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  • WAR GUILT AND REPARATIONS
  • DENUNCIATION AND RELUCTANT
  • GERMANIC MIGRATIONS AND
  • Danish War

    lang=EN-US style='font-size:10.5pt;font-family:"Meridien-Medium","serif"; color:black'>(18641866)

    The German-Danish war of 186466 was the first

    of the three wars of German unification. The victory

    of the Prussian army proved the importance

    of the military reforms of 1862 and significantly

    weakened the ability of liberals to oppose the

    absolutism of the Prussian government.

    Like most of history, events are much more

    complex than historians can briefly explain.

    Such is the case with the relation between the

    Danish kingdom and the two duchies of

    Schleswig and Holstein, over which the German-

    Danish War of 1864 was fought. The problem

    originated when a duke of the two provinces

    became king of Denmark and the provinces

    remained his personal possession but not part of

    the Danish kingdom. Prior to the age of nationalism

    this may not have mattered, but it now

    became a significant problem that the whole

    population of Holstein was German and a

    member of the GERMAN CONFEDERATION, while

    Schleswig was not a member although its population

    was two-thirds German and wished to

    join the confederation. This was opposed by the

    Danish minority, which wanted Schleswig to be

    absorbed by Denmark; this was about to happen

    with the promulgation of a new Danish constitution

    in 1863. Yet international agreements

    were also relevant to the crisis that was at the

    point of boiling into a war. In 1852 the European

    powers had signed the London Protocol,

    recognizing the Danish heir to the throne as the

    future monarch of the two duchies, and Denmark

    had promised to keep the German

    provinces separate from the main state. The promulgation

    of a new constitution in November

    1863 violated this agreement by absorbing

    Schleswig. The new Danish king made the mistake

    of disregarding the London Protocol and

    repeated the annexation of Schleswig as had

    been done once before during the REVOLUTION OF

    1848. Not surprisingly, German national feeling

    Danish War 327

    A Mercedes-Benz four-passenger car, 1940 (Library of Congress)

    exploded. The liberals in the National Association

    (Nationalverein) demanded that Schleswig and

    Holstein be taken from the Danes, and the states

    of the German Confederation decided to take

    federal action. What was the attitude of the

    Prussian chancellor, Otto von BISMARCK? On the

    surface he declared his intention to maintain the

    London Protocol and the law of Europe. He was

    less than sincere, however, because his main

    intent was to prevent an independent German

    state from becoming a stronghold of liberalism.

    In addition, Schleswig and Holstein were of

    strategic importance to Prussia, and consequently

    Bismarck wanted the duchies to be

    annexed by PRUSSIA.

    There was much oratory and discussion

    among the Great Powers. Bismarck urged the

    Austrian government to join Prussia in upholding

    international law, and the Viennese government

    reluctantly agreed. The two major German

    powers sent an ultimatum to the Danes to revoke

    the constitution and declared war when the

    Danes refused. This so-called Second Schleswig

    War commenced on February 1, 1864, and fighting

    ceased on July 20. It was a strange and uneven

    conflict. The Danes lacked the military strength to

    win against the Germans. The Danish army faced

    superior numbers and a modernized artillery that

    had more efficient breech-loading cannons with

    rifled bores, which improved accuracy. The Danish

    navy, however, proved its ability by blockading

    Prussian harbors and on May 9 defeating the

    Austrian fleet in the battle of Heligoland. With

    the invasion of 57,000 Prussian and Austrian

    troops under the command of General Wrangel,

    Danish commanders gradually withdrew the

    bulk of their 44,000 men to the fortress of Düppel

    and the island of Alsen, while the remainder

    of the Danish army retired to Jutland. While

    General Wrangel advanced into Jutland, the

    attack on Düppel began on April 2 and ended in

    the middle of the month. It was the major operation

    of the war, beginning with heavy artillery

    bombardment followed by a successful assault

    by Prussian and Austrian soldiers. Prussian

    troops fought gallantly and created a new pride

    in Prussian military prowess.

    News of the victory created an electrifying

    wave of pride and patriotism in Prussia, which

    undermined liberal resistance to Bismarcks absolutist

    policies. An armistice brought a lull to the

    war during a conference in London, but fighting

    resumed in June with the German occupation of

    Alsen. The German fleets now occupied the

    islands off the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein,

    and the army moved to Friedrichshaven on the

    Danish border. A new armistice was declared on

    July 20, and on July 25 a peace conference convened

    in Vienna. Although the Danes had still

    hoped for the old partition, no concessions were

    forthcoming from the Germans. In the Treaty of

    Vienna the king of Denmark handed over

    Schleswig, Holstein, and Lauenburg to the king

    of Prussia and emperor of Austria. They became

    the personal properties of the monarchs, who

    agreed on the joint administration of the

    provinces: Prussia would administer the northern

    province of Schleswig, while Austria would

    administer Holstein.

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