Germans of Denmark

Location: North Schleswig, Danish border with West Germany
Population: 15,000-20,000 (1980)
% of population: 6%-8% of North Schleswig
Religion: Protestant
Language: German

The division of the border region of Schleswig in 1920 left North Schleswig in Denmark with a small German minority. The German occupation of Denmark during World War II and the activities of members of that minority discredited the minority as a whole in Danish eyes. Collaborators were brought to trial, schools closed and property confiscated.

Fearful that a treaty or agreement regarding the German minority might be abused by the German government if it were binding under international law the Danish government stressed that there was no need for the German community to be granted minority rights since they were sufficiently protected as Danish citizens. The government also refused to discuss the treatment of the German minority or formally to recognize the border. Germans were able to elect a representative to the Danish parliament in 1953 however, and the community was granted the right to maintain private secondary schools. As with Danish speakers in Germany the German speakers of Denmark were protected by the unilateral declarations adopted by both parliaments in 1955. Since the 1960s there has been a thawing in the Danish attitude towards the Germans. In 1964 a decline in votes caused the German minority to lose its parliamentary representation but a substitute consultative committee was established in order that everyday problems might be discussed. By co-operating with the Centre Democrats, a Danish party, the German community was once again able to return a German MP to Copenhagen between 1973 and 1979.

The position of the German minority in Denmark is now secure. Substantial subsidies and improved relations between Denmark and West Germany have ensured that the community enjoys a reasonably high standard of living and that it retains its cultural identity, and German is a compulsory subject in all Danish schools.

(See also Danes of West Germany)