The Schleswig plebiscite was actually two referendums, organized according to the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, with the purpose of determining the future border between Germany and Denmark. The referendums were monitored by representatives from France, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Sweden — a couple of whom were not exactly “impartial” parties!.
Schleswig, located at the southern end of the Jutland Peninsula, had originally been a Danish province. Following the War of Schleswig in 1864, the territory was awarded to the Kingdom of Prussia by the Treaty of Vienna. It eventually became part of the Prussian Province of Schleswig-Holstein. In 1871, Schleswig-Holstein became part of the newly founded German Empire.
After World War I, the Danish, who were neutral during the war, divided the province into three zones, in which separate referendums would be held.
Zone I encompassed the northern and largest part of Schleswig. Zone I was about 75% ethnic Danish and 25% ethnic Germans, but some towns in the zone did have majority ethnic German populations. The referendum for Zone I was held on February 10, 1920, and it voted to become part of Denmark, today, the Danish Province of South Jutland.
Zone II was formed from the central part of the province. Zone II was about 80% ethnic German and 20% ethnic Danish. The referendum for Zone II was held on March 14, 1920, and it voted to remain part of Germany.
Zone III was the southernmost part of the province, and it was almost entirely ethnic German. No referendum was held in Zone III, as the outcome was obvious.
The referendums were, of course, “fixed” by Denmark, by having separate referendums for the zones they had established, based on the ethnic majority populations. In this way, the outcomes were predetermined, and Denmark was able to reclaim a substantial portion of the province that they had lost to Prussia in 1864.
Even though the referendums were not fair, the outcome was peaceful, and the border between Denmark and Germany that was established in 1920 remains to this day.
This German Empire passport from Hamburg bears a huge SLESVIG ruber stamp and a SLESVIG revenue stamp. Here the description from the auction house who sold this treasure for 500 EUR including 25% buyers premium. Congratulations to the seller and buyer (which was rather a revenue collector)!
“10 mk. red fiscally used in a Passpor.t “REISE-PASS” issued 10. Juni 1920 for travelling in Germany and to Wyck a/ Föhr. The stamp is cancelled with violet cachet “COMMISSION INTERNATIONALE SLESVIG 21.MAJ 1920” and with large violet commissions cachet. ONLY FEW PASSPORTS RECORDED, this one is the only one with a 10 mk. stamp. EXTRAORDINARILY WELL PRESERVED.