Monday, April 19, 2010

Squirrel Holler (or something like that)

In my history mystery quest, I found out that one of my Danish great-grandmothers came to the United States around the turn of the century from a place called Eckernfoerde. It is in the peninsular part of northern Germany that connects to Denmark called Schleswig. Schleswig was a fiefdom of Denmark. Although this part of Denmark was considered part of Germany between 1864-1920, World War I resolved the issue, along with two other wars creatively titled First Schleswig War and Second Schleswig War. A little web research on why Danes were leaving Germany:

Denmark had been forced to surrender Schleswig to Prussia in 1864. Some 150,000 residents of North Schleswig were thoroughly Danish and many bitterly resented their area's new status. After Wilhelm I, King of Prussia, became Emperor of Germany in 1871, the policy of Prussia in Slesvig was essentially that of Germany. This meant the abolition of the Danish language in the schools and the conscription of young Danish men for the German military. Between 1864 and 1920, when North Schleswig was returned to Denmark as a result of a plebiscite following Germany's defeat in World War I, some 50,000 North Slesvigers immigrated to the United States. Ironically, most of these Danes appear in census statistics as immigrants from Germany rather than Denmark.

Fascinating. Although I guess Great Granny Hansen wasn't too flipped about it because she married my thoroughly German-named great-grandfather from the other side of the border (maybe near Hamburg), Fritz Droege. My great aunt told my mother he was bad news, whatever that means. At any rate, Great Granny Hansen spoke Danish along with my grandfather and his brothers, and she told the Census man she was Danish when he came around asking. Regarding the Schleswig Question, perhaps they all had an extra helping of aquavit (just before prohibition) when the matter was finally put to rest, placing Eckernfoerde on the German side in 1920.

But as veritable proof that these must be the ancestors of my homeland, I learned that the official crest of the town of Eckernfoerde (pictured above) is the squirrel. The sort of squirrel that stands on top of a castle on top of water. This must be my spirit animal. Eckernfoerde roughly translates as squirrel (eckern) and fjord (foerde), which is a bit like a holler. Squirrel Holler.

What if there was a submarine from Eckenforde that was full of squirrels? I can't understand the Russian over-dub of this video, but I think they have zeroed in on the question: