Slesvig-Holsten (Danish)
Sleswig-Holsteen (Low German)
Slaswik-Holstiinj (North Frisian)
Coordinates: 54°28′12″N 9°30′50″E / 54.47000°N 9.51389°E / 54.47000; 9.51389
 • BodyLandtag of Schleswig-Holstein
 • Minister-PresidentDaniel Günther (CDU)
 • Governing partiesCDU / Greens
 • Bundesrat votes4 (of 69)
 • Bundestag seats28 (of 736)
 • Total15,763.17 km2 (6,086.19 sq mi)
 (4 January 2022)[1]
 • Total2,920,850
 • Density190/km2 (480/sq mi)
 • Total€112.755 billion (2022)
 • Per capita€41,925 (2022)
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
ISO 3166 codeDE-SH
Vehicle registrationformerly: S (1945–1947), SH (1947), BS (1948–1956)[3]
HDI (2021)0.921[4]
very high · 13th of 16

Schleswig-Holstein (pronounced [ˌʃleːsvɪç ˈhɔlʃtaɪn] ; Danish: Slesvig-Holsten [ˌsle̝ːsvi ˈhʌlˌste̝ˀn]; Low German: Sleswig-Holsteen; North Frisian: Slaswik-Holstiinj; English: Sleswick-Holsatia[5]) is the northernmost of the 16 states of Germany, comprising most of the historical Duchy of Holstein and the southern part of the former Duchy of Schleswig. Its capital city is Kiel; other notable cities are Lübeck and Flensburg. It covers an area of 15,763 km2 (6,086 sq mi), making it the 5th smallest German federal state by area (including the city-states). Historically, the name can also refer to a larger region, containing both present-day Schleswig-Holstein and the former South Jutland County (Northern Schleswig; now part of the Region of Southern Denmark) in Denmark.

Between 500 and 1200, Schleswig was an integral part of Denmark, but during the 12th century, Duke Abel of Schlewig came into conflict with his brother King Eric IV. Abel managed to gain autonomy from his brother, making Schleswig an autonomous duchy. Later, Abel had Eric assassinated and seized the throne. Despite this, Schleswig remained an autonomous duchy within the Kingdom, setting the stage for future conflicts. Beginning in 1460, both Schleswig and Holstein, were ruled together by the Danish king, who acted as the duke of both regions. Holstein being a duchy within the Holy Roman Empire created a situation where the Danish king was sovereign of Denmark but also a duke within the Holy Roman Empire. In the 19th century, fueled by nationalism both Danes and Germans claimed Schleswig-Holstein. The Germans wanted both Schleswig and Holstein to separate from Denmark and join the German Confederation, invoking the Treaty of Ribe stating that the two duchies should stay "forever undivided". The Danes on the other hands, furthered the Eider policy, stating that the natural Danish border was the Eider river, first recognised in the treaty. Therefore the Danes wanted to reintegrate Schleswig with the Kingdom of Denmark and release Holstein to join to the German Confederation. The resulting long-term political and territorial dispute was known as the Schleswig-Holstein Question. Holstein was entirely German-speaking, while Schleswig was predominantly Danish-speaking until the late 1700 and early 1800s. During this period, a linguistic shift began in southern Schleswig, transitioning from Danish to German. This meant that Schleswig was linguistically divided with a Danish-speaking north and a German-speaking south. In 1848, Denmark tried to formally reintegrate Schleswig into the Kingdom. The German-speaking Schleswig-Holsteiners rebelled, supported by Prussia and the German Confederation, thus starting the First Schleswig War. Against the odds, Denmark emerged victorious. However, pressured by the great powers led by the Russian Tsar, Denmark was not permitted to reintegrate Schleswig despite winning the war. The reasoning was that the Russian Tsar wanted to maintain the current European order, leading to the signing of the 1852 London Protocol. Sadly, this protocol did not offer any solution to the problem but only maintained the status quo. In 1864, Denmark tried again to formally reintegrate Schleswig, which resulted in the Second Schleswig War. This time, both Prussia and Austria utterly defeated the Danes, but it was Prussia that decided the war by winning the pivotal Battle of Dybbøl. The two powers then shared the territory between them. The Austrians administered Holstein, while Prussia governed Schleswig. War broke out between them in 1866, called the Austro-Prussian War. Prussia emerged victorious and annexed Holstein in 1867. Around 50 years later, after The German Empires defeat in World War I, the Allies mandated the return of Schleswig to Denmark, while France advocated for the new border to extend as far south as the Kiel Canal. Denmark lead by Carl T. Zahle and the Social Liberal Party wanted to find a solution to the Schleswig question that would not provoke the Germans and potentially lead to future conflicts, fearing a repetition of the Second Schleswig War. They suggested deciding the matter through plebiscites, leading to the 1920 Schleswig plebiscites, which resulted in the return of the Danish-speaking North Schleswig to Denmark.

