Historien om de nordslesvigske krigsdeltagere under 1. Verdenskrig er traditionelt blevet behandlet i et nationalt perspektiv. Her benævnes soldaterne oftest som ’danske’. Denne artikel undersøger, hvordan nordslesvigske soldater på Østfronten selv udtrykte deres identitet i krigssituationen. Udgangspunktet er krigsdeltagernes beskrivelser af og syn på dels de fællesskaber, de var en del af ved fronten, og dels de grupperinger, de anså for deres modsætninger. Hovedpointen er, at det mest italesatte tilhørsforhold blandt disse soldater var det regionale bånd til Nordslesvig.
Regional identity on the Eastern Front 1914-1918
Approximately 35,000 Northern Schleswigians took part in World War I as conscripts in the German army. Their war effort and experiences during this war have traditionally been treated in a national perspective, and at times the soldiers are distinctly termed “Danes”. Taking a point of departure in the Northern Schleswigians who were sent to the Eastern Front, however, the sources paint a different picture of their own conception of identity in a war situation. When their descriptions and view of the communities they were part of at the front and of groupings they regarded as opposites, it would seem that a regional sense of belonging dominated. The soldiers were part of communities that were not governed by national identity, and when they mirrored themselves in the civilian population of the Eastern Front, they were not met by a national reflection, they
did not view themselves in a national light. The regional home is to a higher degree discursively constructed as a foundation of group identity in letters from the front and diaries. It would also appear that regional solidarity on the Eastern Front was stronger among the Northern Schleswigians than any national clashes between those who were pro-Danish and those who were ’Germanized’. Likewise, the obligation to go to war is also substantiated as an attachment to Northern Schleswig, and the clearest examples of regional identity are to be found in the many wistful descriptions of their native soil.