Before the final formulation of the regulations concerning the plebiscite zones, an intense debate and much negotiation had been going on between various groups who were unable to agree on how the future shape of North Schleswig was to be determined.
The strongest party in these disputes was the ‘North Schleswig Electors Association’, which was the political organisation for the Danish-minded community of North Schleswig.
The prominent figure at the head of this association was H.P. Hanssen, who had watched over its interests in the German Reichstag since 1906. The final formulation of the demands they would put forward took place at a meeting of the Supervisory Committee of the Electors Association on 16-17 November 1918.
The two most important points were that, in the first place, North Schleswig should vote as a single unit – en bloc. This would ensure that the whole area, despite smaller areas with a German majority, would go to Denmark. In the second place, a separate, local plebiscite could be held in areas of Mid-Schleswig that demanded it.
The upshot of this decision was that a ‘Mid-Schleswig Committee’ was set up as early as 18 November 1918. I.C. Paulsen from Flensburg, a wholesale merchant, was appointed chairman. 4,200 signatures were quickly obtained on a petition for a separate plebiscite in Flensburg and a number of Mid-Schleswig local authorities.
Via the Danish government, the wishes of the North Schleswig Electors Association and the Mid-Schleswig Committee were passed on to the peace conference for consideration.
The ‘Danevirke Movement’ was a third group that contributed actively to decisions concerning the future of Schleswig. This movement arose as a reaction to the proposed southern border of Zone 1 put forward by the North Schleswig Electors Association. Central figures in this movement were Ernst Christiansen, Editor of the newspaper, Flensburg Avis, and Ionas Collin, a doctor.
This movement placed greater weight on historical rights as the basis for the definition of new borders. The movement took its name from the Danevirke fortification, which they regarded as the natural southern border of Denmark. According to this view, a border running from The Schlei over Danevirke to Friedrichstadt would follow the historically inherited Danishness of the population.
Due to intensive lobbying in Paris, especially by Ionas Collin, the movement succeeded in getting a third plebiscite zone added to the treaty. This became evident on 7 May 1919, when the peace conference published the preliminary treaty declarations, revealing that the plebiscites in Schleswig were to be held in three zones, with the Schlei-Danevirke-Ejder line as the southernmost border.
Through its diplomatic representative, Bernhoft, the Danish government had been able to present its views about the drawing of the future borders to the ‘Belgian-Schleswig’ commission established by the peace conference.
The proposal of a plebiscite in three zones took the Danish government by surprise, and in a note to the peace conference they rejected it. As the North Schleswig Electors Association also supported this position, the peace conference did not include a third plebiscite zone in the final version of the treaty.
It was therefore settled that there would be two plebiscites, one in North Schleswig (Zone 1) and one in the town of Flensburg plus a number of rural local authorities in the counties of Flensburg, Tønder and Husum (Zone 2).