Cultural Entities 


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1. Overview




The two great inlets “Accumer Ee“ and „Otzumer Ee“ separate Langeoog from its neighbouring islands; Baltrum to the west and Spiekeroog to the east. Neighbouring entity: Harlingerland, the surrounding mudflats belong to the national park Hamburgerisches Wattenmeer.


The island is 10.9 km long, and varies in width from 1.9km to 1.3km. . The overall area of the island is c. 19.6 km².

Location - map:

Langeoog is a sandy island offshore of the mudflat coast of Lower Saxony and belongs to the district of Wittmund, federal state of Lower Saxony, Germany.

Origin of name:

The name Langeoog consists of the Frisian words “lange” (for long) and “oog” (for island) and therefore means “long island”. It is first mentioned in a document of 1398 as „Langeooch“

Relationship/similarities with other cultural entities:

Frisian Islands, islands of Lower Saxony, of the Netherlands, dune landscapes, mudflat, national park of Lower Saxony, maritime landscapes and settlements.

Characteristic elements and ensembles:

On Langeoog roughly six different landscape types can be defined: the dune regions with their dune valleys, a small grove, the flood-free beach, the Heller (salt meadows) covered with grass and herbs, protective constructions like dykes, dams, or the harbour and the island settlement, railway.

2. Geology and geography

2.1 General
The process by which the islands came into existence began about 10,000 years ago. Unlike the North Frisian Islands on the coast of Schleswig Holstein and Denmark the East Frisian Islands are not remains of former mainland. Instead they were created by sedimentation caused by the tide and floods. They keep the water in constant movement and the direction of the current changes with the tides. These bodies of water are carrying a significant amount of sand. In shallow water, when the carrying capacity of the current is not sufficient anymore, the sand is deposited and the waves shape it into barrier beaches and Platen (sandbanks) which are reinforced by plant growth. Langeoog has proved to have the most stable location of the East Frisian Islands. The west end has hardly shifted in its position during the centuries and the eastern end has only gained slightly in length.

2.2 Present landscape
About 870 of the overall 2000 hectares of the island consist of dunes. 500 hectares are covered by salt meadows and another area of the same size features dry sandy beaches.

In the western part of Langeoog, protected by dunes, lie the settlement and the airport. The shape of the western end of Langeoog is a special case amongst the East Frisian Islands as it has not been subject to significant ground loss; instead there have even been some accumulation of land. The situation of the currents is so favourable that protective measures so far have not been necessary. Repeated artificial application of sand has been sufficient for the protection of the island. These become necessary when there is not enough natural wash-up of accumulated material in order to prevent the break-up of the great dunes. There are some monuments which characterise the present look of the island: that is the flood-safe dyking of the grassland to the south and east of the village (1932/33) and the summer dyke to the south (1934/35).
The Melkhörndüne to the east of the settlement is the highest overall point in the East Frisian Islands. It reaches a height of up to 23 meters. In the southwest of the island the area „Flugfeld“ ought to be mentioned. This is a former military airfield from the time of the Second World War. Today its broad concrete runways encircle a reservation which is the home of many rare plants. Further characteristic features of the island are the dune valleys with their typical vegetation and the salt meadows. They form the largest part of the island.

3. Landscape and settlement history 

3.1 Prehistoric and Medieval Times
Geologically speaking, the island is quite young. Even though there are some prehistoric finds from the region of East Frisia there are no traces of prehistoric activity on the present island. However, since the island has repeatedly changed its shape and location over time any archaeological finds would be buried beneath meters of sediment. At the drop-off on the northwest beach of the island, old alluvial Darg (a special kind of peat consisting of reed and silt layers) derived from marsh soils sometimes surfaces which could contain archaeological remains.
Langeoog´s harbour „Ackumhe“ is first mentioned in a document in 1289 and the island itself in 1398, under the name of „Langeooch“. These references show that the island was already inhabited by that date. The settlement remains on the beach of Langeoog provide tangible evidence for this. After the break-up of the dunes on the beach, a Darg deposit surfaced in which traces of buildings and banks, together with pottery and other finds were discovered. They indicate the existence of a settlement founded in the 13th or 15th century.
The island soils and climate are not suitable for intensive agriculture, and there is no documentary evidence for intensive agriculture taking place.

