Ubjerg Church

I visited Ubjerg as part of the IBRG DEDK21 expedition.  The Church is a picturesque beautiful little Lutheran church with a very well-kept cemetery with many German tombstones. It is located in the Tønder Municipality in southern Jutland. Church experts might identify its architecture is a mixture of Romanesque/early Gothic. Within the Church there are paintings from 1747 and a crucifix from 1525. The church has a wider border significance stemming back to the plebiscite of 1920.

The reunification of Southern Jutland with Denmark was made possible in 1920 with the German defeat in the First World War. It took place in June 1920 after a process that in fact started with Germany’s admission of defeat in October 1918 and its ensuing request for an armistice. Early on in the post war discussions there was an acceptance that the border with Denmark would change.

Schleswig was divided into three voting zones: North Schleswig, Central Schleswig and South Schleswig. Voting rights were given to all adults over 20 who were born in the voting areas, or who had lived there since 1 January1900. The voting in zone I, North Schleswig, took place on 10 February 1920. The turnout percentage was 91.4. There was a clear majority for Danish affiliation. The voting in zone II, Central Schleswig, took place on March 14. The result here was exactly the opposite. The voting in zone III was annulled.

The maps on the left show that the Tønder Municipality and Ubjerg village specifically had a German majority. The border however was drawn to follow a creek about 2 km south of the church.

This linguistic boundary in 1920 was reflected by the Church and its congregation. A German island in a Danish sea. In 1945 125 people – more or less the whole male population of the village were interned for cooperation with the Germans. Whereas as late as 1982 there was no flagpole in the priest’s garden – in order not to provoke the locals who identified even then as German. Nowadays many of the graves surrounding the Church have only German inscriptions. Half of the services today are in German. Today, the Danish minority south of the border is actually mostly German speaking in their daily and private life. Danish is a language for “official” use – in school and at meetings in the minority organisations, even if some do speak Danish within the family. The German minority north of the border is similar but tend to be more German-speaking in their private life than the Danish minority in Germany is Danish-speaking. That said, many this area will speak the local Danish dialect irrespective of their cultural heritage.

Date of visit: 25th September 2021

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