Encyclopedia > Dithmarschen

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Area:1405 km²
Inhabitants:137,500 (2002)
pop. density:98 inh./km²
Car identification:HEI
Website:dithmarschen.de (http://www.dithmarschen.de/)

Dithmarschen is a district in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. It is bounded by (from the north and clockwise) the districts of Nordfriesland, Schleswig-Flensburg, Rendsburg-Eckernförde and Steinburg, by the state of Lower Saxony (district of Stade, of which it is separated by the Elbe river), and by the North Sea.

Table of contents


In medieval times the villages of Dithmarschen enjoyed a remarkable autonomy. In the 15th century they confederated to a peasants' republic. Several times noblemen and their mercenaries tried to subdue the independent mini state, but without any success. In 1500 the greatest of these battles took place, the Battle of Hemmingstedt, where the peasants defeated the largely outnumbering army of Holstein and the Kalmar Union (as one of the two co-Dukes of Holstein also was the King of Denmark). It was not until 1559, that the peasants had to give up their autonomy.

The conquerors divided Dithmarschen in two parts: The south became a part of Holstein in personal union[?] with Denmark, the north came in the possession of the other Duke of Holstein. From 1773 all of Holstein was united in personal union with Denmark and remained so until 1864, when Schleswig-Holstein was annexed by Prussia.

Actually the Middle Ages in Dithmarschen ended in the 19th century, when the Kiel Canal was completed and agricultural reforms took place. Within the Bundesland Schleswig-Holstein the area was divided into the districts of Norderdithmarschen (North Dithmarschen) and Süderdithmarschen (South Dithmarschen), before it was united in 1970 to the district of Dithmarschen.


The district is located on the coast of the North Sea, where it is situated between the Elbe mouth in the south and the Eider mouth in the north. It is today an artificial island, bordered by the Eider river in the north and the Kiel Canal in the east and southeast. It is a very plain countryside, which was once full of fens and swamps.

Coat of arms

The district displays a knight of Holstein. This coat of arms has long time been unpopular in Dithmarschen, because it was the sign of the conquerors. The arms were used by the governors, but not accepted by the population. In 1930, when these ancient hostilities had become irrelevant, it was introduced in slightly different forms by South Dithmarschen and North Dithmarschen. When both districts were united in 1970, the arms of South Dithmarschen became the symbol of the newly merged district.

Towns and municipalities

  1. Brunsbüttel[?]
  2. Heide
  3. Marne[?]
  4. Meldorf[?]
  5. Wesselburen[?]
  1. Albersdorf[?]
  2. Burg-Süderhastedt[?]
  3. Büsum[?]
  4. Eddelak-Sankt Michaelisdonn[?]
  5. Heide-Land[?]
  6. Hennstedt[?]
  7. Lunden[?]
  8. Marne-Land[?]
  9. Meldorf-Land[?]
  10. Tellingstedt[?]
  11. Weddingstedt[?]
  12. Wesselburen
    Free municipalities
  1. Friedrichskoog[?]

External links

Official website (http://www.dithmarschen.de) (German)
The Dithmarschen Wars (http://www.ahnenforschung-sh.de/history/e/war1500.htm) (English)
Battle of Hemmingstedt, image (http://www.uni-muenster.de/PeaCon/pow/1500)

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