History of Heligoland: among pirates and spa guests
Pirates, Danes, British, Germans: they all wanted to claim Heligoland for themselves. Sometimes it was about the location as a smuggler's paradise, sometimes about the military base, sometimes about the unique beauty of the island. This has left exciting traces that visitors can still experience up close today.
Visitors experience Heligoland's unique history at 16 stations on the history theme trail. A museum provides exciting background knowledge with pictures and objects. Visitors get particularly close to the history of Heligoland on guided tours through the extensive bunker facilities. But the real history of the island begins much earlier.
The formation of Heligoland
Heligoland was formed over 3500 years ago. Rising sea levels caused a field formation to detach from the mainland. At that time, however, the island was much larger than it is today. Large parts of the chalk cliffs have fallen victim to the gnawing sea.
British smuggler's haven
In 1807 Heligoland falls into the hands of the British. They use the island to circumvent the Continental Blockade imposed by Napoleon against British goods. A smuggler's paradise emerges. However, the flourishing trade lasts only a few years. With Napoleon's defeat in 1814, the golden age for islanders and occupiers came to an end.
Heligoland as a seaside resort
Heligoland becomes a seaside resort in 1826. Now tourists, artists and spa guests also discover the beauty of the island. In the following years, shipping traffic from Hamburg develops. A swimming bath, a landing stage and a theatre are built.
Heligoland as a barter object
On 1 June 1890, the British hand over Heligoland to the German Empire. In exchange, the Germans renounce their claim to territories in Southwest Africa. The deal goes down in history as the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty.
Wartime naval base
Heligoland served as a naval fortress for German forces in both World Wars. In 1914, the inhabitants had to leave the island to make room for the military. At the end of the war, they find their houses damaged and looted. During the Second World War, the National Socialists build bunkers and tunnels on the island. Warships and submarines are moored in the harbour. After the first devastating British bombardments on Heligoland in December 1939, a bunker system is built to protect the civilian population. Towards the end of the Second World War, a group of resistance fighters tries to surrender the island to the British without a fight. But they are betrayed. On the same day, the island was bombed to smithereens.
Big Bang 1947
On 18 April 1947, the British trigger the largest non-nuclear explosion in history by remote detonation. To the relief of the evacuated inhabitants, Heligoland is not completely destroyed. Even today, a crater bears witness to the powerful detonation.
Return to Germany
In December 1950, students occupied the island to demonstrate for its return to Germany. On 1 March 1952, the return succeeds under former Federal Chancellor Adenauer. The islanders return to their island and begin to rebuild. Adenauer declares the reconstruction of Heligoland to be "a matter of the heart of the entire German people". A few months later, the first tourist ships dock on Heligoland again.
It is not only spa guests who have been drawn to the high seas island for many years. Hoffmann von Fallersleben wrote the "Deutschlandlied" on Heligoland in 1841. Heinrich Heine enthused that "the sea smells like cake". And the children's and youth author James Krüss, who was born on Heligoland, chose Heligoland as the setting for many of his famous works.
Der "Halunder Jet"
Wide seats, panoramic windows, large open decks: enjoy a comfortable crossing. "Halunder Jet" impresses with modern design and a top speed of 35 knots!