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Schleswig (Low German: Sleswig, Danish: Slesvig, angeldän. Sljasvig) is a medium-sized town in Schleswig-Holstein on the Schlei bay. It is the district town of the Schleswig-Flensburg district, the former capital of the Duchy of Schleswig and is also known as the judicial capital of the state, because - for historical reasons - it is the seat of the state constitutional court, as well as three other higher courts and the public prosecutor's office.



Derivation of the city name
The city name comes from Old Norse and means Bay of the Schlei or Port of the Schlei.

Beginnings as a trading metropolis of the Vikings
Schleswig was first mentioned as Sliasthorp in 804 (Danish form: Sliestorp). The ending thorp (translated village) indicates that it is a sub-settlement.

The Viking settlement on Haddebyer Noor called Haithabu was expanded into a trading center by King Gudfred (Göttrik) in 808 and destroyed by Slavs in 1066. The question of whether the germ cells of today's opposite city of Schleswig were only founded after the destruction of Haithabu or whether they had existed for a number of years has so far been a controversial issue in research. In any case, medieval Schleswig took over Haithabu's legacy as a center of Northern European trade - together with the western port at Hollingstedt, which had existed since the Viking Age: the land route between the Baltic and North Sea was particularly short here.

Swedish Vikings under their King Olaf conquered the area around 900. In 934 the East Franconian King Heinrich I defeated Olaf's son Canute I and made Haithabu subject to tribute. King Otto I founded the diocese of Schleswig in 947. In 983, the Danish Viking King Harald Blauzahn temporarily recaptured the area. A few decades later, the emperors finally gave up the Schleswig mark and Schleswig fell back to the Danish crown. Around this time, the focus of settlement finally shifted from Haithabu to today's Schleswig.

Bishop's residence in the Middle Ages
The chronicler Adam von Bremen reported in detail as early as 1076 on the importance of Haithabus and Schleswig. A synod was held in Schleswig under Archbishop Adalbert von Bremen, to which representatives from all over Northern Europe were invited. The first bishops of Schleswig were Harald (Haroldus), Poppo and Rodolphus.

Saxo Grammaticus mentions the cathedral for the first time in 1134. He reports that the Danish King Niels wanted to flee from the brothers of the St. Knudsgilde in the cathedral, but was slain because he had Jarl Knud Lavard, the son of his older brother Erik Ejegod, killed in 1131, who belonged to the Schleswig family had been popular.

The residence of the bishops was initially a castle, which is now located under Gottorf Castle and was first mentioned in 1161, when the Schleswig Bishop Occo moved his seat to the castle island after the destruction of his Alt-Gottorf Castle northwest of Schleswig. The castle remained in the possession of the bishop until 1268, after which it was given to the dukes of Schleswig in exchange for Schwabstedt castle and in 1340 passed to the Counts of Schauenburg who ruled Holstein. The bishop's palace was then the Königsteinsche Palais at Norderdomstraße 15, the Rumohrenhof. As long as the Catholic diocese of Schleswig existed, the court was the center of the episcopal property administration. The origins of the building go back to the middle of the 15th century. The builder is said to have been Bishop Nicolaus Wulf (1429–1474). After the death of the last Catholic bishop Gottschalk von Ahlefeldt in 1541, the building had different owners. After the cathedral chapter was dissolved in 1773, the court was sold to Baron Johann Ludwig von Königstein, who had the old buildings rebuilt and given their current appearance.


Schleswig had to relinquish its role as a supraregional trading metropolis of the north to Lübeck in the 13th century, but at that time it was still a trading center of regional importance, but in the late Middle Ages the regional primacy also passed to Flensburg: the Schlei was for the merchant ships of that time often not deep enough.

In 1486 the missal Missale Slesvicense, set by the printer Steffen Arndes, was published for the pen in Schleswig as an important early North German print.

Medieval hospitals for lepers
From 1344 a total of three medieval leprosories can be identified in Schleswig; the first was built in today's St. Jürgen district and gave the district its name because St. Georg (Low German: St. Jürgen) was the patron saint of all leprosories in Schleswig-Holstein. From 1392 another leprosy can be found on the Gallberg, which was called Laurentius Hospital and Sikenhus ("hospital"). The third leprosarium was built on Hesterberg in the 15th century.

