Hold fast to the home soil

This poster was made by Alex(ander) Eckener, a painter and graphic artist from Flensburg. Along with a poster by J. Holtz showing a rather gloomy version of the Schleswig coat of arms, this poster was used by the German side in Zone 2 in February and the beginning of March med 1920.

The motif was inspired by a painting called ‘Eden’ by the Swiss painter, Ferdinand Hodler. A Frisian raises his right hand as if swearing an oath, left hand on his heart. Behind him, their hands lifted, too, as if swearing an oath, stands a tightly-packed group of men. The eye of the beholder glides away over a stylised marshland landscape towards an remote farmhouse in the background; on the right, separated off by a stretch of water, lies a small harbour with boats and a church.

As in ‘Eden’, the Frisian and the group of men behind him confirm their right to remain citizens of Schleswig and therefore German – a right forged by history.

German plebiscite poster, drawn by Alex(ander) Eckener. No. of copies unknown. Exists with both Danish and German text. 78 x 56 cm.


We will harvest what we ourselves have sown

One of the most popular German posters – designed by Paul Haase – shows a sower who asks his German countrymen the question, both rhetorical and exhortative, whether Denmark was to harvest the fruits of centuries of German work in Schleswig, if Zone 2 were lost?

In this case, Haase quite deliberately chose the picture of a white-bearded old farmer who, judging from the determined look in his eye, was not ready to hand over his native soil – his livelihood and his life’s work – to foreigners without a struggle. On his head he wore the skipper’s cap so typical of Schleswig-Holstein.

This poster was not aimed only at the rural population, but to all those in Schleswig who felt they could identify themselves with this sower and his clear, simple message: the home soil, passed for generations from father to son, must remain in German hands.

German plebiscite poster, drawn by Paul Haase. No. of copies unknown. 76 x 54 cm.


Southern Jutland recovered

Southern Jutland recovered

For many Danes, the image of Mother Denmark standing on the bridge over the River Kongeå to welcome home the daughter that had been forcibly torn from her is the picture of the reunification.

The text was written in December 1918 by the poet, Henrik Pontoppidan. This is a stanza from a poem with four verses. Pontop­pidan is best known as an author for his social realism, but he was so moved by the prospect of Southern Jutland returning to Denmark that he fell the need to express his feelings more lyrically. The painter, Joakim Skov­gaard, was able to create and illustration that matched the tone and the content of the poem.

Representing the fatherland as a brave and caring mother figure and Southern Jutland as her daughter is a tradition that goes back to the first half of the 19th century, and the symbol was very popular in Denmark around 1920.

Joakim Skovgaard attempted to present the archetypal Danish rolling landscape with a farm complete with flagpole and a windmill. The Mother raises her hand to heaven to thank God for the happy return of her daughter.

Danish plebiscite poster, drawn by Joakim Skovgaard, text by Henrik Pontoppidan. 83 x 58.5 cm. 10,000 copies.


We are one people

The artist, Rasmus Christiansen, designed plebiscite posters open to different interpretations. This poster offers a birds-eye view of Denmark with clouds covering that part of Southern Jutland that lay outside the plebiscite zones. The plane provides a positive association to technology and progress. The image – combined with the witty text – implies that the those living within the area shown are a common people. And this is correct! But it might easily encourage the belief that quite a different set of people lived in the overclouded area father south. And this is not correct! There have been Danish settlements down to the Schlei-Danevirke line since ancient times, and yet a section of the population here shifted from Danish to German identity at the beginning of the 19th century.

However, the picture could not show the whole of Southern Jutland and still use the same text: the argument would be hollow, because even though there was a ‘common people’ down to the Schlei-Danevirke line, by far the majority of the population of this area did not want to be part of a ‘common land’ with Denmark. The poster therefore contains a statement that would be void if the clouds further south were dispersed.

Danish plebiscite poster, drawn by Ras­mus Christiansen. 2,000 copies. Only used in Zone 2. 74 x 64 cm.