The history of Dybbøl Mill
Dybbøl Mill has led a tumultuous life at the top of Dybbøl Banke.
The first mill – made of wood – was built in 1744. The following year it was purchased by the brothers Valentin and Lorenz Claussen and was run by Lorenz until his death in 1775. The Dybbøl Mill then passed on to Lorenz’ son, Lorenz the younger. He was only 21 years old, but a skilled young man. He experimented with mill technology, and in 1782 won a gold medal for his dissertation on the subject. In the year 1800 the mill was hit by lightning and burned down. However, it was soon rebuilt, once again in wood. The reconstruction was costly, and as Lorenz spend more time on experiments and dissertations, he went bankrupt in 1810. Lorenz had to leave Dybbøl and died in Aarhus in 1823 when a mill wing hit him.
From 1810 the Dybbøl Mill was run by several tenants until it was put up for auction in 1832. The highest bid of 3,280 Rigsdaler was from Heinrich B. Quade. As no one knew Quade, he had to provide security for the large amount. Quade immediately picked up a chest from his wagon, and as it was full of silver coins, the Dybbøl Mill was transferred to Quade. The chest can be found in the exhibition at the Dybbøl Mill, however, without the silver coins. Heinrich B. Quade moved into the mill with his entire family and operated it for many years.
In 1848 the First Schleswig War – also known as the Three-Year War – broke out. The war came to the Dybbøl Mill several times. Already, in 1848 the Danish army established an observation post at the mill. Danish victories at Nybøl on 28 May and at Dybbøl 5 June 1848 raised enthusiasm within the population. In August 1848 the Danish army and Schleswig-Holstein troops entered into a ceasefire, but the war broke out again in 1849. On 13 April 1849, Danish and German soldiers met in a battle near Dybbøl with the Germans bombarding the Dybbøl Banke. The Dybbøl Mill was hit and burned down. Heinrich B. Quade got compensation for war injury, but due to the war, he was not able to rebuild the mill before 1853. As the Dybbøl Mill came to a standstill for three years, Quade suffered a significant loss.
The new mill from 1853 was built as a Dutch windmill in tiles. In 1860, Heinrich B. Quade died, and the mill was passed on to his daughter Margrethe and her husband, Jørgen Hansen. The following year, the Danish army built ten redoubts immediately west of the mill.
In 1864 the Second Schleswig War broke out. Prussian and Austrian troops crossed the Eider River on 1 February and were met by the Danish army at the Dannevirke. On 5 February, the Danish army had to withdraw, and after a long retreat, the Danish soldiers arrived at Dybbøl on 7 February. The Dybbøl Banke now swarmed with soldiers, and Danish officers quickly moved into the mill at Jørgen and Margrethe’s. Both officers and men greatly appreciated the miller couple doing everything they could to help the soldiers. Jørgen even got the nickname “soldiers’ friend”, and at Jørgen and Margrethe’s golden anniversary in 1887, the veterans gave them a silver horn. The gift can be seen at the Dybbøl Mill.
On 15 March, the Prussian army launched a massive bombardment of the Dybbøl position. On 17 March a grenade went through the roof of the mill house, and Jørgen and Margrethe had to leave the Dybbøl Banke as the last civilians moving to the village Ketting on the island Als. On 10 April, the mill itself was hit by a grenade, and the entire mill top collapsed. According to a later report written by their grandchild, Jørgen and Margrethe were standing on a hill on Als while watching the mill collapse.
After ten weeks of siege, the Prussian army stormed the Dybbøl position on 18 April 1864. After having conquered the redoubts, the Prussian troops continued further and were met by the Danish 8th Brigade at the mill. The fighting was taken all the way into the mill’s living-quarters, resulting in considerable losses. Several memorials have been raised in the area around the mill to commemorate the fallen.
In May, the Danish and Prussian army entered a ceasefire, and Jørgen and Margrethe could return to their ruined mill. The house and the storehouse still stood but were heavily damaged. Jørgen got a war indemnity but only two-fifths of the assessed value. Jørgen rebuilt the mill, again as a Dutch windmill of tiles. However, he was left with significant debt, and in 1873 he transferred the mill to his son Gerhard, who also had to struggle with poor finances.
With the defeat in 1864, Denmark lost the three Duchies of Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg. After a few years under the joint Prussian-Austrian regime, from 1867 the Duchies were incorporated in Prussia, and in 1870 they became part of Germany. To celebrate the great victory, which marked the beginning of the unification of the German Empire, in 1872 Germany raised the large monument Dybbøl Memorial (Düppel Denkmal) on top of the Dybbøl Banke. Until the First World War the Dybbøl Banke was a favourite tourist destination for many Germans. The Düppel Denkmal was blown up by Danish freedom fighters in May 1945. Remains of the monument can be seen at the Dybbøl Mill.
Already during the war in 1864, the mill became a symbol of the Danish endurance in the tough fighting. The majority of Dybbøl’s population was Danish-minded, and after the defeat, the mill became a symbol of the Danish soul in the lost land and of hope for a reunion. The symbolic value was greatly enhanced in 1878 when the Danish writer Holger Drachmann published a book which title would translate to “Over there from the Border – a Stroll across the Danish Thermopylae (Als-Dybbøl) in the Month of April 1877” about his visit to the area. Drachmann described the mill in pompous phrases and used it as the Danish-minded opposition to the German memorial Düppel Denkmal.
This poem accompanied the description of the mill:
Here I stand and will not move my foot
as guard on this great Hill.
Shells will not shake my Roots,
nor fire subdue my Thought.
My Roots are entrenched in the depths of Denmark.
My Thought is this: There will come a Day,
When Hearts around me will beat
In step with the Heart of Oak Root
That the Miller set upon the Mill sail;
And wave the wingéd Sail and stand where we then stood
with Honour and Justice: this, then, is the Cause!
Drachmann also visited the nearby Bøffelkobbel, where the Danish-minded married couple Fink had buried two Danish soldiers in the garden after the battle on 22 February 1864.
Again, Drachmann wrote:
They slew them, we dug them
a grave in our garden.
Lay them next to the olden road;
all our flowers adorn their graves;
girls of Schleswig, you never forget!
The book was a big success in Denmark, and the Dybbøl Mill became very famous. At the same time, the publisher Ernst Bojesen saw a chance to make some money, so he photographed two local girls in national costumes, added Drachmann’s poem under the picture and sold copies with the title “The girls of Schleswig”. The picture became incredibly popular, and soon most Danish homes had either that picture or one of the Dybbøl Mill.
For the 50th anniversary of the war in 1914, Germany held a big party on 29 June, which was the date of the final victory on Als. The celebration was held in the big German redoubt, later referred to as Kongeskansen (the King’s Redoubt), on top of Dybbøl Banke. Two thousand veterans from both Germany and Austria participated, and the German Emperor’s brother, Prince Heinrich spoke. This was the last grand German celebration of the war – as World War I broke out shortly after and this Great War overshadowing the earlier ones.
Danish veterans also wanted to commemorate the war and the battle of 18 April 1864. They mounted a marble plate at the Dybbøl Mill with a poem by the Icelandic priest Thordur Thomasson:
Tvende Gange skudt i Grus
Atter reist som Møllehus
Vogter for et Mindebo
Selv en Bavta dansk og tro
Speid saa langt dit Øie naar
Grav ved Grav i Marken staar.
Danske Mænd gav Livet hen
Troskab holder Skansen end.
Slaar om Dybbøls Navn sin Glans.
Slægter dø, men Sproget binder
Fremtid gror af dyre Minder.
This plate was not well received by the German authorities who immediately ordered its removal. Until 1919, the plate had to be stored inside the mill, after which it was mounted again. The plate is now to be found in the exhibition with a granite copy on the mill.
World War I ended with a German defeat in 1918, after which democratic polls determined Europe’s borders. As a result, the Danish-German border in 1920 was moved from the river Kongeåen to its present location, and the northern part of Schleswig returned to the Danish kingdom. The reunion (as it was commonly referred to) was duly celebrated at a big celebration at the Dybbøl Banke on 11 July 1920. Nearly 50,000 people met in the great German redoubt which since this event has been referred to as Kongeskansen (The King’s Redoubt). King Christian X was visiting with the royal family, and the highlight of the celebration was when the King received an old Dannebrog flag from a veteran of 1864. In connection with the celebration, Danish soldiers’ associations raised the flag bastion on top of the Dybbøl Banke. To this day the flag bastion is one of only a few non-governmental institutions allowed to fly the tailed version of the Danish national flag.
Since 1920 there have been many celebrations and commemorations in Kongeskansen. The Dybbøl Day on 18 April is an annual event with an official military ceremony – and since 2001 with German participation. In 1964, the 100th anniversary of the war was celebrated, and in 2014 the 150th anniversary of the war was marked with speeches from among others Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II.
The position of the Dybbøl Mill as a substantial Danish symbol continued for many years after the reunion in 1920 and was strengthened by the German Occupation 1940-45. Today, the Dybbøl badge is still sold for the benefit of the Border Association’s information work, just as pictures of the mill are used in photomontages and the like, which are to signal “Denmark”.
The Dybbøl Mill had to be rebuilt once again after a fire in 1935. The milling continued with changing tenants until 1990. By 1995, the museum at Sønderborg Castle organized exhibitions in the mill as well as in the grain repository. The mill house next to the Dybbøl Mill was established in 2012 for the administration of the mill and the History Centre Dybbøl Banke.
Adriansen, Inge: “Dybbøl Mølle. Monument og Museum.” Varde, 1997.
Adriansen, Inge et al.: “Dybbøl sogns historie”. Sønderborg, 1976.
Andersen, Ole: “Bøffelkobbel 1864. Historien om en soldatergrav, der blev et nationalt mindesmærke”. Varde, 1996.
Drachmann, Holger: “Derovre fra Grænsen. Strejftog over det danske Termopylæ (Als-Dybbøl) I april maaned 1877.” København, 1878.
History Centre Dybbøl Banke
Historiecenter Dybbøl Banke
1 April – 31 October
10 am – 5 pm
See opening hours
Historiecenter Dybbøl Banke er et VPAC center. VPAC står for Videnspædagogisk Aktivitets Center, der er et statsstøttet oplevelsescenter, hvor børn og voksne får viden og indsigt i natur, historie og videnskab gennem lærerige og udfordrende aktiviteter for alle sanser. Der er 16 VPAC centre i Danmark.