there were forest of birch, oak, and ash, much of the land had been made arable and the island boasted a population of 4000. In 1420 disaster struck Fehmarn. The Danish King, Erik der Pommer, arriving with his army In four hundred ships, ravaged the island. The inhabitants were put to death, legend having it that only three survived. Villages were laid to ruin, forests burnt down. Much of the island was left a deserted wasteland, awaiting a fresh beginning.

DITHMARSCHEN

Directly to the west of Fehmarn on the North Sea, lies the region of Dithmarschen. Flat and marshy, the land cn be only partially cultivated, and is known for its numerous ditches, dikes and ponds. In early fifteenth century Germany however, Dithmarschen was certainly unusual. In the midst of a medieval society where serfdom was the norm, In 1404 the region had thrown off the control of the Count of Holstein and existed as a state of free farmers. However, an increasing population was putting pressure on the meager land and many began to look further afield. Those who were to migrate would carry within them a high value of freedom and independence.

All Rauert's of Fehmarn, and it is believed all those in the United States, can be traced back Dithmarschan, Germany.

The name Rauert has been common for centuries and is believed to have originated In West Friesland, now northern Holland. Originally it was used only as a first name and had several different spellings and pronunciations.

It was spelled Rauwert, Rauwerdt, Reuwert, Rauvert, Rawert, etc. and ended up being spelled Rauert. It is believed that the different ways of spelling Rauert Is due to the way people pronounced its due to different dialects and areas of the country.

The name Rauert closely resembles the name Robert, which means Advisor or Leader.

THE FIRST PIONEER In 1365 a man called Witte of Dithmarschen christened his infant son Rauert. As this name had not previously appeared in the region it seems likely he was named after a maternal grandfather or uncle of a Frisian mother. In accordance with the Dithmarschen custom of patronymic naming, the father's Christian name now became the child's surname, hence Rauert Witte. RAUERT WITTE born: about 1365 in Dithmarachen, Germany married: about 1389 in Dithmarschen (wife's name unknown) died: after 1423 at Presen, Fehmarn (at least 58 years of age) Children: (1) Hans ? Rauert (2) Hinrich Rauert (3) Tewes Rauert (4) Hans Rauert (5) Johann Witte (6) Tank (Mar) Witte (7) Drewes Witte (8) Rauert Witte Occupation: Farmer in Dithmarschen before 1423, at Presen, Fehmarn after 1423. In 1420, the year of the destruction of Fehmarn, Rauert Witte was 55 years old. Like many others throughout Germany, he was attracted by the opportunity to win, with hard work, a new wealth on the now to be rebuilt island. In 1423 the whole family immigrated to Fehmarn taking up land at Presen, today a tiny village near the west coast. This period of reconstruction marked the beginning of a new period of prosperity for the island. In time the island recovered. The forests were gone, but wheat flourished again. Villages and farms were rebuilt. The worst period in Fehmarn's history was over.

THE SECOND GENERATION

Our knowledge of further generations of the family comes from the old Rauert Cousinhood Book now kept at the Peter Wiepert Museum in Burg, Fehmarn. Other documents were found in the State Archives, Gottorf, Schleswig-Holstein Archives and Luebeck City Archives. Of Rauert Witte's eight sons, the four oldest had the surname Rauert which was the custom of patronymic naming in Dithmarschen. The four younger sons carried the surname Witte, which was the custom on Fehmarn. Whether the four younger sons were born at Fehmarn or Dithmarschen is unclear. So the families Rauert and Witte of Fehmarn have the same ancestors. The eight sons took up land throughout the island. The eldest son, probably called Hans Rauert, took possession of the family farm at Presen. From the four sons with the surname Rauert came all of the Rauert's who live on Fehmarn,

THE RAUERT CLAN

The clans or 'Cousinhoods' on Fehmarn were associations of families with their own laws, providing mutual help and protection and fostering social life. The Rauert Cousinhood was formed during this period (around 1460) and continued for almost four hundred years, until its dissolution in 1833. Its formation can be traced to a single event. One of the eight sons of Rauert Witte committed murder and was sentenced to death. However, according to Fehmarn law, a murderer's freedom could be bought by his family. This was attempted by his seven brothers. Nonetheless, when they had gathered enough money, the murderer refused his freedom and accepted the death sentence. He requested that his brothers keep the money to enable the formation of a clan, which required a special common wealth. Part of this money was to be used to free a cousin in a similar situation and the interest on the remaining fortune was to be used annually to finance a clan reunion to celebrate freedom and happiness.

THE RAUERT COUSINHOOD BOOK The Rauert Cousinhood continued to meet regularly, and after the first one hundred years decided to record that which had been passed down verbally. Das Rauertsche Vetterschaftsbuch (Rauert Cousinhood Book) came into existence on July 29, 1563. Not only did it (record the statutes of the cousinhood, but also the stories of Rauert Witte's migration and the founding of the cousinhood. Also included was a financial statement and the yearly admission of young cousins. In 1640 a cousin carried this book off to Denmark in an attempt to blackmail the family (it also contained debenture bonds).

The family never gave in to hid demands and the blackmailer finally allowed parts of the book to be copied. The first book had five parts from 1563 and three more from 1605. In 1563 several different groups of Rauert's and Witte's met in Burg and tried to trace their history back to the first ancestors on Fehmarn and found that the Clan existed for at least three or four generations prior to 1563. A new Cousinhood Book began in 1653, which shows all the names of relatives from 1653 on and it shows that they go back to the same four original ancestors. These entries are believed to be true. Many other documents have surfaced and have been checked for authenticity, that one can believe what the old book says. This book is today housed in the Burg Museum and is a valuable genealogical tool. It contains material in much greater details than that found in Parish Registers, with family trees, place of residence and financial statements.

TONNIES RAUERT born: 1585 at Presen, Fehmarn married: (#1)- by 1618 at Bannesdorf (wife's surname was Lafrenz) (#2)- 1621 (Tolke Unbehauen) died: June 29, 1644 at the Battle of Maienleuchte near Puttgarden occupation: farmer In Presen After seven generations of Rauert's had lived on Fehmarn, Toennies Rauert was born-nearly two centuries after Rauert Witte. After two hundred years of peace and prosperity the tranquillity of the island was to be shattered with a vengeance during the 1600's. Toennies and his family were to live through flood, hail, plague, and war. A plaque on the pillar of the St. Nicolaus Church in Burg tells of nature's furor: -Remembrance of the punishment of God on February 10, 1625, here and over neighboring areas there was a great flood in which many people and beasts were drowned and much damage done in general.

On June 18, 1625, a terrible hail fell which caused great damage to the corn.- At this time disease was little understood and hygiene left much to he desired. Cattle were allowed to roam the streets, dung heaps could be found within residential areas and garbage was thrown into the streets. The church plaque goes on the record of the devastating effects of an outbreak of plague four years later: -The year 1629, a great plague of which, from the 28th of May to the 11th of October, In 19 weeks, 646 people died, 52 from the East parish, 594 from the city and amongst them all three preachers.- During this period there were also a large number of bankruptcies. Many farming businesses collapsed and were bought up by farmers wishing to consolidate their holdings. In this way the conspicuously large farms and the striking prosperity of their agriculture came into being.

THE THIRTY YEARS WAR

The Fehmarners must have heaved a sigh of relief as the devastating Thirty Years War seemingly passed them by. By the end of the war Germany lay in ruins. Church buildings were burned and whole districts were utterly waste, wild and uninhabited. One third of the population was killed, and those who survived were often destitute. Countries were left crippled by debt, staggering under the enormous cost this war entailed. Domination of the Baltic, at this time far more important than either the Mediterranean or the Atlantic offered a solution. Those that conquered Baltic harbours and controlled sufficient surrounding land would also be in a position to tax the Baltic trade. Sweden was to rise to the challenge.

THE BATTLE OF MARIENLEUTE

On June 29, 1644, In the concluding stages of the Thirty Years War, Sweden invaded Fehmarn. Landing between Puttgarden and Presen the ships first bombed the islands before four hundred troops disembarked. The whole island was plundered. Although supported by Danish troops, the Fehmarners were soon defeated. Seventy-six were killed, including Toennies Rauert, Weapons were confiscated and a large booty, including 809 horses, 1000 tons of wheat and, 20,000 Taler in reparations was demanded. The Fehmarners were finally saved by the arrival of the Danish King, Christian IV, and his navy. The Swedes put to flight, but not before the Danish King was badly injured in battle, an event today still mentioned in the Danish national anthem.

FEHMARN'S POLITICAL SITUATION

The political climate on Fehmarn and neighboring Schleswig-Holstein in the early to mid nineteenth century was far from stable. In fact so complex were the events, that the debate over this region formed part of the British Foreign Service exams at the turn of the Century. If asked his nationality, a Fehmarner would have replied-. -I am a German fellow, but a Danish subject.- Although belonging to the German Confederacy, Fehmarn was also a duchy ruled by the Danish King (but not part of Denmark itself) - a result of a treaty signed in 1460. In 1460 the Count of Oldenburg was chosen by Schleswig-Holstein (and therefore Fehmarn) to be their Duke. Count Christian however, was to become Christian I, king of Denmark. For the following four hundred years Fehmarn was to be a personal duchy of the king of Denmark, but not of Denmark itself, a situation finally so involved and precarious as to have Palmerston, the nineteenth century English statesman claiming that -... only three men really understand the complexities of the problem; one of them had died, another had gone crazy, and the third had forgotten it all.- Although supported by Denmark in times of need (I. e. the 1644 Battle of Marienleute), the population of Fehmarn and neighboring Holstein was almost wholly German in speech, character and outlook. In 1848 a Danish nationalistic movement attempted to annex Schleswig-Holstein to Denmark proper.

The people revolted. A wave of nationalism was sweeping across Europe, stirring up feelings within Fehmarn that they were Germans and wished to rule themselves. With the aid of Prussia, Danish ambitions were halted. However, Prussia then withdrew in the face of European opposition to their expansion into the Baltic. In 1852 Prussia signed an armistice with Denmark, agreeing to withdraw troops. Effectively the fate of the duchies was left undecided.

This act was very widely regarded by German patriots as a betrayal of the national cause, and many considered that Prussia had acted out of self-interest, hoping to annex the duchies to itself rather than to support their independence. A wave of resentment against Prussia followed. Fehmarn, now basically left to the mercy of Denmark, was again invaded, despite the violent resistance of the people. Treated as conquered territory until Prussia again invaded in 1864, the following twelve years were ones of repression by the Danish government.

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