Registered: 1298611695 Posts: 5,100
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In spirit the people of Bentheim have never lost their independence. They became Hanoverians; they were invaded by Napoleon. Prussia took them over in 1866. They lived under the Kaiser and under Hitler. Through all this they came with good courage. If you ask them today about their identity, they just might tell you, 'Wy bin't Groofshappers' (We are Grafschappers).
These were the words of Swenna Harger from her book about the County of Bentheim, a territory of the Holy Roman Empire on the Dutch border that was mediatised along with branch lines during the reorganisation of German princely states in 1806-08, with the House of Bentheim continuing to this day. Rather like Italy, it is a peculiar feature of Germany even in modern times that Germans both at home and abroad feel a strong sense of identification with their region. Bentheim became part of the Kingdom of Hanover and then Prussia. Yet Bentheim people retained their distinct identity through those times, the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany and post-war Germany. Ironically, this also applies to the Kingdom of Hanover. Many Hanoverians never accepted the absorption of their kingdom by Prussia in 1866. There was a consistent movement in favour of restoring Hanover's separate status from 1866 until 1933. As you can also see, the local dialect of Bentheim also leans towards Dutch. The term " Groofshapper"/" Grafschapper" which means resident of the county, sounds similar to the Dutch term Graafschap. The German word, of course, is Grafschaft.
Registered: 1404069123 Posts: 304
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It's rather curious, but also very gratifying, how the Groofshappers preserved their distinct identities even after the mediatizations in the final days of the HRE. I wonder how many of the numerous other former German states that were annexed by larger states long before the final collapse in 1918 managed to do the same?
I believe by the time the County of Bentheim was mediatized, it was divided into the counties of Bentheim-Bentheim, Bentheim-Steinfurt, and Bentheim-Tecklenburg-Rheda; from what I've heard, the latter two branches survive to this day. This division between various branches seems to have been a common practice in the HRE, such that there were several states that belonged to Salm, Sayn, Anhalt, Isenburg, the Wettins, etc.