Heinz Sielmann

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Portrait of Heinz Sielmann on his tombstone, designed by Peter Mildner

Heinz Sielmann (born June 2, 1917 in Rheydt ; † October 6, 2006 in Munich ) was a German animal filmmaker , cameraman , producer and publicist .

Live and act

In 1923, Sielmann's parents moved with him to East Prussia . There he became interested in the animal films that ran in cinemas before the main films. This gave rise to an early desire to become a wildlife filmmaker. His first observations with his father's binoculars were of the bird world. After his school grades at the Königsberg Royal Hufengymnasium dropped due to his new passion, his parents limited the time spent in nature with binoculars. But in the following years his school grades improved again, and his mother gave him his first camera as a gift. After first attempts with the camera, Sielmann made his first animal film Birds over Lagoon and Meadows (still as a silent film) in 1938 in East Prussia and the Memelland, which was then separated from the League of Nations and occupied by Lithuania , which earned him great recognition in the professional world and with the public. He was assisted by the cameraman and friend Georg Schimanski , with whom he worked for ten years.

From 1939 he worked in the Wehrmacht as a trainer at the air communication school in Poznan . The later artist and sculptor Joseph Beuys was his subordinate, at the same time an intense friendship developed. Sielmann studied biology and zoology at the same time at the University of Posen . Relocated to Crete , he finished his late colleague Horst Siewert's nature film in 1945 . The British Army captured him and brought him with the filmed material to England, where he was allowed to work for the BBC after viewing the film .

After the war he became a cameraman for the Institute for Film and Image in Science and Education in Munich and made internationally recognized nature films. In 1949 his first feature film, Song of the Wild, premiered. In 1952, Sielmann came into contact with Konrad Lorenz , which was followed by close collaboration. For the films Quick, the Squirrel (1952) and Carpenters of the Forest (1954) about woodpeckers , he received the Federal Film Prize . For the latter film he was nicknamed “Mr. Woodpecker ". Despite his travels, he resumed his university studies in Munich in 1956 with a focus on zoology and ornithology.

Under the patronage of the former Belgian King Leopold , Sielmann made one of the first films about mountain gorillas in the Belgian Congo in 1958 : Les Seigneurs de la forêt (Rulers of the Primeval Forest). In 1962, a highly acclaimed documentary about the Galápagos Islands followed, Galápagos - Landing in Eden. The behavioral scientist Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt , who was responsible for some of the sensational underwater photos at the time , also took part in this very long expedition . Sielmann received a Silver Bear for this film at the 1962 Berlinale .

In 1963 Sielmann went on an expedition to the jungle of Papua New Guinea to take the first film recordings of the birds of paradise and the shy bowerbirds , which had not yet been shown . The film was released in 1965 under the title Into the Mountain Jungle of New Guinea . Sielmann's wife Inge (1930–2019) accompanied him on expeditions to the Congo and the African savannah . Sielmann's son Stephan died at the age of 24 in an accident during an expedition in Kenya . Also for the American documentary film The Hellstrom Chronicle (The Hellstrom Chronicle) (1971) made Sielmann some shots. The film received the 1972 Oscar for “Best Documentary”.

From 1965 to 1991 Sielmann moderated the extremely successful animal show Expeditions into the Animal Kingdom on television, with mostly his own film material. He was editor of the magazine Sielmanns Tierwelt , which merged with Bernhard Grzimek's magazine Das Tier in the early 1980s .

Since 1988, when he made the film Animals in the Shadow of the Border , Sielmann has been committed to preserving the death strip of the former inner-German border with Thuringia for nature conservation . As the Green Belt Germany , the nature conservation project is now part of the Green Belt Europe .

In 1994, at the age of 77, Sielmann, who did not have a university degree and did not publish academically, received an honorary professorship for ecology at the Faculty of Biology at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich .

Headquarters of the Heinz Sielmann Foundation at Gut Herbigshagen with logo and motto at the entrance

The Heinz Sielmann Foundation was established in 1994 from the commitment on the former border strip . The foundation has been based at Gut Herbigshagen near Duderstadt since 1996 . The foundation wants to create and maintain habitats for threatened species by purchasing and maintaining biotopes.