Residence of the Dukes of Gottorf

After the Reformation, almost all of the city's numerous churches and monasteries disappeared, with a few exceptions. Some of them were broken down to the foundations, which was shown during excavations of the Maria Magdalena Church of the Dominican monastery. On the other hand, numerous aristocratic palaces were built within the city limits, in which the high officials of the flourishing duchy resided.

After the division of the country in 1544, the city became the residence of the dukes of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf. These initially remained closely linked to the Danish crown in terms of foreign policy, but in the 17th century they led an increasingly independent policy.

At least 38 women were convicted and executed in witch hunts between 1548 and 1551. The place of execution was the market square. The trial files have been preserved in the Schleswig city archive. In 2014, the church and mayor Arthur Christiansen remembered the victims of the witch trials in a memorial service in Schleswig Cathedral.

Under Duke Friedrich III. From Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf the Gottorfer Hof flourished. Chancellor was Johann Adolph Kielmann von Kielmannsegg. The following artists were active on the farm at this time: painter Jürgen Ovens (Rembrandt's student), the carver Hans Gudewerdt the Younger. The court scholar Adam Olearius described his travels to Moscow (1633) and Persia (1636) in 1647. A little later, the dukes also obtained an imperial privilege to found a university, when Schleswig was initially also under discussion before it was finally settled in Kiel.

In 1711 the two suburbs of Lollfuß and Friedrichsberg were incorporated. Schleswig, Lollfuß and Friedrichsberg were merged to form the "combined city of Schleswig". Schleswig got a first mayor for the whole city.

After the Great Northern War (1700–1721) and the associated victory of Denmark over the Duchy of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf, the Gottorf shares in the Duchy of Schleswig fell to the Danish king, who was also Duke of Schleswig. This meant serious economic disadvantages for the city of Schleswig, as it lost its position as the ducal residence of a partially sovereign state.

Seat of government and parliament of the Duchy of Schleswig
After the loss of the residence function for the Gottorf dukes, who had ruled the Duchy of Schleswig in their shares since 1658, Gottorf Castle now became the seat of the Supreme Court as well as the government and judicial authority for the entire Duchy of Schleswig, later (1834) as part of a judicial and administrative reform also seat of a common government for both duchies (Schleswig and Holstein). Since the Duke of Schleswig, as the Danish king, stayed mostly in Copenhagen, he always appointed a governor to Gottorf.

Under the governor Landgrave Carl von Hessen (1744–1836), Schleswig once again experienced a cultural heyday. In 1836/1843 the government and the court were separated and the duchy's assembly of estates was re-established. The state hall of the town hall served as the conference room of this “parliament”. Schleswig itself had around 11,000 inhabitants at that time.

From 1840, the German-Danish conflict became the dominant theme in the city, whose citizens mostly sided with the German Schleswig-Holsteiners. Among other things, the Schleswig-Holstein song was created in Schleswig, it was enthusiastically sung from 23 to 25 July 1840 at the singing festival of the Schleswig-Holstein song boards in Schleswig. The text comes from the Schleswig advocate Chemnitz, the music from C. G. Bellmann, cantor at St. Johannis Monastery. At the same time the first blue-white-red (Schleswig-Holstein colors) banner was shown.

In 1848 the Schleswig-Holstein uprising of the German-minded population of Schleswig and Holstein against the rule of the Danish king in the duchies broke out. On 23/24 April 1848 came the battle of Schleswig. In this conflict, known as the “Easter Battle”, the Danish troops were expelled from the city of Schleswig, but at the end of the warlike years of 1851 the Kingdom of Denmark had won over the Schleswig-Holstein movement. As a result, Schleswig and Holstein remained as duchies initially linked to the Danish monarchy through a personal union. The Duchy of Schleswig with the city of Schleswig retained its position as a fiefdom of the Kingdom of Denmark, while Holstein remained a member of the German Confederation.

