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East Frisian flag with coat of arms
Map of East Frisia

Ostfriesland ( East Frisian Low German : Oostfreesland, Ostfreesland ) is a region in Lower Saxony in the far north-west of Germany . It consists of the districts of Aurich , Leer and Wittmund and the independent city of Emden . East Frisia is located on the coast of the North Sea and, in addition to the mainland, also includes the East Frisian islands of Borkum , Juist , Norderney , Baltrum , Langeoog and Spiekeroog .

The East Frisian landscape remains from the former political unit of East Frisia . 467,289 people (as of December 31, 2019) live on 3144.26 square kilometers in its territory. With just under 150 inhabitants per km², the region is less populated than the national average (233), but similarly dense as the state of Lower Saxony (168) and above-average dense for a rural region without a large city. What is characteristic of East Frisia is that it is not dominated by a larger city. Rather, it is the five medium- sized towns of Emden , Aurich , Leer , Norden and Wittmund as well as the five small towns of Weener , Wiesmoor , Esens , Norderney and Borkum and a large number of villages that determine the structure of East Frisia. Today's area corresponds to the area of ​​the former Principality of East Friesland, which existed until 1744, except for smaller roundings .

For centuries , the region was shaped by agriculture , fishing and - especially in the few towns - by trade . This included sea ​​trade in particular in the port cities . Dyke construction and land improvement have agricultural use large parts of the earlier by the Tide influenced march and Moore made it all possible. In the meantime, tourism , especially on the islands and in many coastal towns, as well as some industrial cores have achieved great importance for the regional economy. Nevertheless, agriculture continues to have a strong position - both culturally and economically. Despite economic progress in recent decades, East Frisia is a structurally weak region with a high level of dependence on a few industries and a small number of larger companies.

Due to the centuries-long, onshore relative isolation by large moors in the south of East Friesland with simultaneous turning to the sea, the region within Germany has developed in part quite independently. Close ties to the Netherlands also contributed to this. This can still be seen today, for example in cultural matters or in the political arena, in efforts to maintain East Frisian-wide institutions and, where possible and sensible, not to merge with institutions outside East Frisia. The region is one of the strongholds of the Low German language : an estimated 50 percent of the inhabitants still speak East Frisian Platt .


Location and area

The East Frisian municipalities
Lower Saxony North Sea coast and regional names
East Frisia, satellite image

East Frisia is located on the North Sea coast and is the most northwestern region in Germany. In general, a distinction is made between Ostfriesland in the historical-political sense (which is the subject of this article) and the geographical term Ostfriesland, which is sometimes more broadly defined (see the article Ost-Friesland ). The Ost in Ostfriesland refers to the fact that it lies in the eastern part of the old Friesland - in contrast to the part called Westfriesland (the province of Friesland and the North Holland region of Westfriesland in the Netherlands ). In addition to these two Friesland, there is the area known as North Friesland in northwestern Schleswig-Holstein , which, however , lies outside of the areas designated as Friesland in the Holy Roman Empire .

East Frisia includes the independent city of Emden and the districts of Aurich , Leer and Wittmund . These form - apart from minor border corrections - the area of ​​the former Principality of East Friesland (1464–1744), which continued to exist as the administrative district Aurich within Prussia , then Hanover , again Prussia and later Lower Saxony until 1978. The inhabitants of this area are the only ones who still call themselves East Frisians . In addition, the city and the three districts are the area that is looked after by the East Frisian landscape , the "cultural parliament" of the East Frisians, and the Lower Saxony State Archives (Aurich location) .

East Friesland is bordered by the three Oldenburg districts of Friesland (the border is the so-called Golden Line ), Ammerland and Cloppenburg in the east and the district of Emsland in the south. East Frisia borders the Netherlands in the west and the North Sea in the north. In front of the mainland are the East Frisian Islands , seven of which are inhabited.

The islands of Wangerooge and Minsener Oog belong to the East Frisian Islands (with a capital "O"), but are not East Frisian islands (with a small "o"), but Oldenburg . The background to this confusing usage is the difference between "Ostfriesland" (emphasis on the second syllable) and " Ost-Friesland " (emphasis on the first syllable): only the western larger part of the area between the Ems and Jadebusen formed up to the founding of the administrative district Weser -Ems also a "Ostfriesland" called political unit. The smaller eastern part of East Friesland was initially independent in its northern section, the Jeverland (as the Jever rulership , to which Wangerooge also belonged), and in its southern section, the Frisian Wehde , it was already part of Oldenburg.

East Frisians feel part of the Frisian culture - as Frisians who live in the nation states of the Netherlands and Germany on the North Sea coast.

Historically, the high medieval settlement area stretches from the Lauwerszee (near Groningen) to the Weser ( Stedingen ) and north of the Wildeshauser Geest - Hümmling - Hondsrug line . In addition to organizations from East Friesland, Oldenburger Friesland and Saterland , the East section of the Frisian Council also includes organizations from the regions of Butjadingen (Wesermarsch district) and Wursten (between Bremerhaven and Cuxhaven ).

Above all in cultural, but also in political and administrative matters, there is an effort to preserve historically grown structures and to adhere to organizational demarcations from the surrounding area. The amalgamation of the districts of Wittmund and Friesland in the course of Lower Saxony's district reform on August 1, 1977 failed because of this pronounced self-confidence - but "on both sides". The district was called Friesland, the district town was Wittmund. After complaints before the state court in Bückeburg, the merger was withdrawn on January 1, 1980. In the police organization - the Wittmund district was added to the police station in Wilhelmshaven and thus to the police headquarters in Oldenburg in 2005, while the Aurich and Leer districts and the city of Emden formed two additional police stations within the Osnabrück police station - an overarching structure could not be implemented. The regulation was withdrawn in 2007 after various requests and political interventions, and the Wittmund district became part of the Aurich police station.


The island chain of the East Frisian Islands is in front of the mainland. It stretches over around 90 kilometers from west to east from the mouth of the Ems with the Dollart to the mouth of the Jade in the Jade Bay. The islands are separated from each other by sea ​​gates , but connected by the reef arches and plateaus in front of them . Between the islands and the mainland there is an extensive mudflat area , which is flooded by seawater in the rhythm of the tides via a widely branched river system of gullies, creeks and baljen (navigable creeks) and then falls dry again. The islands, the surrounding mudflats and the coastal sea in front of the islands ( nature reserve "Coastal Sea in front of the East Frisian Islands") are in a close ecological relationship. The island chain is part of the largest and globally significant North Sea Wadden Sea , which stretches from Den Helder (Netherlands) over the Lower Saxony, Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein coasts to Esbjerg (Denmark) and is divided into various national parks. With its coast and islands, East Frisia has a significant share in the Lower Saxony Wadden Sea National Park . The protection of the German-Dutch part of the Wadden Sea as a World Heritage Site was decided by UNESCO in June 2009 .

The East Frisian Islands lie on the edge of the continental shelf. They are not remnants of the mainland, but geologically very young structures from a beach and dune wall. At the turn of the century, this demarcated the Wadden Sea from the open sea. In contrast to the North Frisian Islands, today's chain of sand islands off the southern North Sea from Texel to Mellum was created on old, submerged mainland overlaid with marine sediments. The island-watt system is a very dynamic system and is subject to constant changes, which manifests itself primarily in the change in the shape and location of the islands. Sandy beaches can be found seaward on the islands. Due to currents, waves and wind, primary dunes initially form, which develop into white dunes up to 20 meters high. There are dune areas from older gray and brown dunes. This is followed by marshes and salt marshes , also known regionally as "Heller", which finally merge into the mudflats between the island chain and the mainland. Salt marshes are still occasionally flooded when the water levels are particularly high. They are characterized by specific flora from salt plants (halophytes). The European samphire usually settles as the first pioneer plant (samphire zone). The upper and lower salt marshes are partly extensively grazed, partly they are left to natural succession . On the mainland coast, natural salt marshes have developed in front of the outer dykes.

More than 1000 years ago, the residents began to protect themselves with dikes . Nevertheless, major flood disasters repeatedly resulted in significant land losses. In return, the inhabitants of the region tried to reclaim new land from the sea, and polders were created . However, the successful embankments also led to great losses of natural salt marshes , which could no longer be fully formed due to the limited dynamics.

Without dikes, large parts of East Frisia, especially the marshes and moors on the outer edges of the East Frisian-Oldenburg Geestrücken, would be washed over twice a day by the tides of the North Sea. For the maintenance of dikes within the coastal protection more are dike Be responsible, each sections of the dyke belt under their supervision. The rise in sea levels and short-term freak weather due to climate change make additional coastal protection and drainage measures necessary. For topographical reasons also provides the water inside the dike belt a problem: Due to the hardly pronounced disparities must precipitation over with pumping stations equipped sluices and smuggling of ships and boats in the EMS and its tributaries are conducted or directly into the North Sea. At very low ebb tide this can be done by natural draft. However, if it is necessary to drain the water at high tide, pumps are used. In the case of particularly heavy rainfall, drainage ditches ( called Schloote in East Frisia ) as well as canals and smaller rivers (usually called deep in East Frisia ) overflow because the pump output is insufficient or other disruptions in the drainage network have occurred. Drainage associations, also known locally as Sielachten, are responsible for the drainage.

The coastal area of ​​the mainland is marshland , which merges further inland into fens , geest and high moors . The area around the Eternal Sea near the town of Eversmeer , which is named after him, is particularly noteworthy among the remains of raised bogs . It is considered the largest raised bog lake in Germany. This and the remains of the formerly large raised bogs as well as smaller bog lakes such as the Lengen Sea are now protected areas. The original character is to be restored by means of rewetting measures after these areas were heavily drained for a long time and finally covered with bushes. The old moraine landscape of the Geest is characterized by mainly sandy bed load material from the Saale Ice Age and is largely cultivated as an agricultural or (to a lesser extent) forestry area.

After the common land was dissolved , thanks to the obligation imposed on the farmers to demarcate their plots and to prevent the breakout of grazing cattle, the typical wall hedge landscape with small pastures surrounded by bushes and trees was created. Their access openings are closed with the equally typical, roughly timbered wooden gates ( Low German: hek ). In the meantime, however, wood is increasingly giving way to steel. The smaller plots are mostly used for livestock farming, while the larger plots, on which the use of machinery is worthwhile, also cultivate plants.

The larger forest areas include the Heseler Wald ( joint municipality of Hesel ), the Ihlower Forst ( municipality of Ihlow ), the Karl-Georgs-Forst ( Friedeburg ), the Egelser Wald and the Meerhusener Wald (both town of Aurich ). In the joint municipalities of Hage and Esens there are significant forest areas that are only a few kilometers behind the coastline.

There are also a large number of natural (low moor) lakes in East Frisia, the largest of which is the Great Sea at Bedekaspel ( Südbrookmerland ). In addition to the lakes already mentioned, there are others in East Frisia, especially in the Emden-Aurich-Leer triangle, including the Hieve ( Hinte ) and the Sandwater ( Ihlow ).

The largest river in East Friesland is the Ems , after the Elbe and Weser the smallest of the three rivers that flow into the North Sea in Germany. Other rivers are the Leda (district of Leer), which flows into the Ems near Leerort , its tributary Jümme , and the Harle in the district of Wittmund, which flows into the North Sea in Harlesiel - but through a sluice .

The sewer network in the Krummhörn

East Frisia is also criss-crossed by a large number of smaller natural watercourses. They are connected to man-made channels or the lows mentioned . The longest artificial watercourse is the Ems-Jade Canal . Other longer canals are the Ems Lateral Canal between Emden and Oldersum and the North and South Georgsfehn Canal . The municipalities of Großefehn , Rhauderfehn and Ostrhauderfehn as well as the city of Wiesmoor are most crossed by Fehn canals , while the canals in Emden, which are not Fehn canals, are the longest in the East Frisian cities. The marshes are also criss-crossed by a multitude of so-called lows . Some of these are natural lows and some are artificially created drainage channels. The lows were the main mode of transport in earlier centuries. An example of this is the municipality of Krummhörn, whose 19 villages are all connected to the sewer network and linked to the neighboring municipalities and the city of Emden.

The highest natural point is a dune on Norderney, which is 24.4 meters above sea ​​level . On the mainland, the highest point is a shifting dune in the Hollsand nature reserve in the municipality of Uplengen , which is around 18.5 meters above sea level. The lowest point is near the North Sea coast in the municipality of Krummhörn . Here part of the Freepsumer Sea is 2.5 meters below sea level. In 1983 it was entered in the Guinness Book of Records as the lowest point in Germany . Since 1988, however, a place (−3.54 m) in the community of Neuendorf-Sachsenbande in the Wilstermarsch in Schleswig-Holstein has been considered lower.

Flora and fauna

Beach grass on a white dune
Bog dwellers: cotton grass
Lesser black-backed gull

Seaweed and grass wash up on the beaches of the islands and the coast . Many types of beach plants are found in the dunes of the islands . Typical representatives include pioneer plants such as beach grass on white dunes and sea ​​buckthorn on brown dunes . The crowberry often spreads over large areas on the latter . On the higher ground and at low tide longer covered sections of dry Watts of settled as a pioneer plant samphire on.

Brown rats , hedgehogs and, often in high population densities, rabbits are found in mammals on the islands . In the 19th century hares , partridges and pheasants were released . Of these three, mainly the hare has been able to adapt well to the island conditions.

Seals and gray seals live in the Wadden Sea . The mudflats provide food for a variety of bird species - in the form of crabs , mussels , snails and worms such as the sand pier . In addition to many breeding birds, around ten million migratory birds, including mainly waders such as the knot , geese and ducks, use the Wadden Sea. The mud flats are one of the most important places to stay for these birds on their "East Atlantic migration route" which extends to South Africa. Many of them live in the Wadden Sea for a large part of the year and fill up their fat reserves for the exhausting migration or molt like the shelduck, for example . With around 12,000 breeding pairs of herring gulls, the island of Memmert is the largest colony of this species in Germany and also the only breeding site of the English herring gull that has been established in Germany . Also cormorants live both on the islands and inland.

The marshland - like the lowlands on the edge of the Geest - is relatively poor in species due to human interventions in nature and intensive agricultural use. There are hares and pheasants, field mice and - in large numbers - moles . In the march under the duck species that is Mallard common. Other species of ducks, geese, herons and swans can also be found in the inland waters . The species of fish found in inland waters include eel , pike , perch , pikeperch and carp .

The Geest is richer in species than the marsh. The hedgerows, which offer more favorable living conditions than the marshes, are found between fields and grassland areas. Many species of small birds can be found there, as well as partridge and quail . The raised bog, on the other hand, only serves as a habitat for a few bird species. The black grouse is an exception . But there are moor frogs , lizards and adders in the raised bogs . In the few forests of East Friesland is also fallow deer and wild boar found.


Ground fog in East Frisia

East Frisia is located in the warm temperate zone with year-round rainfall. According to the Köppen climate classification , it is classified as Cfb (climate zone C : warm-temperate climate; climate type Cf : humid-temperate climate; climate sub-type b : warm summer ). The temperatures are relatively even due to the proximity to the North Sea; the summers are warm, the maximum temperature is often over 20 ° C, the 30 ° C mark is only exceeded on a few days. The winter are generally mild and moist with very few Iceday easier Frost but at any time. Temperatures below −10 ° C are rare. The annual mean temperature is 8.4 ° C in the centrally located Aurich and 9 ° C on Norderney, with temperatures on the islands being more balanced. The storage effect of the sea means that heat is given off long after the height of summer. The temperatures are therefore milder in winter. In the raised bog areas inland, the temperatures are usually slightly lower than in the coastal marsh.

