Slesvig is the traditional border land between Europe and Scandinavia. This is where Scandinavia ends and Europe begins. The area is deeply rooted in Nordic culture and for a thousand years it was no difference from the rest of Denmark. But the position as borderland meant there gradually would be a mix of people from both sides of the border with Germans slowly moving north to Slesvig.
People lived together peacefully for centuries and there really wasn’t much difference between speaking Danish or German in this borderland – but after the Napoleonic wars there was a rice in nationalism across Europe. It also reaches Denmark, Germany and Slesvig. Denmark wanted the old land to be integrated with the rest of Denmark while the German speaking part of the population wanted closer ties to the German union.
The tension was growing and eventually it ended with a war in 1848 which lasted to 1850. It ended in sort of a Danish victory – at least as far as Slesvig remained as a part of Denmark. But the victory wasn’t just won on the battle field it was more of a compromise between the major European powers who decided Slesvig should remain as a possession of the Danish King.
The main battle of the war was fought at Isted – it was the biggest battle ever to take place in Scandinavia and it did end with a Danish victory. The Danish citizen was happy with the victory and wanted to commemorate the victory. Finally there was a fundraising to make a memorial of the victory. A great statue of a lion was made and was placed at the old cemetery of Flensburg. The statue was finally finished in 1862 and was standing at the cemetery staring south against the German enemy.
The Isted Lion only remained here for a short while. In 1864 the second Slesvig war started and this time Denmark was unsuccessful. The rebels of Slesvig and Holsten were helped by the Austrians and Prussians and the war ended in a total Prussian victory. Denmark lost all Holsten and most of Slesvig except an island a few counties to the north. Flensburg became German and the German victors didn’t like the lion standing at the cemetery staring south to Germany.
The lion was taken as spoils of war and place in Berlin. The lion remained in Berlin until 1945 when the Danish government asked the Americans to return it to Denmark the statue was returned – though a copy remains in the German suburb or Wansee where it can be seen and is called the Flensburger Löve or Flensburg Lion.
The lion stayed in the courtyard of the Danish war museum for the next 56 years then it was moved to a more prominent place on a square in central Copenhagen. After another decade at this location it was finally decided to return the lion to the original position at the old cemetery in Flensburg.
Underneath the statue there is a small plague in German stating the statue was once again erected here as a sign of the friendship and trust between the Germans and the Danes.