After World War II, the British and Soviets offered Denmark South Schleswig, in what would be called the de:Septembernote Denmark's then Prime Minister, the Liberal Party's Knud Kristensen, enthusiastically accepted the offer. A survey showed that 75% of the Danish population supported the incorporation, 500,000 signatures had been collected in support of it and The Danish South Schleswig Association had sent the government a formal request for incorporation. However, the dominating Social Liberal Party feared that Denmark might again face wars like the two Schleswig Wars once Germany recovered from World War II. Given that the Germans had conquered Denmark in six hours during the German invasion of Denmark (1940), they believed Denmark would not stand a chance in such a scenario. Therefore, they pressured the Prime Minister to call for new elections, where the Liberal Party did not secure enough mandates to form a government. The Social Democrats won the election with a minority government and could not gather enough mandates for the incorporation of South Schleswig. This outcome created an outrage within the danish population and was considered a scandal. Realizing that the incorporation of South Schleswig was not feasible, the new government proclaimed that the 1920 plebiscites would stand and the borders would remain unchanged, opting instead for cooperation with the Germans—an invitation the now West Germans welcomed with open arms. Instead of the generational battle over Schleswig, the two governments cultivated a cooperative relationship that culminated in 1955 with the Bonn-Copenhagen declarations, agreeing to provide special rights to their respective minority population. Therefore, rather than altering the border, the nations provide financial support to their respective minorities, a commitment that continues to this day. Both minorities have their own schools, organizations, and a regional party that is guaranteed representation. The German Schleswig Party and the Danish South Schleswig Voters' Association.

As for the Social Liberal Party, blamed for the lost opportunity of South Schleswig's reunification with Denmark, would never again see the influence they had prior to this incident and remains a smaller and less influential party to this day.

Today, Schleswig-Holstein's economy is known for its agriculture, such as its Holstein cows. Its position on the Atlantic Ocean makes it a major trade point and shipbuilding site; it is also the location of the Kiel Canal. Its offshore oil wells and wind farms produce significant amounts of energy. Fishing is a major industry, and the basis of its distinctive unique local cuisine. It is a popular tourist destination for Germans and tourists across the globe.


Main article: History of Schleswig-Holstein

The historic settlement areas in present-day Schleswig-Holstein
The Limes Saxoniae border between the Saxons and the Obotrites, established about 810 in present-day Schleswig-Holstein

The term "Holstein" derives from Old Saxon Holseta Land, (Holz means wood in modern Standardized German; holt is a now-archaic English word for woods.) Originally, the term referred to the central of the three Saxon tribes north of the River Elbe: Tedmarsgoi (Dithmarschen), Holstein and Sturmarii (Stormarn). The area inhabited by the tribe of the Holsts lay between the Stör River and Hamburg; after Christianization, their main church was in Schenefeld. Saxon Holstein became a part of the Holy Roman Empire after Charlemagne's Saxon campaigns in the late eighth century. Beginning in 811, the northern border of Holstein (and thus of the Empire) was the River Eider.[citation needed]

The term "Schleswig" originally referred to the city of Schleswig. The word Schleswig is a German transliteration of the Danish word Slesvig, which consists of two words: Schlei and vig. The Schlei refers to the river at which the city lies, and vig means "inlet" or bay. Schleswig therefore means (in Danish): "The bay at the river Schlei". The Schlei is known as Slien in Danish and is believed to have been used only for the inner Slien (the Great and Little Bay near the city of Schleswig). The word is thought to be related to Slæ, which means reeds and aquatic plants found in this area.[citation needed]

The Duchy of Schleswig, or Southern Jutland, was originally an integral part of Denmark, but in medieval times was established as a fief under the control of the Kingdom of Denmark, having the same relationship with the Danish Crown as, for example, Brandenburg or Bavaria had with the Holy Roman Emperor. Around 1100, the Duchy of Saxony gave Holstein to Count Adolf I of Schauenburg.[citation needed]

Duchies in the Danish realm

Schleswig and Holstein have at different times belonged in part or completely to either Denmark or Germany, or have been virtually independent of both nations. Schleswig was never part of Germany until after the Second Schleswig War in 1864. But for many centuries, the king of Denmark was both a Danish Duke of Schleswig and a German Duke of Holstein. Essentially, Schleswig was either integrated into Denmark or was a Danish fief, and Holstein was a German fief and once, long before that, a sovereign state. Both were ruled for several centuries by the kings of Denmark. In 1721, all of Schleswig was united into a single duchy under the king of Denmark, and the great powers of Europe confirmed in an international treaty that all future kings of Denmark should automatically become dukes of Schleswig: consequently, Schleswig would always follow the order of succession that applied in the Kingdom of Denmark.[citation needed]