The ducal authorities within the entire Danish state were finally reorganized. As a result, Schleswig lost all of the ducal government authorities, and the Schleswig Assembly of Estates met from 1852 in the State House in Flensburg.

Capital of the Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein

After the German-Danish War in 1864, the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein became an Austro-Prussian condominium. After the German War (1866) they were annexed by Prussia.

With the equality of Jews in the North German Confederation in 1869, a small Jewish community emerged in Schleswig, which dissolved again by the First World War due to the emigration of many of its members to larger cities.

The city of Schleswig replaced Kiel as the seat of the upper president from 1879 to 1917 and was the capital of the Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein until 1945. The Schleswig-Holstein Provincial Parliament continued to meet in the old state hall until 1904. During the Prussian period, from 1888 to 1894, the 112 meter high Schleswig cathedral tower was built.

Under Prussian rule, Schleswig was also a garrison town until the end of the First World War. On November 9, 1866, the regimental staff and the 3rd battalion of the newly established Prussian 84th Infantry Regiment came to the city. The 1st and 2nd battalions followed in 1890 and 1892. One battalion was in Gottorf Castle, while the barracks on Moltkestrasse were built in 1892 for the other battalions. In 1867 the regiment was named "Schleswigsches Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 84" and was renamed in 1888 in honor of General von Manstein in "Infanterie-Regiment von Manstein (Schleswigsches) Nr. 84". It was dissolved again after the 1918 revolution. In 1866 the newly established Prussian Hussar Regiment No. 16 came to Schleswig. In 1867 it was named "Schleswig-Holstein Hussar Regiment No. 16". In 1872 Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria was nominally head of the regiment, the name of which was changed to "Hussar Regiment Emperor Franz-Joseph of Austria, King of Hungary (Schleswig-Holstein) No. 16". Gottorf Castle was his barracks until it was dissolved after the revolution of 1918.

At the beginning of the First World War in 1914, the church bells rang from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. in Schleswig on the occasion of the mobilization and the population was initially enthusiastic about the armed forces. The city's public buildings, such as the seat of the provincial government, the train station, the post office, the Reichsbank and the town hall, were occupied by the military, and on August 3 the hussar regiment moved out and on August 8 the von Manstein regiment also left the city . Ultimately, Schleswig suffered around 270 casualties in the First World War, for whom a memorial made of gray granite was erected in 1920 in the cathedral cemetery and in 1926 on the corner of Flensburger Strasse and Neuwerkstrasse.

During the Weimar Republic, Count Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau from Schleswig became the first Foreign Minister of the young German Republic. Mainly the Social Democrats, the National Liberals and the German Nationals were elected (as an example the result of the Reichstag election on May 20, 1928 - 11,557 voters in Schleswig, votes SPD 3,300, DVP 2,120, DNVP 1,313, DDP 810). During the Kapp Putsch at the beginning of 1920, fighting broke out in Schleswig between the garrison in Gottorf Castle, which had joined the anti-democratic coup attempt, and armed workers loyal to the government. In 1936 a memorial stone was erected on the castle to commemorate the putschists who were killed in the process. Supplemented by an explanatory inscription, this stone is still in place today.

The NSDAP also had a strong base in Schleswig early on. In 1925, the Schleswig local group of the party was formed, whose members initially mostly came from rural areas (Fahrdorf, Busdorf, Tolk). In the Reichstag election of July 1932, the NSDAP received 50.7 percent of the vote, more than all other political groups combined. At the end of 1932 the local NSDAP group had 700 members. One reason for this success was also the situation of the local newspaper market, which was dominated by the Schleswiger Nachrichten. From 1930 the newspaper developed into a mouthpiece for the NSDAP and thus contributed to making National Socialism a majority in Schleswig. In addition, there was the high affinity of the agricultural functionaries in the city and district of Schleswig to the NSDAP.

Schleswig under National Socialism

During the twelve years of the “Third Reich” around 4,000 people from Schleswig were members of the NSDAP. From 1933 to 1937 the barracks were built on the freedom. Furthermore, in 1935 the original colors of the city arms of Schleswig were changed from blue-red to blue-gold. Heraldic principles are said to have been decisive for this.