3.2 Early Modern Times
During the 17th century and at the beginning of the 18th century the villages of the island had to be frequently relocated. This became necessary because of heavy sand drifts which buried houses, farmland and the Heller. During this time houses had to be moved approximately every 30 years because of the „Jagsand“.
For the year of 1627 there is evidence for a reeve and seven households. In 1660 there were already 16 houses on Langeoog and 62 people were living there. A good secure harbour in the western end is also mentioned. In 1666 a church and a parsonage were newly built, but there is no precise location given for these new buildings. From 1702 to 1706 a church and a settlement were built near the Melkhörn Dune.
The Christmas flood of 1717 submerged the sandy plane between the western and eastern dune complex and threatened to split the island. Just four years later another storm tide devastated the island so severely that the inhabitants were forced to leave and move to the mainland. In 1723 occupants of Helgoland and the neighbouring islands were making a new attempt at resettling Langeoog. In 1732 however, there were only three East Frisian families left on the island. 1741 the reeve Taaken built himself a home at the eastern end of the island, today’s Meierei (dairy farm). Since 1744 the tending of the dunes, by erecting sand-trapping fences and planting beach grass ,has been promoted and the Prussian government granted aid for shipping and shell fishing in order to produce lime. In 1749 four huts were erected for lease in the west of the island and in the east a single settler was living. There were only 16 inhabitants during this time.
In 1796 it is reported that the dwellers of Langeoog were still exempt from taxation. The constitutional status of the island dwellers was determined until the 18th century by the fact that the island has been the possession of the gentry and the inhabitants never owed the land they lived on but always had been leaseholders. Therefore they lacked political rights.

3.3 Modern Times
The economy improved from the middle of the 18th century, due to the systematic tending of the dunes and protective measures. After new set-backs because of the storm tide of 1825, a long period of positive land formation followed which continued until 1900, especially influencing the eastern end. Between 1825 and 1841 the „Flinthörndünen“ developed, in parts this comprises quite young dunes.
Since 1829 a pasture regulation has been introduced on the island, and in 1848 a ban on hunting waterfowl followed. The foundation of a beach resort in 1830 did not raise much interest amongst the local population, but it marked the beginning of the island’s tourist economy. In the late 19th century the role of traditional shipping as a source of income declined in the face of the competition from steamboats. However, parallel to this decline fishing rose in importance.
In 1867 the regular weekly link between Langeoog and the mainland began. By the end of the 19th century the 20 meter-high „Melkhorndünen“ and the eastern end of Langeoog were joined when the „Kleine Sloop“ that used to separate them, closed in the course of natural dune formation. This process was encouraged, however, by erecting sand trapping fences and planting beach grass. Until 1906 the Grosse Sloop used to separate the core dunes of the western head from the rest of the island. The gap was then closed by a dyke.

The turn of the century saw a massive extension of the settlement, of the spa and of the harbour which was enlarged by a military harbour.
Before the Second World War the parish was planning a cemetery and the washing up of 12 bodies on the shore in 1940 meant that it was put into provisional operation even before it was completed. After the war and with the consent of the British military government the dune cemetery was extended. 450 Russian prisoners of war were sent in 1941 to Langeoog on fatigue duty, between 1941 and 1942 more than one hundred of them died of spotted fever. Since the number of deaths exceeded the capacity of the new cemetery a new burial place was created northwest of the parish. In 1953 the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge set up three commemorative plaques on the Russian Cemetery. A second memorial is dedicated to the German-Balts who died as war refugees on Langeoog. All in all there are 326 people buried there.
With the extension of the Flinthörndeiches in the west of the island and of the eastern dyke in the period between 1937-44 Langeoog received a flood-safe dyke enclosure facing the mudflat. The dykes have been adapted to the present requirements by extensions and enforcements between 1971 and 1975. The settlements all lie in the dune areas near the western and northern end of the island.