During the year around 800 mm of precipitation falls on average, less on the islands. East Frisia is around 100 mm above the German average. Most of the precipitation falls inland in the summer months, especially in June and July. In contrast, the autumn months are the wettest months on the islands. The number of foggy days with visibility of less than one kilometer is above average: 35 days on the islands, 45 days on the mainland - with even higher values ​​in the high moor areas. The number of snow days per year is mostly in the single-digit range. Despite the above-average rainfall and the fog that often occurs, East Frisia has relatively few clouds and is rich in sunshine. The duration of sunshine is around 1500 to 1600 hours, roughly in the north-west of Germany, the islands are even higher.

In East Frisia, the wind blows stronger and more often than the average in Germany. Mostly it comes from the west. The mean wind speed on the mainland is 5.5 to 6 m / s, on the islands an average of 7.5 to 8 m / s. Storms (wind speeds of more than 20 m / s) occur more than average: 30 days on the islands and 22 days on the mainland. On the coast and on the islands there is a risk of storm surges in such weather conditions in winter , especially with winds from the northwest. This is particularly large when the spring tide is added to the storm , which makes the water rise higher anyway.

The small temperature differences, the steady wind as well as a salt, ozone and iodine-rich air of high purity and humidity create the stimulating climate that can cause healing effects. In addition, there is increased ultraviolet radiation and an above-average duration of sunshine on the islands.

Climate tables (long-term mean 1961–1990) from Aurich and Norderney for comparison:

Average monthly temperatures and rainfall for Aurich
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Temperature ( ° C ) 1.0 1.3 3.7 6.9 11.5 14.6 16.0 15.9 13.2 9.6 5.2 2.2 O 8.5
Precipitation ( mm ) 66.6 43.1 57.9 48.2 57.8 83.8 82.1 78.6 76.6 76.2 84.4 74.3 Σ 829.6
Hours of sunshine ( h / d ) 1.11 2.16 3.19 5.19 6.36 6.37 6.03 6.15 4.02 2.55 1.33 0.55 O 3.8
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Average monthly temperatures and rainfall for Norderney
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Temperature ( ° C ) 1.6 1.8 4.0 6.9 11.2 14.4 16.3 16.8 14.5 10.8 6.3 3.2 O 9
Precipitation ( mm ) 60.0 40.7 52.8 41.2 48.7 62.7 76.0 72.8 72.2 80.2 87.6 74.5 Σ 769.4
Hours of sunshine ( h / d ) 1.28 2.42 3.52 5.49 7.17 7.27 6.46 6.44 4.51 3.17 1.51 1.13 O 4.2
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec


Total number of births per woman in Germany by district in 2003. The three East Frisian districts (in the graphic above left) are still above average, and the city of Emden is also somewhat weaker. Legend - green: more than 1.7; yellow: 1.51 to 1.7; orange: 1.41 to 1.5; pink: 1.31 to 1.4; red: 1.3 and less

In East Frisia, around 465,000 people live in an area of ​​3,144.26 square kilometers. This results in a population density of around 148 inhabitants per square kilometer. This means that the region is below the national average of 230 inhabitants / km² and also below the average for Lower Saxony (168 inhabitants / km²).

The largest cities are Emden (50,195 inhabitants), Aurich (41,991), Leer (34,486), Norden (25,060) and Wittmund (20,321). The five medium-sized towns are spread across the region, only Aurich and Wittmund have a common border - however, this is due to very extensive incorporations during the local government reform in 1972 . The most densely populated of these cities is Leer. It extends to just over 70 square kilometers, while the other cities take up much more space (Wittmund: 210 km², Aurich: 197.21 km², Emden: 112.33 km², north 106.33 km²). The smallest unitary municipality in East Frisia is the island of Baltrum with 652 inhabitants.

No data is available on the number of inhabitants in the time of the counts or the princes. Only with the incorporation of East Frisia into Prussia were lists kept from 1750. For the year 1744 the estimates vary between 80,000 and 100,000 inhabitants.