In 1935, the fishing settlement of Holm, surrounded by water, was connected to Fischbrückstraße and the ditch was filled in. With the construction of Knud-Laward-Straße as an access to the barracks, the Holm has not been an island since then.

Communists, Social Democrats and Jews were persecuted by the National Socialists and deported to concentration or extermination camps. Several hundred patients from the Hesterberg and Stadtfeld sanatoriums, including over 200 children, were also murdered as part of the euthanasia program.

In the second half of the war there were 15 camps for forced laborers with a total of around 500 places in Schleswig. The mostly Polish and Soviet forced laborers were mostly employed in smaller companies, but around 80 of them worked in the Oellerking rope and tarpaulin factory, mainly for military needs.

The militarily insignificant Schleswig was largely spared from the bombing of the Allies during the Second World War. Various monuments (including the larger than life-size Bismarck statue from Rathausmarkt, the cannon monument to Kaiser Wilhelm I at the government building, the bronze figures from the Reventlou-Beseler monument in front of the district court, the Germania monument on upper Michaelis-Allee) were melted down to save them To be able to use metal for war production. The monuments were never restored even after the war ended. Instead of the Bismarck monument, a fountain now adorns Schleswig's market square.

On May 4, 1945, Hans-Georg von Friedeburg signed the surrender of all German troops in northwest Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark on behalf of the last Reich President Karl Dönitz, who had previously resigned in Flensburg-Mürwik with the last Reich government. In the days that followed, the city of Schleswig was also occupied by British troops.

Schleswig under the occupying powers in the post-war period
From May 10, 1945, the British confiscated numerous buildings to accommodate their soldiers, including many villas for the accommodation of English officers. On May 12th, Gottorf Castle and its entire inventory were confiscated by the British, on May 16 the Seefliegerhorst auf der Freiheit, Gewese Luisenbad and its bathing beach, the boat sheds of the Schleisegelclub and the beach hall. Furthermore, the owners of private sailing boats had to make their ships available. The Michaeliskirche served as an English garrison church since May 16. By February 1948, the British seized a total of 151 houses with 2,490 rooms and 73,556 m² of living space, including 59 private houses with 456 rooms. As a result of the confiscations, 1,800 people had to be housed elsewhere.

Schleswig had 26,213 inhabitants in the post-war period. In addition, there were 9,767 refugees from the former German eastern regions and evacuees from the bombed cities, a total of around 36,000 people. Due to food shortages, there was great hunger throughout the city.

On October 12, 1945, the British occupying forces imposed a ban on flags with Danish or Schleswig-Holstein colors to prevent conflict of nationalities. After the Second World War, the Danish minority made efforts to join the Kingdom of Denmark. Since the members of the Danish minority received food aid from Scandinavia, residents who professed to be part of the Danish minority after the end of National Socialism were suspected by German-minded people of purely material motives and insulted as "bacon Danes".

As a result of the conversion of the Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein into a German federal state by the British military government from 1946, Schleswig lost its prominent role among the cities of Schleswig-Holstein and Kiel became the state capital. Plans to move the University of Kiel to Schleswig for this purpose were not implemented. The British soldiers were later replaced by the Norwegian military as the occupying power.

Justice and culture capital of the federal state Schleswig-Holstein

The first municipal election in the new federal state of Schleswig-Holstein took place on October 24, 1948. In Schleswig, an electoral alliance between the CDU and SPD won. This achieved a total of 12,286 votes in Schleswig. The SSW, as a party of the Danish minority, received 7187 votes from the entire population and the left-wing extremist KPD 305 votes. As a result, 20 German and 7 Danish-minded members were elected to the city council. Of the 20 German representatives, 12 belonged to the CDU and 8 to the SPD. Due to the clear German election victory, the city hall and the cathedral tower then hoisted the blue, white and red national colors that the military government had recently approved.

To compensate for the loss of political and administrative functions as the state capital, Schleswig also became the seat of the Higher Regional Court, the State Archives, the State Museum for Art and Cultural History and the State Archaeological Museum after the Second World War. Schleswig is thus today a cultural and judicial center of the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein.