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Nordfriesland County (Germany)

Kreis Nordfriesland, Schleswig-Holstein

Last modified: 2011-06-13 by
Keywords: nordfriesland |
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[Nordfriesland County (Schleswig-Holstein, Germany)] image by Stefan Schwoon
adopted 10 Jul 1972

See also:

Landeskreis of Nordfriesland

There is an official coat of arms for the Landeskreis of North Friesland, created in 1970. This is blue, three golden, three-masted ships in 16th-century style [arranged] 2:1 with golden sails and red pennants. The flag has a broad central stripe with the arms as described, and with narrower stripes at the top and bottom, the inner ones golden, the outer ones red. Source: Thomas Steensen, The Frisians in Schleswig-Holstein, Braeist/Bredstedt: Nordfriisk Instituut, 1994.
Jan Oskar Engene, 7 December 1995

The Hauptsatzung (statutes) of the district at the Nordfriesland official website states that the red and gold stripes should be thin, so the choice of 1:1:12:1:1 is mine. The ships should be shifted slightly to the hoist. The ships are taken from the arms; more on their meaning at Ralf Hartemink's International Civic Arms website, where I copied them from (Reissmann 1997). Adopted 10 Jul 1972, according to Dirk Schönberger's Administrative Divisions of the World website.

Note that this flag does not collide with the North Frisian flags below. The latter have no official status and are popularly used to show adherence to (the historical region of) North Friesland whereas this is the official flag of the district authorities.
Stefan Schwoon, 1 February 2001

From Ralf Hartemink's International Civic Arms website:
"The arms were granted on July 10, 1972. The arms are based on the arms of the former county Eiderstedt. The symbols of the ships differ from the old arms, in that the plough is the symbol of the former county Husum, the fish is slightly changed and represents the typical herring of the island of Sylt in the former county Südtondern. The ox-head is still the symbol for Eiderstedt. The arms [of Eiderstedt] were based on a seal dating from 1613, after the area was reclaimed from the sea. The ships represented the three areas (Harden) in the new territory: Eiderstedt, Everschop and Utholm. (...) On the original seal the ships were placed 1:2 instead of 2:1 and the symbols were placed on the hulk of the ship, not the sails.
Literature: Stadler 1964-1971 and Reissmann 1997.
Santiago Dotor, 23 October 2001

On 11 Nov 2004 the parliament of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein passed a "Law on the Furtherance of the Frisian Language in the Public". The law, which was passed in both German and (North) Frisian, can be found online here.

Among other things, the law establishes (North) Frisian as an official language in the county [Landkreis] Nordfriesland and on the island of Heligoland [Helgoland]. Paragraph 5 states: (My translation):
"In the county of Nordfriesland, the colours and the coat-of-arms of the Frisians can be used alongside the colours and coat-of-arms of the state [i.e. Schleswig-Holstein]. The Frisian colours are yellow-red-blue."

Some more information on the law (in German) can be found in an online article on the website of the parliament of Schleswig-Holstein.
Note that, although the law consistently speaks of "Frisians", the "Frisian language" etc, it only pertains to the Frisians living in Schleswig-Holstein, i.e. the North Frisians. The "coat of arms of the Frisians", which is mentioned but defined in the law, is as follows: Parted per pale, in dexter per fess azure a king's crown or and gules a pot of porridge sable, in sinister or a demi-eagle sable. [See also the "Civil flag"] The first use of this coat-of-arms is generally attributed to a North Frisian festival at Bredstedt in 1844.

The "Frisian colours" mentioned in the law usually translate to flags with three stripes, yellow, red, and blue, occasionally with the afore-mentioned coat-of-arms, which are quite popular in the coastal areas and islands of North Frisia. The new law now allows official buildings in North Frisia to fly this flag along with the state flag.
Stefan Schwoon, 7 Dec 2004

Civil flag without arms

[Plain Nordfriese flag] image by Stefan Schwoon, 7 Dec 2004

An article in the German weekly magazine "Der Spiegel" about the law features a photo of school children holding the plain flag. Flag manufacturers also produce other variants for private use, see e.g. here.

