Wadden Island Sylt and the First and Second World Wars

The German Wadden Island of Sylt has a remarkable war history. During the Second World War, business on Sylt continued as usual. Rentals were made, holidays were celebrated, camps were held for German young people. The Jewish bathers, who frequented the island until the 1930s, stayed away. Bunkers were built and soldiers and Nazi hotmates moved in, who loved the North Sea climate and the beaches.

Sylt and the wars

  • World War I and the Wadden Island
  • WWII
  • Hermann Göring and his holiday home
  • Men at Fortress Sylt
  • Beach ban and Judenfrei
  • Refugees after the war
  • Spa and artists’ colony
  • Sperrgebiett and war ports
  • Different audience and Flower Power

 

World War I and the Wadden Island

In the First World War, Inselwache , island guards, were stationed on Sylt. In 1914 they stayed in camp houses near Hörnum, for example, on the southern tip of the island. Inselwachen were also placed on Amrum and Rømø and they could communicate with each other telegraphically. Bunkers were built in the dunes from List to Hörnum, all of which were connected by telephone. The soldiers had to scan the horizon for enemy ships and aircraft, but during that war there was never any fighting on the island itself.

WWII

During the Second World War, soldiers were again stationed on the island. The harbor of Hörnum became a defense port and a landing site for seaplanes was established.

Hermann Göring and his holiday home

Work in the tourist industry continued as usual on Sylt during the Second World War. Most islanders did not care to whom they rented their accommodation, as long as it was rented and as long as money came in. The island had meanwhile been discovered by Nazi high-ups. Hermann Göring, Der Dicke , commander of the Sturmabteilung under Hitler, loved the island and had a holiday home built in Wenningstedt. That love was mutual, because he was given the title of honorary citizen of Kampen. He was only removed from that list in 2005.

Men at Fortress Sylt

In addition to the Nazi soldiers who went to the island to recover from the war and enjoy the fresh air, Sylt received 10,000 troops from the German army as temporary residents. They built bunkers and Sylt became Festung Sylt .

Beach ban and Judenfrei

Kreisfeesttag was held on Sylt. The Nazi Party had a large following in that region at the time and an important meeting such as a Kreisfeesttag was considered an honor for the island. A few years later, a beach ban was issued for Jews, who until then had been frequent visitors and enthusiasts of the island. In 1935, the beach ban for Jews was a fact and not long afterwards the entire island was declared Judenfrei .

Miss pageant under swastika

The island became the scene of beauty pageants on the boulevard, with a decor of swastikas and Nazi symbols. German Aryan youth received training in javelin throwing on the tops of the dunes. The island was captured in the last days of the war by the Allies, who entered the island via the Hindenburgdamm. None of the Jewish bathers returned.

Refugees after the war

After the war, the refugees arrived, who camped in the bunkers and barracks that the soldiers had left empty. The people adrift fled from areas occupied by the Russians and came from bombed-out German cities. They were not always welcomed with open arms. In 1947 there were 14,000 refugees on Sylt out of a population of 12,000 at the time.
Refugee bunker
In 1989 the dunes released a bunker. A storm caused a lot of dune erosion, making the bunker visible. In 2008, the waves washed away so much sand from under the foundation that the concrete structure broke and collapsed. This had been a bunker where German refugees had stayed for some time after the Second World War.

Spa and artists’ colony

Friesenhäuser before the arrival of the soldiers . The artists’ colony, with the rich and those who were attracted to champagne and strolling in their wake, had already found their home near Kampen. When the island population itself had almost nothing to eat shortly after the war, the treatment of the rich continued. The breakfast table was richly filled and black trading was rampant. At the time, a bottle of whiskey was easily charged 800 Reichsmarks and it was paid for.

Sperrgebiett and war ports

During the war, large parts of the island were Sperrgebiett , you were not allowed to go there. Training grounds were constructed and barracks were built. There were also war ports and airfields where zeppelins and biplanes could land and which were used as a stopover for bomber units. As the crow flies, England is not that far away from Sylt.

Golf course near Hörnum

In the years after the war, many of those war buildings were demolished and blown up. More than fifty years after the war, the last remains were cleared away. The concrete of the buildings and runways was ground into powder, until nothing reminded them of the war. The army canteen has remained and has been converted into a youth hostel. A golf course has now been built on the site of the airstrip at Hörnum and the Luftwaffe lookout post on top of the dune has become the clubhouse.

Different audience and Flower Power

Before, during and after the war, many beach holes could be seen on the beaches of Sylt, which were defended by placing a beach chair in them. This pit is ours. So stay away! wanted to say such a chair. During the war, a flag with a swastika was added. The flag was planted in the pit and everyone knew what that meant: occupied by a Nazi. In the 1960s the climate changed dramatically: young people came who brought flower power to the island. It made the Sansibar beach bar famous and the location still lives on that reputation.

Sylt

Legend
A . Hörnum
B . List
C . Golf course Sylt
D . Hörnum Haven
E . Sansibar
F . Youth Hostel
G . Kampen
H . Rømø
I . Amrum
J . Hindenburgdamm

read more

  • Wadden Island Sylt – Sights
  • Sylt – German Wadden Island or Nordseeinsel
  • Sylt – Jetset island with coastal defenses with tetrapods
  • Sylt – Wadden Island of cliffs and mythical creatures
  • Rømø – Danish Wadden Island in the Wadden Sea World Heritage Site

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