Following the Protestant Reformation, German was established as the language of commerce, administration, education, and clergy in Schleswig despite the population being ethnically Danish. This was because Schleswig were managed by the German Chancellery, in Kiel, which was later renamed the Schleswig-Holstein Chancellery in 1806. Therefore, Danes were sent to Kiel for their education instead of Copenhagen, where they received their education in German rather than their native Danish. As a result, Danish students, future administrators, clergy, and educators were taught in German and continued to use the language throughout their professional lives.[citation needed]

In 1814, mandatory schooling was instituted, and was taught in German. This created generations of Danish children who learned German from an early age. Their schooling was conducted in German, they heard sermons in German, and when they grew up, their interactions with the administration and business were conducted in German. Additionally, if Danes didn't learn German, they couldn't communicate with the administration, which often cared little if the citizens were able to understand them. Therefore, if the Danes weren't able to speak German, they were effectively frozen out of any official matters. As a result, a language shift slowly began forming in South Schleswig and gradually spread north, which alarmed Copenhagen. The Danish authorities started taking countermeasures to halt the language shift by banning German in all official matters in Schleswig, which only served to create tensions between Danes and Germans. This language strife significantly contributed to shaping the inhabitants' national sentiments during a time of national unrest in Europe. It is also during this period that we see surname changes, such as from Jørgensen to Jürgensen or Nielsen to Nilsen, in South Schleswig. By the time of the First Schleswig War, one-third of Schleswig and half of South Schleswig spoke German as their first language. By the time of the Second Schleswig War in 1864, half of Schleswig and the vast majority of South Schleswig spoke German as their first language.[citation needed]

Schleswig-Holstein Question

Main article: Schleswig–Holstein question

The German national awakening that followed the Napoleonic Wars gave rise to a strong popular movement in Holstein and Southern Schleswig for unification with a new Prussian-dominated Germany. This development was paralleled by an equally strong Danish national awakening in Denmark and Northern Schleswig. This movement called for the complete reintegration of Schleswig into the Kingdom of Denmark and demanded an end to discrimination against Danes in Schleswig. The ensuing conflict is sometimes called the Schleswig-Holstein Question. In 1848, King Frederick VII of Denmark declared that he would grant Denmark a liberal constitution and the immediate goal of the Danish national movement was to ensure that this constitution would give rights to all Danes, i.e. not only to those in the Kingdom of Denmark, but also to Danes (and Germans) living in Schleswig. Furthermore, they demanded protection for the Danish language in Schleswig (the dominant language in almost a quarter of Schleswig had changed from Danish to German since the beginning of the 19th century).[citation needed]

A liberal constitution for Holstein was not seriously considered in Copenhagen, since it was well known that the political élite of Holstein were more conservative than Copenhagen's. Representatives of German-minded Schleswig-Holsteiners demanded that Schleswig and Holstein be unified and allowed its own constitution and that Schleswig join Holstein as a member of the German Confederation. These demands were rejected by the Danish government in 1848, and the Germans of Holstein and Southern Schleswig rebelled. This began the First Schleswig War (1848–51), which ended in a Danish victory at Idstedt.[citation needed]

In 1863, conflict broke out again when Frederick VII died without legitimate issue. According to the order of succession of Denmark and Schleswig, the crowns of both Denmark and Schleswig would pass to Duke Christian of Duchy of Glücksburg, who became Christian IX. The transmission of the duchy of Holstein to the head of the (German-oriented) branch of the Danish royal family, the House of Augustenborg, was more controversial. The separation of the two duchies was challenged by the Augustenborg heir, who claimed, as in 1848, to be rightful heir of both Schleswig and Holstein. The promulgation of a common constitution for Denmark and Schleswig in November 1863 prompted Otto von Bismarck to intervene and Prussia and Austria declared war on Denmark. This was the Second War of Schleswig, which ended in Danish defeat. British attempts to mediate in the London Conference of 1864 failed, and Denmark lost Schleswig (Northern and Southern Schleswig), Holstein, and Lauenburg to Prussia and Austria.[citation needed]

Province of Prussia

Contrary to the hopes of German Schleswig-Holsteiners, the area did not gain its independence, but was annexed as a province of Prussia in 1867. Also following the Austro-Prussian War in 1866, section five of the Peace of Prague stipulated that the people of Northern Schleswig would be consulted in a referendum on whether to remain under Prussian rule or return to Danish rule. This condition, however, was never fulfilled by Prussia. During the decades of Prussian rule within the German Empire, authorities attempted a Germanisation policy in the northern part of Schleswig, which remained predominantly Danish. The period also meant increased industrialisation of Schleswig-Holstein and the use of Kiel and Flensburg as important Imperial German Navy locations. The northernmost part and west coast of the province saw a wave of emigration to America, while some Danes of North Schleswig emigrated to Denmark.[citation needed]

Plebiscite in 1920

Following the defeat of Germany in World War I, the Allied powers arranged a plebiscite in northern and central Schleswig. The plebiscite was conducted under the auspices of an international commission which designated two voting zones to cover the northern and south-central parts of Schleswig. Steps were taken to also create a third zone covering a southern area, but zone III was cancelled again and never voted, as the Danish government asked the commission not to expand the plebiscite to this area.[citation needed]

In zone I covering Northern Schleswig (10 February 1920), 75% voted for reunification with Denmark and 25% voted for Germany. In zone II covering central Schleswig (14 March 1920), the results were reversed; 80% voted for Germany and just 20% for Denmark. Only minor areas on the island of Föhr showed a Danish majority, and the rest of the Danish vote was primarily in the town of Flensburg.[6]

Results of the 1920 plebiscites in North and Central Schleswig
Electorate German name Danish name For Germany For Denmark
percent votes percent votes
Zone I (Northern Schleswig), 10 February 1920 25.1 % 25,329 74.9 % 75,431
District of Hadersleben Haderslev 16.0% 6,585 84.0% 34,653
Town of Hadersleben Haderslev 38.6% 3,275 61.4% 5,209
District of Apenrade Aabenraa 32.3% 6,030 67.7% 12,653
Town of Apenrade Aabenraa 55.1% 2,725 44.9% 2,224
District of Sonderburg Sønderborg 22.9% 5,083 77.1% 17,100
Town of Sonderburg Sønderborg 56.2% 2,601 43.8% 2,029
Town of Augustenburg Augustenborg 48.0% 236 52.0% 256
Northern part of District of Tondern Tønder 40.9% 7,083 59.1% 10,223
Town of Tondern Tønder 76.5% 2,448 23.5% 750
Town of Hoyer Højer 72.6% 581 27.4% 219
Town of Lügumkloster Løgumkloster 48.8% 516 51.2% 542
Northern part of District of Flensburg Flensborg 40.6% 548 59.4% 802
Zone II (Central Schleswig), 14 March 1920 80.2 % 51,742 19.8 % 12,800
Southern part of District of Tondern Tønder 87.9% 17,283 12.1% 2,376
Southern part of District of Flensburg Flensborg 82.6% 6,688 17.4% 1,405
Town of Flensburg Flensborg 75.2% 27,081 24.8% 8,944
Northern part of District of Husum Husum 90.0% 672 10.0% 75

On 15 June 1920, Northern Schleswig officially returned to Danish rule. The Danish/German border was the only one of the borders imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles after World War I that was never challenged by Adolf Hitler.

In 1937, the Nazis passed the so-called Greater Hamburg Act (Groß-Hamburg-Gesetz), where the nearby Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg was expanded, to encompass towns that had formerly belonged to the Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein. To compensate Prussia for these losses (and partly because Hitler had a personal dislike for Lübeck[7]), the 711-year-long independence of the Hansestadt Lübeck came to an end, and almost all its territory was incorporated into Schleswig-Holstein.

A German postage stamp conmemorating the Bonn-Copenhagen Declarations

State of Federal Germany

After World War II, the Prussian province Schleswig-Holstein came under British occupation. On 23 August 1946, the military government abolished the province and reconstituted it as a separate Land.[8]

Due to the forced migrations of Germans between 1944 and 1950, Schleswig-Holstein took in almost a million refugees after the war, increasing its population by 33%.[9] A pro-Danish political movement arose in Schleswig, with transfer of the area to Denmark as an ultimate goal. This was supported neither by the British occupation administration nor the Danish government. In 1955, the German and Danish governments issued the Bonn-Copenhagen Declarations confirming the rights of the ethnic minorities on both sides of the border.[10] Conditions between the nationalities have since been stable and generally respectful.


See also: List of places in Schleswig-Holstein

Topographic map of Schleswig-Holstein

Schleswig-Holstein lies on the base of Jutland Peninsula between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. Strictly speaking, "Schleswig" refers to the German Southern Schleswig (German: Südschleswig or Landesteil Schleswig, Danish: Sydslesvig), whereas Northern Schleswig is in Denmark (South Jutland County, Region of Southern Denmark). The state of Schleswig-Holstein further consists of Holstein, as well as Lauenburg and the formerly independent city of Lübeck.

Schleswig-Holstein borders Denmark (Southern Denmark) to the north, the North Sea to the west, the Baltic Sea to the east, and the German states of Lower Saxony, Hamburg, and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern to the south.

In the western part of the state, the lowlands have virtually no hills. The North Frisian Islands, as well as almost all of Schleswig-Holstein's North Sea coast, form the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park (Nationalpark Schleswig-Holsteinisches Wattenmeer) which is the largest national park in Central Europe.

The Baltic Sea coast in the east of Schleswig-Holstein is marked by bays, fjords, and cliff lines. Rolling hills (the highest elevation is the Bungsberg at 168 metres or 551 feet) and many lakes are found, especially in the eastern part of Holstein called the Holstein Switzerland and the former Duchy of Lauenburg (Herzogtum Lauenburg). The longest river besides the Elbe is the Eider.

Schleswig-Holstein has the lowest quota of forest covered area, it is only 11.0% (national average 32.0%), which is even lower than in the city-states of Hamburg and Bremen.[11]

The German Islands of Sylt, Föhr, Pellworm, Amrum, Heligoland and Fehmarn are part of Schleswig-Holstein, with the latter being the largest and the only Island of Schleswig-Holstein located on the east coast.[12] Heligoland is Germany's only high-sea island.[12]


Boundary stone to the District of Ostholstein
Districts of Schleswig-Holstein

Administrative Division

Schleswig-Holstein is divided into 11 Kreise (Districts) and four Kreisfreie Städte (Urban Districts).

Kreise License Plate Area
Coat of Arms of Dithmarschen
Coat of Arms of Dithmarschen
HEI[13] 1.428,17 km2[14]
Coat of Arms of the Duchy of Lauenburg
Coat of Arms of the Duchy of Lauenburg
Herzogtum Lauenburg
RZ[13] 1.263,07 km2[14]
Coat of Arms of Northern Frisia
Coat of Arms of Northern Frisia
NF[13] 2.083,56 km2[14]
Coat of Arms of Ostholstein
Coat of Arms of Ostholstein
OH[13] 1.393,02 km2[14]
Coat of Arms of Pinneberg
Coat of Arms of Pinneberg
PI[13] 664,25 km2[14]
Coat of Arms of Plön
Coat of Arms of Plön
PLÖ[13] 1.083,56 km2[14]
Coat of Arms of Rendsburg-Eckernförde
Coat of Arms of Rendsburg-Eckernförde
RD, ECK[13] 2.189,79 km2[14]
Coat of Arms of Schleswig-Flensburg
Coat of Arms of Schleswig-Flensburg
SL[13] 2.071,28 km2[14]
Coat of Arms of Segeberg
Coat of Arms of Segeberg
SE[13] 1.344,47 km2[14]
Coat of Arms of Steinburg
Coat of Arms of Steinburg
IZ[13] 1.055,70 km2[14]
Coat of Arms of Stormarn
Coat of Arms of Stormarn
OD[13] 766,22 km2[14]
Urban District
Coat of Arms of Kiel
Coat of Arms of Kiel
KI[13] 118,65 km2[14]
Urban District
Coat of Arms of Lübeck
Coat of Arms of Lübeck
HL[13] 214,19 km2[14]
Urban District
Coat of Arms of Neumünster
Coat of Arms of Neumünster
NMS[13] 71,66 km2[14]
Urban District
Coat of Arms of Flensburg
Coat of Arms of Flensburg
FL[13] 56,73 km2[14]


See also: Politics of Schleswig-Holstein

Schleswig-Holstein has its own parliament and government which are located in the state capital Kiel.[15]

Executive Branch

See also: Second Günther cabinet

The Minister-President of Schleswig-Holstein is elected by the Landtag of Schleswig-Holstein.[15]

Portfolio Minister Party Took office Left office State secretaries
Daniel Günther
born (1973-07-24) 24 July 1973 (age 50)
CDU 29 June 2022 Incumbent
Deputy Minister-President
Minister for Finance
Monika Heinold
born (1958-12-30) 30 December 1958 (age 65)
GRÜNE 29 June 2022 Incumbent
  • Silke Torp
  • Oliver Rabe
Minister for Justice and Health Kerstin von der Decken
born (1968-11-22) 22 November 1968 (age 55)
CDU 29 June 2022 Incumbent
  • Otto Carstens
  • Oliver Grundei
Minister for Education, Training, Science, Research and Culture Karin Prien
born (1965-06-26) 26 June 1965 (age 58)
CDU 29 June 2022 Incumbent
  • Dorit Stenke
  • Guido Wendt
Minister for Interior, Communities, Housing and Sport
Sabine Sütterlin-Waack
born (1958-02-15) 15 February 1958 (age 66)
CDU 29 June 2022 Incumbent
  • Jörg Sibbel
  • Magdalena Finke
Minister for Energy Transition, Climate Protection, Environment and Nature Tobias Goldschmidt
born (1981-09-16) 16 September 1981 (age 42)
GRÜNE 29 June 2022 Incumbent
  • Katja Günther
  • Joschka Knuth
Minister for Economics, Transport, Labour, Technology and Tourism Claus Ruhe Madsen
born (1972-08-27) 27 August 1972 (age 51)
CDU 29 June 2022 Incumbent
  • Tobias von der Heide
  • Julia Carstens
Minister for Social Affairs, Youth, Family, Seniors, Integration and Equality Aminata Touré
born (1992-11-15) 15 November 1992 (age 31)
GRÜNE 29 June 2022 Incumbent
  • Johannes Albig
Minister for Agriculture, Rural Areas, Europe and Consumer Protection Werner Schwarz
born (1960-04-10) 10 April 1960 (age 64)
CDU 29 June 2022 Incumbent
  • Anne Benett-Sturies
Chief of the State Chancellery Dirk Schrödter
born (1978-10-17) 17 October 1978 (age 45)
CDU 29 June 2022 Incumbent
  • Johannes Callsen
  • Sandra Gerken

Recent elections

See also: 2022 Schleswig-Holstein state election

State elections were held on 8 May 2022. The current government is a coalition of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and The Greens, led by Minister-President Daniel Günther.

