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Northern Frisia (Germany)

Nordfriesland, Schleswig-Holstein

Last modified: 2015-05-10 by pete loeser
Keywords: nordfriesland | tricolour | demi eagle | crown | pot | cross(scandinavian) |
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[Nordfriesland palin tricolour] 3:5 Image by Stefan Schwoon, 7 Dec 2004

On this page: See also:

Introduction of Northern Frisia

     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

North Frisian Tricolour

     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. They Northern Frisians are one of the scheduled minorities in Germany.
     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 Northern Frisia - the stripe flag was used throughout. He concludes that the Scandinavian cross variant was only used in a brief period after WW2, 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

The Frisian colours are gold, red and blue (Frisian: gölj,rüüdj än ween). The colours in this sequential arrangement had been fixed about 1930. Already the first coat of arms of the Northern Frisians (half eagle, crown and grits pot), which had been introduced in 1844 at Bredstedt during a political demonstration within the so called "1st North Frisian Folk Festival", displayed these colurs. But it is no national emblem, but some kind of regional logo, a becoming according to a romantic sentiment. Later the flag was praised within the poem "Gölj-Rüüdj-Ween" by Nis Albrecht Johannsen Jr. (1888-1967), held in "Frasch ", a Frisian mainland idiom. The flag stands in comparison with a Frisian beauty named Annemaleen. The musical version became an unofficial North Frisian anthem. The reason of the choice of these colours is not really known. But a golden summer evening's sky displays just this sequence of colours.
Source: email of Fiete Pingel, (Nordfriisk Instituut), 29 Nov 2012
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 6 Dec 2012

Here is the poem:

by Nis Albrecht Johannsen Jr.

Göljn as e hamel di samereen,
göljn as dat eekerfälj,
än göljn as dåt häär foon min Anemaleen,
wat san we duch rik heer foon gölj.

Rüüdj as e san än lååket sü swätj,
rüüdj san da kliiwere uk,
än rüüdj san da siike foon min latj brädj;
dåt as wälj for liiwde än luk.

Ween as dåt wååder bai dik än doom,
ween as e luft ouer üs,
än ween san da uugne foon min latj foom;
e trou as önj Fraschlönj tu hüs.

Joo, üüsen foone, di as sü smuk,
sü smuk as min Anemaleen;
än wansch ik en mansche trou, liiwde än luk,
sü flag ik ma gölj, rüüdj än ween.

My translation:

"Gold is the sky of a summer eve,
Gold is the farmer's field
And gold is the hair of my Ann-Marlene;
Oh, here we are so rich with gold!

Red is the sun, laughing so sweet,
and red are the clover's blooms,
and red are the cheeks of my little bride,
presumably by love and luck.

Blue is the water at dyke and dam,
blue is the sky over us
and blue are the eyes of my little girl,
for troth has in Frisia its home

Yes, our flag, how nice is it!
As nice as my Annemaleen!
And wishing a man troth, love and luck
I'm hoisting gold, red and blue."

Klaus-Michael Schneider, 6 Dec 2012

North Frisian 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, 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

North Frisian Flag 1844

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

     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 Candeias, on our pages. According to the regional differences, both versions of the motto may be right.
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 29 Jul 2009

North Frisian 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 ā€” 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

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