4. Modern development and planning

Langeoog is part of the national park “Niedersächsisches Wattenmeer” and is located within the quiet zone (Zone 1), the core area of the nature protection area. Wide parts of the island itself are protected as well. Therefore the marginal dunes may not be accessed at all and the mudflat can only be accessed in the company of professional guides. Settlements, harbours and other infrastructure features on the island, however, are not part of the protected area.
The national park is trying to preserve and protect the special character of the nature and landscape of the mudflat region, including the typical appearance of the landscape. The course of natural processes is supposed to be ensured and the biological diversity is to be preserved.

4.1 Land use
The economy of the island is traditionally orientated towards the sea: fishing, production of shell lime and, at times, shipping. Additionally there was some animal husbandry and a little gardening and tillage. Horses, on the other hand, are kept only for the sake of the tourists. Today the economic structures of the island are dominated by tourism.

4.2 Settlement development
The settlement on the island has largely preserved its village character. There are no really large building structures. The majority of the buildings are residential houses which date back to the last century. The impression of the village is quite modern. The typical houses on the island are built of red bricks with white grout and have red roofs, white gables with wooden gable facings. Other typical features are the wooden Victorian patios, especially with the older houses. A traditional decorative roof element is the Malljan, a vertical pole or board on the gable, this is not specific to Langeoog but is an East Frisian peculiarity.
Of the old preserved buildings the Meierei from 1741 should be mentioned as the oldest building of the island. The hospice was built as a guest house of the monastery of Loccum in 1884/85 and is used today by the protestant church as a family holiday resort. The central buildings of the island are almost all concentrated at or around the village.
Today Langeoog has two churches. The protestant one was built in 1891 by the monastery of Loccum, the catholic church of St. Nikolaus is from 1961-63. Documents mention older churches but due to the frequent relocations of the village their remains are not found within the present settlement area. From the 19th century a „Seemannshus“ from 1844 has been preserved which is presently used as local museum and guest house. The Inselbahn (train of the island), which still serves as an important means of transportation from the harbour to the village, in 1937 replaced the horse tram which was built in 1902.

Today’s harbour was built in 1937-41. In 1951 the eastern pier in the tidal-independent basin was replaced by a new pier in the western part which was rebuilt over time to suit the changing traffic situation.
After the Second World War the tourism and recreation areas have been extended. Important buildings include the spa centre of 1971 as well as the recreational and adventure salt water pool from 1967-69 which has been changed and renovated several times since then. The landmark of Langeoog, the water tower, dates back to 1908/1909 and is located in the south of the settlement.

4.3 Industry and energy
Today’s harbour was built in 1937-41. In 1951 the eastern pier in the tidal-independent basin was replaced by a new pier in the western part which was rebuilt over time to suit the changing traffic situation.
After the Second World War the tourism and recreation areas have been extended. Important buildings include the spa centre of 1971 as well as the recreational and adventure salt water pool from 1967-69 which has been changed and renovated several times since then. The landmark of Langeoog, the water tower, dates back to 1908/1909 and is located in the south of the settlement.

4.4 Infrastructure
Traditionally the transport connection to Langeoog is by water. The island can be reached by ferry leaving from Bensersiel. Since 1976 this connection has been independent of the tides. The island itself is free of cars but has a good network of footpaths and cycle paths. A main road is leading from the village to the eastern end of the island. In 1973 an airport was built which is still in use today.
In 1909 the water supply system and the canalisation were set up. Groundwater from a freshwater lens which is situated beneath the island is available as drinking water. Since 1923 electricity for the island is provided from the mainland.