List of minister-presidents of Schleswig-Holstein

Main article: List of minister-presidents of Schleswig-Holstein


Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.

Schleswig-Holstein has an aging population. Since 1972 there has been a decrease in the natural rate of population change. In 2016 the total fertility rate reached 1.61, highest value in 40 years (the average value being 1.4). In 2016 there were 25,420 births and 33,879 deaths, resulting in a natural decrease of −8,459.

Vital statistics


Religion in Schleswig-Holstein – 2011
religion percent
EKD Protestants
Roman Catholics
Other or none

The region has been strongly Protestant since the time of the Protestant Reformation. It is proportionally the most Protestant of the sixteen modern states. In 2018, members of the Protestant Church in Germany make up 44.6% of the population, while members of the Catholic Church comprise 6.1%.

49.3% either adhere to other religions or disclaim any practising religious identity.[18]


Largest groups of foreign residents by 31 December 2023 [19]

Significant foreign resident populations
Nationality Population (31 December 2022) Population (31 December 2023)
 Ukraine 38,785 38,970
 Syria 32,470 38,610
 Turkey 28,395 30,845
 Poland 29,785 29,795
 Afghanistan 18,285 22,040
 Romania 20,255 20,590
 Iraq 12,395 13,805
 Bulgaria 10,470 11,215
 Russia 8,240 9,290
 Denmark 7,365 6,430
 Italy 5,875 6,210


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Schleswig-Holstein combines Danish, Frisian and German aspects of culture. The castles and manors in the countryside are the best example for this tradition; some dishes like Rødgrød (German: Rote Grütze, literal English "red grits" or "red groats") are also shared, as well as surnames such as Hansen.

The most important festivals are the Kiel Week, Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, an annual classic music festival all over the state, and the Lübeck Nordic Film Days, an annual film festival for movies from Scandinavian countries, held in Lübeck. The Kiel Week is an annual event, except for 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID19-Pandemic.[20] It took place again in June 2022.[20]

The annual Wacken Open Air festival is considered to be the largest heavy metal rock festival in the world.


The coat of arms shows the symbols of the two duchies united in Schleswig-Holstein, i.e., the two lions for Schleswig and the leaf of nettle for Holstein. Supposedly, Otto von Bismarck decreed that the two lions were to face the nettle because of the discomfort to their bottoms which would have resulted if the lions faced away from it.

Government agencies of Schleswig-Holsteins are using a logo showing a stylized version of the Schleswig Lions and the Holstein nettle combined with the abbreviation of Schleswig-Holstein "SH". Written either below or to the right of the lion and the nettle is "Schleswig-Holstein" below which either the Name of the agency using the logo is shown or the motto "Der echte Norden" (Germany's true North).[21]

Schleswig-Holstein logo

The motto of Schleswig-Holstein is "Up ewich ungedeelt" (Middle Low German: "Forever undivided", modern High German: "Auf ewig ungeteilt"). It goes back to the Treaty of Ribe (Danish: Ribe Håndfæstning German: Handfeste von Ripen) in 1460. Ripen (Ribe) is a historical small town in Northern Schleswig, nowadays Denmark.[10]

The anthem from 1844 is called "Wanke nicht, mein Vaterland" ("Don't falter, my fatherland"), but it is usually referred to with its first line "Schleswig-Holstein meerumschlungen" (i.e., "Schleswig-Holstein embraced by the seas") or "Schleswig-Holstein-Lied" (Schleswig-Holstein song).

The old city of Lübeck is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Food and drink

Main article: Schleswig-Holstein cuisine

Distinctive point of the cuisine is combination of sweetness with a taste contrast like sour or salty. These combinations are also described as "broken sweetness" is especially present in dishes which are sweet-sour.

Typical dishes are:


The official language of Schleswig-Holstein is German.[22] In addition, Low German, Danish and North Frisian are recognized minority languages.[23]

Historically, Low German (in Holstein and Southern Schleswig), Danish (in Schleswig), and North Frisian (in Western Schleswig) were widely spoken in Schleswig-Holstein. During the language change in the 19th century some Danish and North Frisian dialects in Southern Schleswig were replaced by Standard German.[24][25][26]

Low German is still used in many parts of the state. Missingsch, a Low German dialect with heavy High German (Standard German) influence, is commonly spoken informally throughout the state, while a mixed language Petuh (mixture of High German and Danish) is used in and around Flensburg. Danish is used by the Danish minority in Southern Schleswig, and North Frisian is spoken by the North Frisians of the North Sea Coast and the Northern Frisian Islands in Southern Schleswig. The North Frisian dialect called Heligolandic (Halunder) is spoken on the island of Heligoland.

