State of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

Schleswig-Holstein is the northernmost federal state in Germany. It lies between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. The state capital is Kiel. In front of the mainland are Heligoland, the North Frisian Islands and the Halligen in the west, and the island of Fehmarn in the east.

A special feature of the west coast is the largely protected Wadden Sea, which plays a major role in land reclamation. In addition to agriculture and industry, tourism, which is concentrated on the coasts, the islands and Holstein Switzerland, is of great importance. The North Sea and the Baltic Sea are connected by the busy Kiel Canal.

Schleswig-Holstein has a size of 15,770 km² and a population of 2.83 million (2010). Schleswig-Holstein borders Denmark in the north, the Baltic Sea and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in the east, Hamburg in the south and the North Sea in the west (Fig. 1). The capital Kiel lies on the Baltic Sea and is the largest city in the state.

In 1920 Northern Schleswig came to Denmark after a referendum. In 1946 the British military government formed the state of Schleswig-Holstein from the Prussian province.

Natural space

According to prozipcodes, the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein occupies the southern part of the Jutland peninsula and the islands in front of it. The island of Fehmarn lies in the Baltic Sea. The North Frisian Islands and Heligoland are off the west coast in the North Sea. The natural area is part of the North German lowlands, which were shaped by the Ice Age and which in the east consist of a fertile ground and terminal moraine landscape rich in lakes. In the south-eastern hill country lies Holstein Switzerland, which is characterized by lake-filled hollow forms of glacial origin and extremely scenic. The largest lakes are the 29 km² large Plöner See and the Selenter See. The 168 m high Bungsberg rises from a high moraine area. To the west, the hill country is followed by the Geest with sandy and boggy soils. The Geest drops steeply to the west to the third landscape unit, the marshes.

The west coast, which is particularly exposed to the influences of the sea, is now protected against the North Sea by land protection dikes. In front of the dikes are the foreland, which is only flooded during storm surges, and the tidal flats that are flooded twice a day. The North Frisian Islands, the Marsh Islands and the Halligen protrude from it.

The Baltic Sea coast is partly steep coast, partly flat compensation coast and richly structured by fjords.

Special islands

The island world of Schleswig-Holstein has some special features. The 2.9 km² island of Helgoland, part of the Pinneberg district, is located in the German Bight(Picture 4). It consists of a rocky island up to 61 m high made of red sandstone and a dune island today 1.5 km to the east. Until 1720 this was connected to the rock island. The landmark of Heligoland is the single rock tower “Lange Anna”. The Seeheilbad Helgoland has a bird sanctuary, other research facilities and a sea rescue station. The 1600 residents live mainly from the important excursion traffic. Helgoland used to be strongly secured by fortifications. The island, which belonged to Great Britain from 1814 to 1890, was badly damaged by a British bombing raid during World War II. Only in 1952 was Heligoland returned to Germany.

The Halligen in the North Frisian Wadden Sea are part of the marshland that was created by silt deposits during the post-glacial sea level rise. The larger of the total of ten Halligen have summer dykes, the Halligen not diked are partially or completely flooded during storm surges. Then it says “Land under”. The settlements lie on Wurten or Waiting, which were artificially piled up mounds of earth already in prehistoric times. The more than 300 islanders live from tourism and the dairy industry.

Schleswig-Holstein has a pronounced oceanic climate, which is characterized by prevailing westerly winds. In late autumn and winter, storm surges often occur, with earlier devastating consequences. The annual average rainfall is 720 mm and decreases steadily from the Hochgeest in the middle of the country to the island of Fehmarn in the Baltic Sea.

The Wadden

The mudflat is the transition area from land to sea on a flat tidal coast (Figure 6). It is washed over by the sea at high tide and falls dry at low tide. The wadden area on the German North Sea coast is up to 20 km wide. 1985 to 1990, a total of 5367 km² of Wadden area were designated as the Wadden Sea National Park in Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg.

The mud flats consist of silt and sand. The water that overflows the mudflats twice a day, the Wadden Sea, has created a branching system of channels made of wide baljons, narrow tidal creeks and thin water channels that resemble a river system. At low tide it is clearly visible as such. The marsh is created by the silting up of the mudflats. The transition zone between the salt marshes of the marshland and the tidal flats is called Quellerwiesen. The most important plants on the tidal flats are seaweed and algae. The rich fauna includes worms, mussels, snails, crabs, birds and seals (Fig. 8).

The fight against the elemental forces of the sea and storms was fought particularly in the area of ​​the Wadden Sea. The coastline in the northwest of Schleswig-Holstein has changed dramatically over the past 5000 years (Fig. 9).

But not only was land lost, new land was also added through land reclamation measures. For this purpose, parapets, double rows of stakes braided with brushwood, are built out into the sea in front of a dike. At high tide, mud, sand and clay settled on them. Salt-loving plants, such as B. Queller. They solidify the silt soils. After the construction of a higher final dike, the sea dike, a new Koog has been gained.


The state is predominantly populated by Saxony (Lower Saxony). North Frisians live on the west coast and the offshore islands, some of whom still use their language. A Danish minority lives on the border with Denmark in the north and enjoys special rights. After the Second World War, the proportion of people displaced was around 25%. Since then, the population has declined slightly.

Schleswig-Holstein is relatively sparsely populated. The regional focus of the population distribution is mainly on the Baltic Sea coast around Lübeck, around the state capital Kiel and around Flensburg, in the hinterland of Hamburg and around Neumünster, Rendsburg, Itzehoe, Husum and Heide.

A good 60% of the population belong to the Protestant regional church, 6.2% to the Catholic church. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Danish minority in southern Schleswig, the “Dansk Kirke i Sydslesvig”, has around 7,000 members.

Economy and Transport

Schleswig-Holstein used to be a predominantly agricultural country. Today it has a diversified economic structure. The agriculture uses 68% of the area, of which more than half of the arable land. Permanent grassland with livestock farming predominates in the marshes in the west, in the southeast oil crops, grain and potatoes, in Dithmarschen (the largest German cabbage- growing area) and on Fehmarn there is intensive vegetable cultivation, in the Elbmarschen there is also fruit growing. Just under 10% of the area is forest. Schleswig-Holstein has large tree nursery areas on which roses and rhododendrons are also grown.

Important industrial sectors are the food and beverage industry, shipbuilding and mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, building materials and optical industries. The economically used mineral resources include salt deposits, crude oil (near heather and off the coast) and chalk. Fishing and fish processing industries are widespread along the coasts. The shrimp fishing is particularly well known . Kiel is the central fishing port.

The main attractions for tourism are the North Frisian Islands, especially Sylt, and Helgoland, the Baltic Sea coast and the Holstein Lake District.

As a coastal state, Schleswig-Holstein has a long shipping tradition.The port of Brunsbüttel on the Lower Elbe has developed into an important cargo handling point. The most important Baltic ports are Lübeck, Puttgarden and Kiel. The Kiel Canal between Brunsbüttel and Kiel is still one of the most frequented artificial waterways on earth. Schleswig-Holstein is connected to the Scandinavian countries via the Vogelfluglinie, which includes the island of Fehmarn.

State of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany