North Frisian Islands

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The North Frisian Islands are a group of islands in the Wadden Sea, a part of the North Sea, off the western coast of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. The German islands are in the traditional region of North Frisia and are part of the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park and the Kreis (district) of Nordfriesland. Occasionally Heligoland is also included in this group.

Sometimes the North Frisian Islands include also the Danish Wadden Sea Islands on the western coast of Jutland, Denmark. They belong to Tønder municipality and Esbjerg municipality. The ethnic group of Frisians lives only on the German-ruled islands.


After the Frisian and Danish colonization of the islands in the 8th century, the Frisian-populated hundreds (between Eiderstedt and Sylt) became the Uthlande. The North Frisians in the Uthlande were ruled directly by the Danish king and were known as Königsfriesen or "King's Frisians". Only later did the Uthlande transfer to the Duchy of Schleswig, with the exception of small Danish royal enclaves. Part of Rømø was also ruled by the Schleswig duke. After the German-Danish wars, the islands from Nordstrand to Romo became Prussian in 1866. After the referendum in 1920, the current border between the islands of Sylt and Romo was fixed.

A good and thorough overview of the life, work, languages, costumes and customs of the island Friesians is portrayed by the Carl Haeberlin Frisian Museum in Wyk auf Föhr.


There are four larger islands and ten tiny islets. The names of the large islands are Sylt, Föhr, Amrum, and Pellworm. The islets are called Halligen. In medieval times the present-day peninsula Nordstrand and Pellworm as well as the Halligen were part of the large island of Strand. This island was torn to pieces in a disastrous storm tide in 1634.

Sylt (Söl'ring North Frisian: Söl' ; Danish: Sild) is the largest of the North Frisian Islands, consisting of about 100 km². It is accessible by a causeway called the Hindenburgdamm; this causeway is only accessible to trains. In the summer months the island is crowded with tourists, including those who have a preference for nudism. Sylt's image is that of a meeting point for the jet-set. The main town on the island is Westerland. The northern end of Sylt, the Ellenbogen ("elbow"), is Germany's northernmost point. Lager Sylt, the Nazi concentration camp on Alderney was named after the island.

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