Background: Frisians are living along the coast of the North Sea in areas belonging to the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark. Their language belongs to the West Germanic branch, is related to German and English, and consists of three dialect groups: West Frisian, with about 400,000 speakers in the Dutch province of Friesland, Sater Frisian with only about 1,500 speakers in the Lower Saxon municipality of Saterland, and North Frisian with about 10,000 speakers in the coastal areas and islands of Schleswig-Holstein. Quite many Frisians do not speak the language anymore (e.g. it has all but died out in East Frisia) as it has been replaced by Low German and nowadays increasingly by High German, or by Dutch, respectively.
The above mentioned law defines the cultural rights of the North Frisians living in Schleswig-Holstein and intends to strengthen attempts to revive the use of the Frisian language.

Finally, some comments about the current situation at FotW-ws. Currently, this page shows the flag of the county of Nordfriesland, followed by the yellow-red-blue flag plus variants. My feeling is that these two things should be kept on separate pages. The county is an administrative unit, whereas the yellow-red-blue flag expresses affiliation with North Frisian identity. Therefore, the yellow-red-blue flag cannot properly be called a "Civil Flag" variant of the county flag.

The Scandinavian cross variant appears not to be in use anymore. A while ago, DGF member Friedrich Rackow reported on the German flag mailing list that he never sighted this flag despite many visits to North Frisia - the stripe flag was used throughout. He concludes that the Scandinavian cross variant was only used in a brief period after World War II, during which the Danish tried to lure the Frisians to their side in an attempt to revise the German-Danish border of 1920.
Stefan Schwoon, 7 Dec 2004

Some time ago I got a different flag from the North Frisian Institute in Braeist (Bredstedt). It is a simple yellow-red-blue flag, the gölj-rüüdj-ween as it is called in the North Frisian language (also the title of the unofficial gold, red and blue) have been the North Frisian colours since the beginning of this century. The colours are taken from the fields of the coat of arms. Source: Thomas Steensen, The Frisians in Schleswig-Holstein, Braeist/Bredstedt: Nordfriisk Instituut, 1994.
Jan Oskar Engene, 6 December 1995

Civil Flag

[Civil Flag (North Frisia, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany)] image by Jorge Candeias

The flag shown here with the coat of arms is sometimes shown with a smaller shield above a white scroll on which is written Lever düd as Slav. Source: Walther Stephan, Das Wappen der Landschaft Nordfriesland, in Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Schleswig-Holsteinische Geschichte, 16er Band, Neumünster in Holstein, 1931. According to this source, the North Frisian flag originated at the same time as the flag Schleswig-Holstein, also during feasts, and with the coat of arms and the motto in the middle.
Pascal Vagnat, 17 May 1999

Lever düd as Slav means 'Rather dead than slave'. It is another rendering of the motto Leaver dea as slaef, which can still be found on a monument on the Rode Klif (Gaasterland, Fryslân, Netherlands), remembering the victory of the Frisians over the Hollanders in 1345.
Jarig Bakker, 18 May 1999

I have a flag, yellow-red-blue, with arms, which is used as the flag of the island of Sylt. In FOTW it is shown as the civil flag of North Friesland County. I suspect that the island of Sylt and North Friesland County are one and the same.  This may well explain why the inhabitants of the island fly this as and call it the flag of Sylt.
Robert Jungst, 10 Sep 2002

"Nordfriesland: The most northern county of Germany was created in 1970  by the union of the former counties Eiderstedt, Husum and Südtondern. It is on the oast of the North Sea and includes the Penninsuela Eiderstedt and the north Frisean Islands (incl. Sylt) and the Halligen. Area: 2043; inhabitants: 162.000; capital: Husum".
Source: "Diercke Lexikon Deutschland", 1988.
The CoA of the county shows three yellow sailing ships (Koggen?), each with another red symbol at its main sail. A plough, a fish and a Oxen's head. Background is light blue.
J. Patrick Fischer, 11 Sep 2002