5. Legal and spatial planning aspects

The parish of Langeoog belongs to the district of Wittmund in the federal state of Lower Saxony. In terms of land use planning the community of Langeoog is subject to the regional planning of the federal state of Lower Saxony respectively of the landscape framework plan and the land utilisation plan of the community. Additionally, there is the regional planning concept for the coastal sea of Lower Saxony. The territory of the community ends at the MThw line (line of the Average High Tide). The coastal sea below the MThw line is „community-free area“. Accordingly, the regional and building plan only applies to the land but not to the sea area.
The present regional plans for the federal state of Lower Saxony (LROP) contain only a few regional planning goals for the sea area. The area of the national park is registered at the EU for the Fauna Flora Habitat guideline (FFH) and therefore belongs to the biotope network system Natura 2000. The main part of the park lies within the territory of the EU water withdrawal guideline. In 1996 the Wadden Sea area within the borders of the national park was recognised by the UNESCO as biosphere reservation in the context of the program „Man and Biosphere“.
With regard to building regulations there are the NbauO and the Baugesetzbuch (the German Statutory Code on Construction and Building), also a Gestaltungssatzung (design statute) with its Gestaltungsfibel (design primer) of 1995; a preservation statute; tourism statute; a statute for the permission to subdivide land; various complementary statutes to ca. 15 land-use plans (inner, middle and outer area).
In the course of the village reformation these regulations are just being reviewed.

6. Vulnerabilities

6.1 Spatial planning
The protected area of the National Park does not extend to settlements, harbours and other infrastructure features on the island which is likely to leave them more vulnerable to change.

6.2 Settlement
Settlement development could have a negative effect on the characteristic landscape of the island, on the protection of the cultural heritage and historic landscape features and therefore on cultural tourism. For this reason it is in the public interest to keep the landscape as free of buildings as possible to allow an unimpeded view across the landscape to the sea.

6.3 Management of the cultural heritage
The need to protect the cultural heritage and wider cultural landscapes can impede other land uses or projects or even make them completely impossible leading to possibly detrimental effects on the islands development and economy.

6.4 Nature conservation
The high nationally as well as internationally recognised ecological value of the Wadden Sea and its economic value to the inhabitants of the island, demands a solution which will meet the requirements of both sides.

6.5 Tourism
A significant problem for the cultural heritage and wider landscape of the island is the stresses caused by tourism. There is an increasing tendency for signs of stress, due especially to dense and maladjusted building activity and to a high concentration of recreational facilities. There is also a conflict between the recreational value and short-term use by daytime visitors since Langeoog has a tidal-independent link to the mainland and there is no “tourist-free” period. Tourist pressure on the dunes could lead to erosion of archaeological remains from earlier periods of settlement on the island.

6.6 Industry and energy
The planned installation and use of wind energy turbines (off shore wind farms) could have a negative visual impact on the open landscape of the island.

6.7 Natural processes
Because of its exposed maritime location and the characteristics of a sandy island Langeoog is threatened by natural forces. The sands in front of the islands and at the beach are continuously moved eastwards by the surf which rolls in mainly from the north-east. This dynamic island process is affecting the landscape and, in the long run, will affect the historic settlement structure. The geomorphological problems are largely caused by nature-geography, but human influence also has to be taken into account. In view of future sea level rise due to climatic changes, current and future development schemes will have to consider necessary adaptation strategies. The natural environment of the island can also be problematic for building renovations or construction of new buildings which attempt to follow historic building styles or use historic materials, since the salty air is highly aggressive and therefore (badly cared for) wood is not a durable building material. Natural erosion could also affect the archaeological remains that have surfaced on the beach at Langeoog and which provide evidence of the medieval settlement of the island.

6.8 Coastal protection
Beach recharge could lead to damage to the marine cultural heritage.

7. Potentials

7.1 Settlement
During building projects there is an attempt to observe a style that is typical or characteristic of the island, which has largely retained its village character. An effort is made to get away from the functional chic of the 60ies and 70ies. Instead historic building styles and materials are used for renovations or in the construction of new buildings, although this is dependent on the financial position of the owners. To date it has been possible to control building development so as to maintain the unimpeded views across the islands landscape to the sea.

7.2 Nature conservation
The former WWII military airfield which is the home of many rare plants, offers a good example of the links between the cultural and the natural environments and the importance of managing both in an integrated way. Despite all the restrictions it brings, the national park also offers a potential for a specific regional development. While in the past the restrictions imposed by the national park have been the subject of public discussion, now more attention is paid to the chances offered by the natural landscape of the Wadden Sea. These chances do not only relate to tourism but also the fishing industry which has a causal interest in the preservation of a sound ecological system of the Wadden Sea: only a long-term fishing potential can secure a lasting economic survival and the continuation of traditional structures. Langeoog is integrated into the scientific network of the region and thus has great scientific and research potential. Apart from universities of applied sciences there are also research institutes in the region like the Terramare, the Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Sea (ICBM) and the German Centre for Marine Biodiversity Research (DZMB). The scientific marine research has a long tradition in the region.

7.3 Tourism
Langeoog has preserved its traditional landscape because it has been spared most of the influences of modern development. There are no large buildings, built over areas or hotel complexes. The dune valleys and Heller (salt meadows) have staid mostly free of buildings. This situation and the more or less unspoilt nature of the national park of Lower Saxony are of great importance to the tourist concept of the island. Thanks to Langeoog’s maritime location there are no extreme temperatures. The aspects of a mild climate, fresh air and a lot of sunshine have always been used on the island to market its spa and bathing therapies. An enhancement and expansion of tourism requires a close cooperation of official and private parties. A good example is the marketing company „Die Nordsee – Sieben Inseln eine Küste“ (The North Sea – Seven Islands And One Coast) which was founded in 2004. In this way the existing range of potentials and synergies between the East Frisian Islands can be made better use of.

7.4 Natural processes
The exposure of archaeological remains from the medieval period on the beach at Langeoog, provide opportunities for the recording, understanding and possibly promotion of the island’s cultural heritage for visitors and residents alike.

8. Sources

Backhaus, H. (1943): Die ostfriesischen Inseln und ihre Entwicklung: ein Beitrag zu den Problemen der Küstenbildung im südlichen Nordseegebiet. Oldenburg

Buchwald, K., Rincke, G., Rudolph, K-U. (1985): Gutachtliche Stellungsnahme zu den Umweltproblemen der Ostfriesischen Inseln: Schlussbericht. Hannover

Niemeier, G. (1972): Ostfriesische Inseln. Berlin

Petersen, J., Pott, R. (2005): Nordfriesische Inseln: Landschaft und Vegetation im Wandel. Hannover

Pflüger, B. (1997): Gletscher- und Inlandeis in Polargebieten. Universität Hamburg

Pott, R. (1995): Farbatlas Nordseeküste und Nordseeinsel: ausgewählte Beispiele aus der südlichen Nordsee in geobotanischer Sicht. Stuttgart

Sindowski, K-H. (1973): Das ostfriesische Küstengebiet: Inseln, Watten und Marschen. Berlin

Streif, H. (1990): Das ostfriesische Küstengebiet: Nordsee, Inseln, Watten und Marschen. Berlin


Horb, F. Gemeindearchivar Langeoog (1992): Der Dünenfriedhof, der Russenfriedhof, Baltengedenkstätte, Langeoog

Kurverwaltung Langeoog: Gäste-Informationen (Eine Information der Abteilung Marketing). Stand : Januar 2007

Merian (Heft 3/XXV), Ostfriesland und seine Inseln, Hoffmann und Campe Verlag, Hamburg

Niedersächsisches Ministerium für den ländlichen Raum, Ernährung, Landwirtschaft und Verbraucherschutz (2006) : Landes-Raumordungsprogramm Niedersachsen, Ergänzung 2006, Hannover

Niedersächsisches Ministerium für Wirtschaft, Arbeit und Verkehr (2005): Bericht der Landesregierung: Entwicklungen an der niedersächsischen Küste, Hannover