Heinz Sielmann died on October 6, 2006 in Munich. He found his final resting place on the grounds of the Heinz Sielmann Foundation in the Franz von Assisi Chapel.

After Heinz Sielmann's death, Inge Sielmann took over the chairmanship of the board of trustees of the Heinz Sielmann Foundation. From 2017 until her death on March 25, 2019, she was Honorary Chairman of the Board of Trustees. In addition to direct nature conservation, she was interested in the nature and environmental education of children and young people. For example, there is an “Inge Sielmann Kindergarten” in Fuhrbach , Göttingen district , which aims to teach children how to grow up with nature. The youth organization of the Heinz Sielmann Foundation is the Sielmanns Natur-Ranger Deutschland e. V.

Works (excerpt)

  • NDR series expeditions into the animal kingdom
  • Song of the Wild, 1949
  • Meadow summer, 1955
  • Ruler of the Primeval Forest (Les Seigneurs de la forêt), 1959
  • Galápagos Landing in Eden, 1962
  • Greenland - Gate to Eternal Ice (Greenland and beyond), 1962
  • In the savannah of East Africa, 1964
  • In the mountain jungles of New Guinea, 1965
  • Alluring Wilderness - Through the Wilderness of North America, 1974
  • Animals in the Shadow of the Border, 1988
  • Heinz Sielmann's life's work only at Bertelsmann (collector's edition), 2007
  • What is what (Volume 72, Pet Animals , and Volume 73, Spiders )
  • 30 more scientific and practical books

A total of four documentary films, more than 200 television films, 123 scientific educational films, several DVDs and numerous book publications were made.

Awards (selection)


Various schools bear Sielmann's name, including the secondary school of the city of Oerlinghausen (since 1997), the Realschule Duderstadt (since 1998), the state primary school in Haßleben (since 2003), the West primary school in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse (since 2004) and the Crinitzer primary school (since 2006).

The 2001 RO 15 asteroid, discovered in 2001 at the Drebach observatory in the Ore Mountains , has been officially named (208351) Sielmann since February 7, 2012 .

On the 100th birthday of Heinz Sielmann, Deutsche Post AG issued a postage stamp with a face value of 45 euro cents. The first day of issue was June 8, 2017. The design comes from the graphic artist Thomas Mayfried from Munich.

On June 2, 2018, Google dedicated a Google Doodle to him on the occasion of his 101st birthday .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Heinz Sielmann: My way to the animals , Munich 1975 (Wilhelm Heyne Verlag), p. 45
  2. This episode was taken up in 2008 by Marcel Beyer in his key novel "Kaltenburg" (Suhrkamp Verlag) and interwoven with the work of Konrad Lorenz , who was at the same time in Posen a. a. worked as a psychiatric assessor.
  3. Helmut Höge: The hippopotamus and the dormouse , taz, July 21, 2012
  4. ^ Environment award winner Inge Sielmann dies , deutschlandfunkkultur.de, published and accessed on March 27, 2019
  5. Nature lover and visionary: Heinz Sielmann's legacy lives on In: Focus Online , June 2, 2017.
  6. Inge Sielmann is dead - but the foundation should continue to live In: Göttinger Tageblatt , March 26, 2019; accessed on June 16, 2019.
  7. Mourning for the committed nature conservationist Inge Sielmann In: hna.de , March 26, 2019.
  8. ^ Heinz Sielmann School - home page. Accessed May 1, 2019 .
  9. Presentation of the special postage stamp “100. Birthday Heinz Sielmann “- Federal Ministry of Finance - Press. Retrieved June 2, 2018 .
  10. Jens Minor: Heinz Sielmann: Google-Doodle for the 101st birthday of the German animal filmmaker 'Mr. Woodpecker '. In: GoogleWatchBlog. June 2, 2018, accessed June 16, 2018 .


Web links

Commons : Heinz Sielmann  - Collection of images, videos and audio files