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Hiddensee is a German island in the Baltic Sea. It is located immediately west of Rügen. The area of ​​the island, together with some uninhabited neighboring islands, forms the municipality of Insel Hiddensee and belongs to the district of Vorpommern-Rügen in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

The island name appears as "Heðinsey" in the Prose Edda and as "Hithinsö" in the Gesta Danorum of the Saxo Grammaticus. Both mean something like "Island of Hedin" or "Hedin's Island". The legendary Norwegian king Hedin is said to have fought for a wife or even for gold. Under Danish rule, "Hedins-Oe" was officially in use. Until 1880 the island was still called "Hiddensjö" in German maps, and in 1929 "Hiddensöe" in German travel guides. The complete Germanization and reinterpretation to "Hiddensee" is relatively new.


Physical geography

Hiddensee, off the island of Rügen to the west, is the largest island within the Vorpommersche Boddenlandschaft National Park. Its main axis is in a north-south direction. It is about 16.8 kilometers long, at the narrowest point about 250 meters and at the widest about 3.7 kilometers wide. The island is divided into a hilly north part over 70 meters high (Dornbusch, the highest point is the Bakenberg at 72.7 m above sea level), a dune and heather landscape in the central section (dune heather) and a flat, only a few meters high Southern part, the Gellen. In the northeast are the two three-kilometer-long sand hooks Altbessin and Neubessin. The island is bounded by the Schaproder Bodden and Vitter Bodden in the east, the Gellenstrom (the fairway to Stralsund) in the south and the open Baltic Sea to the west and north.



From the Stone Age to the end of the 17th century
The island was first settled in the Middle and Early Stone Age. After the Germanic population had left the southern Baltic region in the 6th century AD, the Ranen (Slavs), who had been defeated by King Waldemar I of Denmark in 1168 by conquering the Jaromarsburg fortress on the Arkona on Rügen, Christianized and took them under Danish Fiefdom had been brought to possession of the island. Hiddensee was thus under Danish sovereignty. On April 13, 1296, the Rügen prince Wizlaw II gave the island of Hiddensee "as it flowed around the salt seas" to the Neuenkamp monastery. A Cistercian abbey called Nikolaikamp was built there, named after Saint Nicholas as the patron saint of seafarers. In fact, the monastery was called Kloster Hiddensee throughout its existence. In autumn 2008 archaeologists discovered ten burials during excavations under the direction of medieval archaeologist Felix Biermann on the site of the former Cistercian monastery. Nine graves were found north of the monastery church and one in the cloister east of the west wing of the enclosure. Bettina Jungklaus anthropologically examined the skeletons of the seven male and two female adults as well as one young girl. A 20 to 30-year-old man had a healed blow injury to his right frontal bone. There was a joint burial of a 50–60 year old man with a 14–15 year old girl, in which the man held the youth's left arm with his right hand. The disease burden was remarkably low. Tartar and periodontal disease were the most common. Tooth decay was only found in one set of teeth, which was unusually small for medieval populations.

Simultaneously with the construction of the monastery, the Gellenkirche, a small beacon called Luchte, and the first port were built on the Gellen in the south of the island between 1302 and 1306. The foundations of these structures are (today) west of the Gellens in the Baltic Sea.

In 1332, the island church was consecrated, intended for the island's farmers and fishermen, in what is now the Kloster district outside the monastery walls. With the transfer of the baptismal font from the Gellenkirche to the new church, pastoral tasks have been carried out from there since then. The barrel vault, which was built in around 1781, was painted with rose decorations in 1922 by the Berlin painter Nikolaus Niemeier.

In the course of the Reformation, the monastery was dissolved in 1536. During the Thirty Years' War from 1618 to 1648 soldiers burned down the mixed oak forest on the Dornbusch on the orders of Wallenstein in 1628, which wanted to deprive the Danes of the island as a possibility for timber production. Even in the 21st century, the layer of ash from that time can still be seen on the roadsides near the lighthouse a few centimeters below the sward. In the years from 1648 to 1815, Hiddensee was, like all of Western Pomerania, under Swedish administration. Joachim Ulrich Giese was the owner of the island from 1754 to 1780 and began mining clay for the Stralsund faience factory he founded.

From the 19th century to the end of World War II
From 1800 to 1836 was a particularly sad time for the Hiddenseer, when the island belonged to captain and knight Wilhelm Friedrich Ludwig von Bagewitz (1777-1835) on Ralow. He increased the taxes to the point of unbearable, drove the Hiddenseer to 104 days of forced labor on his property every year and prevented a school for the children. Under him the free peasants in greaves became serfs. Even when the abolition of serfdom by King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden was enacted in 1806, nothing changed on Hiddensee.

From 1815 Hiddensee and Western Pomerania belonged to Prussia until the end of World War II and was assigned to the Rügen district (Rügen district until 1939). In 1836 the Stralsund monastery of the Holy Spirit acquired the island, and in 1837 and 1840 the first schools were built on the island in Plogshagen and Kloster. In the years between 1854 and 1864 there was a reorganization of the property conditions on Hiddensee as part of the replacement of the real burdens (farmers exemption).


Until 1861, Hiddensee was practically treeless for decades, with the exception of the barren willow avenue between Kloster and Grieben and a few local pines that were planted around 1770, as well as a few trees on Schwedenhagen and Rübenberg. The dense oak tree population on Hiddensee that still existed in the 13th century was almost completely decimated for firewood, house and ship building by the beginning of the 17th century. It is unlikely that the clearing of fire by Wallenstein in 1628 would have destroyed the forest, as the legend would have it, because already on the Rügen map by Eilhard Lubin from 1602 there is no longer a tree symbol on Hiddensee and the thorn bush is depicted as bare hill country. First the Dornbusch between Bakenberg and Hucke was planted with pines in 1861, around 1900 also the Dornbusch north of the Bakenberg, the coastal section from the Hucke to the local history museum and from there along the coast to the Gellen (Karkensee). The stretch of coast in front of Vitte was excluded from this, because the Vitter rejected the government's offer of afforestation on the grounds that it would then make access to the beach more difficult for tourists.

In the years 1864 and 1872, the island was hit by severe storm floods. During the first flood, Hiddensee broke into two parts due to a complete flooding at the narrowest point on the island, south of Neuendorf, which could only be reversed six years later through extensive reconstruction measures. After the second storm flood, the Hiddenseer gold jewelry, a Viking work from the 10th century, is said to have been found. A replica of it can be viewed in the Hiddensee Local History Museum, the original is kept in the Stralsund Cultural History Museum.

In 1874 the Hiddensee district was formed in the German Empire. In 1875 the painter Gustav Schönleber “discovered” the hard-to-reach Hiddensee. In 1888 the lighthouse on the Dornbusch, the harbor and the sea rescue station were completed in Kloster. In 1887 the bulwark was built in Kloster, in 1905 and 1907 the steamboat landing stages in Vitte and Neuendorf. From this point on, larger ships could dock directly on Hiddensee and the adventurous embarkation or disembarkation at the level of the ferry island was no longer necessary. Starting in 1892, steamers ran regularly between Stralsund and the monastery for the first time. From 1905, with the establishment of the Medical Association, the first doctor on Hiddensee received his license.

With the almost simultaneous construction of five large hotels in Kloster, Haus Hitthim in 1909, Zum Klausner in 1911, Wieseneck and Haus am Meer (the later bird observatory) both in 1913 and in the same year Dornbusch, which was expanded from an inn to a hotel, the number of tourists soared and the monastery became the main tourist town on the island.

When the Hiddensee Nature Conservation Union was founded, the Fährinsel was declared a nature reserve by the Prussian government in 1910 and the Gellen and Gänsewerder in 1922. The Dornbusch, Schwedenhagener Ufer and Altbessin were given the status of a nature reserve in 1937.

From 1916 to 1921 the photographer Elfriede Reichelt visited the island several times. Between 1922 and 1925 Max Taut built a house on Hiddensee every year. The most famous is the Karusel in Vitte, built in 1922, which the silent film actress Asta Nielsen bought as a residence in 1928 and for which Bruno Taut designed the color scheme for the house. Right near the Karusel is another house by Max Taut, Haus Weidermann built in 1923 for the Berlin merchant Karl Weidermann. In Kloster are the Pingel house, built for the interior designer Walter Pingel in 1924 (structurally altered considerably in the 1960s), and right next to it the house built in 1925 for the Berlin publisher Max Gehlen, which has been on the site of the Hiddensee Biological Station since 1930 is used as a doctoral house.

In 1927 a police ordinance was issued that prohibited the use of motor vehicles on the island. Only the island doctor and the local police were allowed to use a motorcycle. In the same year, the island was connected to the power grid and three years later the Biological Research Station was founded by Erich Leick from the University of Greifswald, from which the Biological Research Institute Hiddensee (now Biological Station Hiddensee) emerged in 1936 together with an ornithological station.


In 1937, work began on the large stone wall with stone groynes in front of the Hucke. It was planned to protect the entire four-kilometer-long bank of the Dornbusch with a wall. In addition to protecting the island, the aim was to limit the sand drift in order to save the costs of constant dredging on the Gellen channel and in the Stralsund fairway. The outbreak of the Second World War ended the construction work, only four hundred meters were completed and remain so to this day. After the pig wall was erected, the beach at Kloster und Vitte deteriorated and suffered from a lack of sand.

Between 1937 and 1939 the three municipalities on the island merged to form the municipality of Hiddensee.

At the end of the thirties, bunkers and flak positions for air defense during World War II were built on the Enddorn, as well as a pier on Schwedenhagen for the transport of materials. The bunkers were blown up in 1945 by the Soviet Army (the remains of the rubble were only removed in the 2000s) and the pier was expanded by VEB Erdöl-Erdgas Grimmen for the oil test wells in the 1960s. The pier was then used from 1974 by a push convoy for island supply and demolished in 2010.

1945 to 1989
On May 4th and 5th in 1945, Soviet troops occupied the island. In the same year as the following year, as part of the land reform, the Hiddensee estate was divided into 18 new farmer positions.

On July 28, 1946, Gerhart Hauptmann was buried in the cemetery in Kloster (Hiddensee Island). The memorial stone was unveiled exactly five years later, on July 28, 1951.

In 1952 the second ferry connection between Seehof on Rügen and the ferry island had to be closed.

Between 1958 and 1959 the VEB vehicle and hunting weapons factory "Ernst Thälmann" built a holiday village for its employees in the Dünenheide. Right next to it, in 1980/81, the construction and assembly combine for industrial and port construction in Stralsund built another holiday resort for its employees.

From 1952 to 1955, Hiddensee belonged administratively to the Bergen district. In 1953, some hoteliers fled to the West during Aktion Rose, while others were arrested. After this action, all hotels on the island were expropriated and handed over to the FDGB. The Heimatmuseum and the Gerhart-Hauptmann-Haus opened in the 1950s; the LPG Dornbusch was founded.

In 1962, the construction of the dike began between Kloster and Vitte. The biggest redesign of Hiddensee began with the dike in the meadows and pastures along the Bodden coast. In Vitte the Boddenwasser went up to the streets Wiesenweg, Norderende and Zum Seglerhafen. Large parts of today's port of Vitte as well as the entire area with today's sports field, the helicopter landing pad and the sailing port of Lange Ort were artificially washed up or drained. In monasteries, too, parts of the Bodden were drained, which before the dyke had been built from the harbor to far beyond the height of Postweg.

The White Fleet Stralsund took over the cooperative shipping company and the fishermen founded FPG'n De Süder in Neuendorf and Swantevit in Vitte.

As a result of seismic investigations in the north of the island of Hiddensee, oil exploration began on April 10, 1967 with the research well E Rügen 2/67. This 4,602 m deep well, like wells E Hiddensee 3/67, 4/68 and 5/68 that followed until December 1968, did not produce any usable oil deposits. The already prepared 5th well was canceled and all wells were filled in the summer of 1971. The oil that had been extracted up to that point was shipped by tanker from a provisional port near the monastery to the Soviet Union for analysis and processing.

By 1971 the location of the 5th technical observation company Dornbusch of the NVA was built between the Pension Zum Klausner and the Dornbusch lighthouse. Behind a double fence, with a dog running in between, was an ammunition bunker and other buildings. The facility was dismantled in 1993 and the bunker was covered with earth. Since then, the former access road, the slab path from Kloster, which forks just before Klausner, has turned right into "nowhere".

In 1972/73 the connecting roads between the towns were paved with concrete slabs, except for a gap of around 500 m between Vitte and Kloster, which had existed for years, due to the onset of a lack of building material, and which is still recognizable today as the only paved road section. In 1974, the household waste dumps on the edge of all local locations were covered and a central waste dump was created near the Swantiberges. This was exhausted in the early 1990s. Since 1993 all garbage has been collected in the port of Vitte and transported to Rügen.


On May 7, 1989 there were 4.7 percent against in the GDR local elections on Hiddensee. Hiddensee was considered a niche for those who think differently and dropouts who often worked in hotels, restaurants or as lifeguards in the summer. They were easy to control on the small island, and despite some open Stasi observation, some incidents and meetings were accepted. There was an intellectual climate on Hiddensee, and artists, writers, actors, musicians and scientists retired there, such as Jo Harbort, Christine Harbort, Günter Kunert, Kurt Böwe, Harry Kupfer, Inge Keller, Günther Fischer, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Christoph Hein, Robert Rompe or members of the punk band Feeling B.

The corpses of people who were shot while attempting to escape across the Baltic Sea, mostly in a folding boat, or who perished without outside interference, were also found again and again on the beaches of Hiddensee, such as those of 18-year-old Friedrich Klein and Ernst August Utpaddel (both in February 1962) and the 21 year old Uwe Richter (in August 1987). But one of the most spectacular escapes from the GDR and the only one with a surfboard succeeded from Hiddensee in November 1986, by the 30-year-old Karsten Klündner and the 22-year-old Dirk Deckert a day later. In the early mornings, both of them drove with self-made surfboards and sail from Gellen to the Danish island of Møn, 70 kilometers away, in a good four hours.

From 1989
After the fall of the Wall, a new pier for the cargo ferry was completed in Vitte. Some sailors then used the old concrete pier of the push boat in Kloster as a sailing port. From the 2010s onwards, a real sailing harbor with sanitary facilities was built in the largest port renewal project in Kloster.

In 1992 the research facilities Versuchsstelle Schwedenhagen of the Berlin Central Institute for Electron Physics and the Fährinsel research facility of the Jena Central Institute for Microbiology and Experimental Therapy were given up.

The large-scale electric vehicle test started in 1992 by the Federal Ministry of Research and the automotive industry was also carried out at Hiddensee. In the course of the test, a large solar system was installed at the port of Vitte on a building roof, which still exists today.

In May 2010 the tent cinema in Vitte had to be closed after 46 years. After a transition period at different locations, a new tent cinema opened at the port of Vitte in 2012.

Between 2010 and 2014, some streets were newly paved or paved at all, and the connecting streets were widened by a good 50 percent (Vitte-Neuendorf 2010 and Kloster-Vitte 2014). In 2012, a helipad for emergency patients and for a disaster went into operation in Vitte.

In October 2019, a new island bus with an electric drive went into operation. The predecessor drove with diesel and was thus still one of the few combustion vehicles on the island after the police also switched to an electric car in September 2015.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hiddensee was closed to tourists from March 16, 2020. Tourists who were on the island had to leave the island by March 19. The day before, an emergency schedule from the Hiddensee shipping company started, in which only the Vitte ferry operates between Schaprode and Vitte until further notice. Since May 18th, tourists from Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania have been allowed to visit Hiddensee again, and from May 25th from all over Germany.