The SSW represents the Danish minority and the national Friesians. These two populations live in South-Schleswig. South-Schleswig is the northernmost part of the German state Schleswig-Holstein and is located between the Danish border and the Kiel Canal. The cultural and political peculiarity of the Danish minority and the national Friesians can only be explained by recurring on history.
South Schleswig is part of the old duchy Schleswig. Until 1864 Schleswig belonged to the Danish commonwealth. After the war between Prussia/Austria and the kingdom Denmark from 1864 till 1867 Schleswig and the duchies Holstein and Lauenburg became part of the Prussian kingdome. A Prussian province Schleswig-Holstein was established as a composite of the three duchies.
To maintain the cultural link to Denmark and to preserve the peculiarity of the Danish life, Danes established a political work after the Prussian-Austrian occupation of Schleswig. The Friesians - a Friesian-speaking minority in the area North-Friesia at the North Sea coast of Schleswig - did likewise. The main political issue was protesting against the integration of the Danish duchy Schleswig into the kingdom of Prussia and against the increasing oppression of the Danish and Friesian populations.
In the beginning Danish politicians in German parliaments were not working for a national minority but for the majority of the population in Schleswig. At the election for the parliament of the North German Federation in 1867 the Danish candidates gained a clear majority in Schleswig. The primary goal of the Danish parliamentarians was securing the cultural peculiarity and the right of self-determination of their ethnic groups. Even at that time the Danish politicians in South-Schleswig saw themselves as independent of political ideologies. This independence is continued in present day Danish and Friesian politics in the SSW.
After World War I it was written down in the Treaty of Versaille that the citizens of Schleswig had the right to decide themselves, whether they wanted to belong to Denmark or Germany. In a plesbiscite of 1920 the population in the northern part of Schleswig decided for a reunion with Denmark, while a majority in the southern part wanted to stay in the German Empire.
The result of the plebiscite was a revision of the borderline between Denmark and Germany, which lasts until today. The consequence of the division of Schleswig was a German minority in Denmark and a Danish minority in Germany. The Friesians also became citizens in Germany.
The hope of the Danish minority for the duchy Schleswig to be reunited with Denmark as a whole was disappointed at the plebiscite in 1920. For the first time in history Schleswig was divided. But the political activity of the Danes was not scorned.
At the elections for the German national parliament (Reichstag) in 1921 4.723 Danish votes were given (3.767 in Flensburg). Three years later the Danish candidates gathered an additional 1.000 votes at the communal election in Flensburg, which meant 7 of 45 seats in the city council. The national Friesians founded the party "List of Friesia" (Liste Friesland) and entered the regional council of South-Tondern (a part of North-Friesia) in the 1920s.
Until the last free elections before the taking over by the Nazis in 1933, the Danish activities were obsiously stabilized. The Danish minority was on its way to becoming a natural part of society.
After the election of 1933 no politival activity was possible. In Flensburg three seats in the city council were allocated to the Danish minority by the Nazi rulers. Political work by national Friesians was prohibited.
After the Liberation in 1945 by British troups the political activity of the Danish population was reactivated immediately. In the beginning the cooperation with the British authorities was anything but easy. The British military government looked upon the Danes as a disturbing factor because of their efforts to establish a new democratic polity in Schleswig-Holstein, due to their wish for reunion with Denmark.
A huge part of the natives in Schleswig (Danes as well as Germans) believed and hoped that at least part of their native soil would be reunited with Denmark. This was one of the main reasons why the votes for Danish candidates increased enormously at the elections in the first post-war years.
After the constitution of an autonomous Schleswig-Holstein in 1947 the British military government nominated a first provisional parliament (Landtag) and the Danish minority was granted some seats in the Landtag.
Until 1948 the political representation of the Danish minority was maintained by the "South Schleswig Association", which was also the cultural association of the Danes. In 1948 the British military government brought about the foundation of the "South-Schleswig Voters' Association" (SSW) as the political representation of the Danish minority and the national Friesians.
In the following years the foundation for the minority policy in Schleswig-Holstein was laid. The German federal constitution of 1949, the Kiel Declaration (1949) and the the "Bonn-Copenhagen-declarations" of 1955 and diverse international rights stemming from that period are still the base of the Danish and Friesian life in South-Schleswig. More recent important documents are the minority passage added to the state constitution of Schleswig-Holstein in 1990, the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (1995) and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (1992).
The SSW very soon also began to play an important role as a regional political force. Primarily the SSW was and is the party of the Danish minority and the national Friesian population, but from the very beginning it abandoned the idea of a political party reduced purely to minority questions. The SSW claimed a political responsibility for all issues in South-Schleswig and the policies in the state.
The SSW, still being the party of the Danes and the Friesians, is accepted today as a serious political factor in whole Schleswig-Holstein. The party has initiated many policies which in the beginning were abandoned by German parties, but are today accepted solutions to the political problems in the region: Among them the structural economic policies for South-Schleswig, ecological policies, Scandinavian labour market policies, the strengthening of "alternative" energy sources and the refusal of atomic energy from the very beginning. Futher "trademarks" of the SSW are solidarity-based social policies and a democratic educational policy - both inspired by the Scandinavian welfare states.