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Kriegersohn
Sunday, September 7th, 2008, 07:54 AM
Whoever comes against Dithmarschen
Had better come well-armed.
Shouldn’t Dithmarschen belong to the peasants?
Surely they should be considered Lords.
-author unknown, from the collection of Neocorus

My great-grandfather sits in his chair smoking a pipe. He inhales slightly before speaking, telling stories of our history…a proud history of Dithmarschen. The tale begins long after its true beginning and closer towards its end… Smoke still rises from Meldorf, even with the cold winds coming off the North Sea and rain mixed with snow. The men nervously still keep at building the defenses while wondering if they will last the night. One of the last defences, opening the sluices on the dikes, being left to last minute so that the water would not freeze over.

It is not the first time that the men of Dithmarschen had fought the Danes and soldiers from Schleswig and Holstein, nor the last. This time it was different though, the Danish King led his army with the Dannebrog flying out front. The elite Guarde had promised to kill every peasant in this land. Only one problem, they didn’t know the land or its people and there was only one road to Heide.

The battle began and for the most part ended on February 17th, 1500. 7000 of the invaders were killed within the first hour both in combat and drowning. Many Danish, Schleswig and Holstein nobility fell on that day. Dutch mercenaries and the Danes’ Frisian allies faired the same as the nobility, hunted down and killed where ever they stood. Some would say that our Frisian cousins faired a little worse than the rest because they should have known better than coming here given all the problems they had. Though in the end it was victory was in the hands of the farmers; the enemy killed and scattered , the Danes’ beloved Dannebrog and other standards that flew that day were captured and the Danish King fled, narrowly escaping death himself. It wasn’t until 1559, after some 400 years of fighting, that the Danes (with a new king) finally conquered this tiny region.

These were stories that Dithmarschers grew up with and took pride in. Granted the above is only one of numerous stories from the Peasant Republic but the Battle of Hemmingstedt was one of my favorites growing up. The battle as with other elements faded into myth, and despite source material from the time most experts seemed to think of it as that…a myth with only an element of truth. Until 1996 when the battle site, originally found in 1944, was properly excavated by archeologists and myth became glaring reality.

Perhaps interesting is the fact that the people of Dithmarschen knew that they were an anomaly of the Medieval Ages and that it would be through force of arms that they would have to defend their freedom. They had their own civil government, constitution and a well-trained militia. The Dithmarschen Republic existed from 1227 to 1559.

References:

Dithmarschen (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dithmarschen) - wikipedia link

Current flag of Dithmarschen (http://fotw.fivestarflags.com/de-sh-di.html)

Dithmarschen, a Medieval Peasant Republic (http://www.amazon.com/Dithmarschen-Medieval-Peasant-Republic-Mediaeval/dp/0773497838) - a book available from Amazon.com (only noticed the hard cover version and its a bit pricey)

Images of the Medieval Peasant (http://www.amazon.com/Images-Medieval-Peasant-Figurae-Reading/dp/0804733732/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1220769970&sr=1-1) - another book available through Amazon, interesting read

The Dithmarschen Wars (http://http://www.genealogy-sh.de/history/e/war1500.htm)

NationMaster - encyclopedia, Flag of Denmark (http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Flag-of-Denmark) - interesting history, including some of the myths surrounding the Dannebrog...including that the original may have been captured during the Battle of Hemmingstedt.

99963
Memorial at Dusenddüwelswarf

Adalwlfa
Wednesday, September 10th, 2008, 12:55 AM
Die Dithmarscher, historical novel of the famous prof. Adolf Bartels.

Kriegersohn
Friday, September 12th, 2008, 12:40 AM
Die Dithmarscher, historical novel of the famous prof. Adolf Bartels.

I know who Prof. Bartels is, but I couldn't find the book...maybe I'm just looking in the wrong place? Do you have an ISBN by chance?

Adalwlfa
Saturday, September 13th, 2008, 03:25 AM
Bartels was active as writer before WWII. To read in his literal work one first must make effort to understand the time (Epoche) before to choose for a specific. I think personal in the bookshop will be surprised hearing asked for this man and other visitors will look stupifiedly. I learned he was a genius and know that for myself.

CordeliaforLear
Sunday, December 14th, 2008, 04:16 AM
Several lords of the Dittmarsch also participated in the Wendish wars from the time of Charlemagne up until the Teutonic Knights, and Sword Brothers.

I imagine that mercenary work was highly desirable given the fact of living in untillable soil.

I would imagine that such a marshy environment contributed heavily to the fierceness of the legendary Saxon character.