1844 flag

[Nordfriesland 1844 flag] image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 29 Jul 2009

Nordfriesland flag (since 1844)

The oldest flag of Nordfriesland was hoisted on 10 June 1844 on a local festival in Bredstedt.
According to source the coat of arms doesn’t match heraldic rules. A former coat of arms for whole Nordfriesland didn’t exist, because the region always was divided between their neighbours. There are traces, that this coat of arms was created by the Frisian frontman Reverend Christian Feddersen (1786-1844) or a member of his circles. His motto was: “Love to your own people must coincide with love to all mankind.”
The half double eagle is taken from the coat of arms of Holy Roman Empire and is symbolizing the privileges, which have said being granted by the German Emperors in early middle ages. The crown is symbolizing the King of Denmark, who had been souvereign of the whole region until 1864. The pot of grits is symbolizing the brotherliness, for which Feddersen fought.
Also the motto “Lewer duad üs Slav!“ has been reducted to ideas of Feddersen. In his book “Fünf Worte an die Nordfriesen” (Engl.: Five words to the Northern Frisians), published in 1845, but already written in 1842, he claims: “Be no man’s slave, at first not your own slave, i.e. slave of your own cravings!”
In the eve of the first Schleswig-Holstein war (1848) on Bredstedt festival this motto was also considered to be a statement against Denmark, so was the half double eagle.

I also talked to the owner of the flag, I spotted. She told me, that the pot was considered being the pot of curly cale, in which fisherman Pidder Lüng killed the representative of the Danish king, who made the attempt to collect the taxes, the people of Sylt didn’t pay with respect to their privileges. The Dane became impatient, spit into the pot and was for this insult killed by the fisherman immediately, the latter crying out “Lewwer duad üs Slaav!”. Having lost their leader the Danish soldiers committed a massacre killing all the people in the village. This story is told in the ballad of Pidder Lüng, by German poet Detlev von Liliencron (1844-1909). He inserted a 2nd “w” to mark a short vowel and a 2nd  “a” to mark a long vowel in the motto to fit German pronounciation. But the motto has many regional differences.
The first lines of the ballad are written in Frisian language:
"Frii es de Feskfang, //Frii es de Jaght, //Frii es de Strönthgang, //Frii es de Naght, //Frii es de See, de wilde See //En de Hörnemmer Rhee."
In English: “For free is fishing, //for free is hunting, //for free is beachwalking (to pick up goods of stranded ships??), //for free is the night, //for free is the sea, the furious sea // at the roadstead (German: Reede) of Hörnum (a small municipality at the southernmost horn of Sylt Island).”
The complete text can be found e.g. here.
Source: I spotted this flag on 19 July 2009 in HH-Moorfleeth
We have already a variant of this flag, painted by Jorge, on our pages. According to the regional differences, both versions of the motto may be right.
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 29 Jul 2009

Scandinavian Cross Variant

[North Frisia (Schleswig-Holstein, Germany), Scandinavian cross variant] image by Jan Oskar Engene, 6 Dec 1995

Kannik 1958a shows a Frisian (Germany) flag which has a blue Scandinavian cross, fimbriated red, on a yellow field. Horizontal proportions 6+1+2+1+12.
Pascal Vagnat, 6 Dec 1995

I noticed the same in Kannik 1956a. In the notes it is explained that the Scandinavian cross pattern was chosen to symbolise the relationship of the Frisians to the Nordic countries (whatever that may have been — except for the fact that the North Frisians once were ruled by Denmark).
Jan Oskar Engene, 6 Dec 1995

In the Flags of Aspirant Peoples chart appears "75. North Frisians (Helgoland & Schleswig-Holstein) - North Germany". Identical to the Scandinavian cross variant in FOTW.
Ivan Sache, 14 Sep 1999