As is the case throughout Germany, High German, introduced in the 16th century, has come to steadily replace local dialects for official purposes, and is today the predominant language of media, law and legislature. It is spoken by virtually all inhabitants in formal situations. Since the end of World War II and widespread adoption of TV, radio and other mass media, it has gradually come to supplant local dialects in urban areas as well.


Schleswig-Holstein's islands, beaches, and cities are popular tourist attractions. Shown here is the Isle of Sylt.

The Gross domestic product (GDP) of the state was 62.7 billion euros in 2018, accounting for 1.9% of German economic output. GDP per capita adjusted for purchasing power was 30,400 euros or 101% of the EU27 average in the same year. The GDP per employee was 95% of the EU average. The GDP per capita was the lowest of all states in West Germany.[27] In 2017, Schleswig-Holstein had an export surplus for the first time since 1989: export 22.6 billion euros/ import 20.8 billion euros.


Schleswig-Holstein is a leader in the country's growing renewable energy industry.[28] In 2014, Schleswig-Holstein became the first German state to cover 100% of its electric power demand with renewable energy sources (chiefly wind 70%, solar 3.8%, and biomass 8.3%).[29] By 2023, according to Schleswig-Holstein Netz, renewable energy sources were providing 204% of Schleswig-Holstein's electricity demand (the 104% surplus are exports).[30]

The largest German oil field Mittelplate is located in the North Sea off the Dithmarsch coast and connected with refinery in Hemmingstedt and chemical plants in Brunsbüttel via pipeline. It produce ca. 1.4 million tonnes of oil annually.

Nuclear power

There were three nuclear power plants in Schleswig-Holstein: Krümmel, Brunsbüttel, and Brockdorf. The last operating plant in Schleswig-Holstein, the Brokdorf-plant was shut down on new-years eve 2021.[31]

There is also a nuclear research center known "Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht" (rebranded as Hereon) with 2 research reactors, located right next to the Krümmel plant.[32]

During the 1990s, ten more cases of leukemia among children than was expected were identified in Elbmarsch, near the Krümmel plant. Anti-nuclear activists believed it was due to the nuclear plant, which led to several investigations. The reported discovery of small spherical beads of nuclear material in the area led to further concern, as well as the presence of minute amounts of plutonium in the Elbe. The origins of the nuclear material were disputed, with one report determining them to not be that of the Krümmel plant. Another report claimed that they may have come from an undisclosed fire in 1986, however this theory has been questioned as it would have required a substantial government coverup. The Chernobyl disaster has also been suggested as a source, though is considered unlikely. The probable source of the material, especially in the Elbe, is nuclear reprocessing plants in France. A 2010 report exonerated the nuclear power plants on the Elbe as the cause of contamination. Further doubt was cast on the nature of the supposed beads of nuclear material, with a Federal commission chastising the original commission that claimed to have discovered the beads. The exact cause of the increased leukemia cases remains unknown, and could be due to other environmental factors, or even by chance.[33][34][35][36][37]

The nuclear plants have further been questioned as a source of the cases due to comparison to the Savannah River Site in the United States. Despite release of radiation at the Savannah River Site, there is no increase in cases of leukemia around it. Alternative hypotheses for the cause of the cases have included electromagnetic fields, parental radiation exposure prior to conception, other carcinogens, and benzene exposure; however, none have been supported by the existing evidence. Intriguingly, a larger case-control study in Lower Saxony found a correlation between the "untrained immune system" (as judged as contact with other children, vaccinations, etc.) and leukemia risk, suggested that an immature immune system that has not been challenged is at greater risk for developing malignancy, possibly secondary to an undetermined environment factor.[38][39]


Located between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, Schleswig-Holstein is also a popular tourist destination in Germany. Its islands, beaches and cities attract millions of tourists every year. It has the second highest tourism intensity per local among the German states, after Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, but in absolute value it is rank 6th and only 1/3 of top destination Bavaria.[40] According to a ruling by the Federal Administrative Court, everyone has the right to free access to the beach. Nevertheless, most of the seaside resorts kept cashing in (2-€3 /day/person).[41]


63% of land in Schleswig-Holstein (990 403 ha) is used for agriculture (national average 47%).[42]

Cultivated crops:[43]

There are some special cultivation regions:

Animal husbandry

A Holstein heifer

The dairy and cattle farming in connection with fodder cultivation is mainly concentrated on the marshland and the bordering Geest areas. In 2020, around 1 million cattle including 360,000 dairy cows were counted in Schleswig-Holstein, rank 4th of German states. Livestock is continuously declining.[44]

Schleswig-Holstein is home of the most productive dairy cattle: Holsteins, which produce an average of 8,125 L (2,146 US gal) per year of milk. It is now the main dairy cow around the world.

Pig breeding is mainly found in the Schleswig-Holstein Uplands. In principle, Schleswig-Holstein is one of the regions with relatively few pigs (a total of around 1.6 million; in comparison Lower Saxony: over 8 million). Poultry and sheep are also of little importance in animal husbandry.[43]

Schleswig-Holstein had Europe's largest snake farm in Uetersen with over 600 venomous reptiles, but it closed in 2019.[45]

Fishing and Aquaculture

Shrimp cutter near Südfall

Total production from fishing in North and Baltic Seas was 40 780 tonnes in 2019, ca. 1/3 German production.[46]

In the Baltic Sea total production amounted to 10377 tonnes (2019), of which 5432 tonnes of sprat, 2568 tonnes of flatfish and 1190 tonnes of cod.[46]

In the North Sea the numbers were 19,487 tonnes of mussels, 3560 tonnes of North Sea shrimp, 1166 tonnes of herring and 7062 other fishes.[46]

The one important aquaculture product is mussels, 16864 tonnes.[46]

Inland fishing and aquaculture is not significant with 221 and 250 tonnes in 2019 respectively.[46]


The largest company headquarters in Schleswig-Holstein with annual sales over 1 billion euros are:

The unemployment rate stood at 5.0% in October 2021.[47]

Year[48] 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Unemployment rate in % 8.5 8.4 8.7 9.7 9.8 11.6 10.0 8.4 7.6 7.8 7.5 7.2 6.9 6.9 6.8 6.5 6.3 6.0 5.5 5.1


Headquarters of Dräger in Lübeck


Kiel Canal

Main article: Kiel Canal

The most important transport way in Schleswig-Holstein is Kiel Canal, which connect Brunsbüttel on North Sea with Kiel on Baltic Sea. Total cargo of ships reach peaks in 2007 and 2012, after that it continuous decline with 73.8 million tonnes in 2020.[53]


The state has a total of 46 public ports and landing stages, four of which fulfill international transit functions: Kiel, Lübeck / Travemünde and Puttgarden on the Baltic Sea, Brunsbüttel on the North Sea. Kiel and Lübeck are also important for freight traffic to Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. Lübeck-Travemünde and Kiel are also important ferry and cruise ports. Puttgarden is the German port of the Vogelfluglinie to Denmark. Brunsbüttel is an important port for bulk goods and also serves as the basis for the offshore wind energy industry.

Lübeck 16.0 23.0 449 000
Brunsbüttel 10.1 0.0 0
Puttgarden 5.4 14.4 5 482 277
Kiel 4.8 5.9 1 588 467


General Education

In Schleswig-Holstein, the school education system begins with a four-year primary school, called Grundschule.[55] Compulsory education applies to all children who turn six years old by June 30th of the current calendar year.[55] In addition to the four-year primary school, the secondary level (grades 5 to 10), equivalent to middle school, consists of a two-tier school system comprising Gemeinschaftsschulen and Gymnasium.[56][57] At all Gemeinschaftsschulen, Mittlere Reife can be obtained. Currently, 44 comprehensive schools also offer three additional years of highschool-education, where students can complete the Abitur (higher education entrance qualification) after a total of 13 school years.[56]

Most Gymnasium in Schleswig-Holstein offer a nine-year educational track, with only one Gymnasium leading to the Abitur in eight years. Three of the Gymnasien offer both three-year and two-year pathways for the Abitur.[57]

The third option to obtain the Abitur is through the `Berufliches Gymnasium' (vocational gymnasium).[58] At the 28 berufliches Gymnasium in Schleswig-Holstein, students – unlike in the profile upper stage of regular Gymnasium and Gemeinschaftsschulen – have the opportunity to choose a specific subject area. The offered disciplines include agricultural economics, nutrition, technology, economics, as well as health and social care.[58] Admission requirements for the berufliches Gymnasium include above-average completion of the Mittlere Reife.Currently, around one fifth of the high school graduates in Schleswig-Holstein graduate from berufliches Gymnasium.[58]

Academic Education

There are three universities in Kiel (classical, budget 167.1 M€), Lübeck (medicine, budget 80.8 M€) and Flensburg (pedagogical, 37.4 M€).[59] Six public Universities of Applied Sciences exist in Wedel, Altenholz, Flensburg, Heide, Kiel, and Lübeck.[60] There is the Conservatory in Lübeck and the Muthesius Academy of Fine Arts in Kiel. There are also three private institutions of higher learning.[59]

Honorary citizens

As of 2016, seven persons had been made honorary citizens of Schleswig-Holstein:[61]

See also


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