East Frisia has an above-average birth rate . While the national average in 2003 was 1.37 births per woman of childbearing age, it was 1.6 in the Aurich and Leer districts, and slightly higher in the Wittmund district. However, as in the rest of Germany, the birth rates are not sufficient to maintain the population level: they are below the net reproduction rate .

Immigration has made up for the birth deficit over a longer period of time . In the 1990s, these were often immigrants from the new federal states and repatriates from Eastern Europe. However, senior citizens from other parts of Germany who want to retire in East Frisia and the East Frisian Islands also play a role in immigration. However, this increases the aging of the population - over and above the demographic change that is expected anyway . In some municipalities, however, immigration is no longer sufficient to compensate for the birth deficit. Their population is falling.

The proportion of foreigners in East Frisia is below the Federal Republic's average of 9.3 percent. In the city of Emden, the share was still highest in 2015 at 7.2 percent. In the district of Leer, the proportion of foreigners in 2014 was 5.6%. What is remarkable in the district of Leer is the fact that of the approximately 6,700 foreigners, almost 2,100 come from the Netherlands. This can be explained by the lower building land prices compared to the neighboring country. The district of Leer shares a land border with the Netherlands, the A 280 leads to the neighboring country. The proportion of foreigners in the Wittmund district is 3.5%, and 4.2% in the Aurich district. In the district of Aurich, the Dutch (761) top the list of the largest groups of foreigners.

year Residents
1823 142.114
1833 153,671
1842 167,469
1867 193,876
1871 193.044
1885 211,825
1895 228.040
1905 251,666
1925 290,517
year Residents
1939 295,687
1948 390,334
1950 391,570
1960 359.175
1970 402.094
1980 412.079
1990 415.261
2000 454,808
2007 465.170


Prehistory and early history

Reconstructed burial mound of the
large stone grave Tannenhausen

The earliest evidence of settlement can be found for young palaeolithic reindeer hunters of the Hamburg culture . Evidence of Mesolithic settlement and later Neolithic settlements of the funnel cup culture , string ceramics and bell cup culture follow . In 2016 and 2018, amateur archaeologists found two human jawbones on Spiekeroog and Baltrum. They are 7500 and 5500 years old and the oldest human remains found in the southern North Sea area to date. Nationally significant finds are one of the oldest paved roads in the world, the boardwalk in the Meerhusener Moor south of the Eternal Sea including the remains of wagons (around 2500 BC), the oldest cremation in northwest Germany (dated 2700-2900 BC) and the plow from Walle . At the time of its discovery, it was considered the oldest surviving plow in Europe, as it was initially dated to the Neolithic. It is now estimated to have been around 1000 BC. Estimated. However, due to the relatively well developed shape of the hook plow, according to some scientists, dating to the younger Bronze Age or the Early Iron Age is also conceivable. Attempts to determine the age with the radiocarbon method failed because the preservatives used after the recovery falsified the measurement result. An exact dating of the find is therefore still pending.

Map of the Germanic tribes around 50 AD (excluding Scandinavia)

The settlement of Germanic tribes from the large union of the Ingwäonen has been proven for later times . These were Chauken and Frisians . While Chauken originally lived in the area between Ems and Weser , around the turn of the century, the Frisians slowly began to penetrate this area. The Chauken were partly ousted by these, partly absorbed into their tribal association. The Chauken have not been mentioned since the second century AD. Meanwhile, Saxon tribes pushed their way into the Geest area from the land side . The later East Frisians emerged from the mixture of these population groups.

12 BC The Romans first reached East Frisia under their general Drusus . A few years later, Germanicus anchored in the Amisia ( Ems ). Bentumersiel (today the municipality of Jemgum , district of Leer ), which may have been used to supply and protect ships, is one of the few places in Lower Saxony where archaeological finds indicate the presence of Roman legionaries at the beginning of the 1st century AD.

Migration of peoples, army kings, failed Christianization

Depiction of the dike construction in the Oldenburg Sachsenspiegel

In the 5th century there was a sharp decline in settlement. The reason for this could be the rise in sea level and the resulting flooding of the marshes and the watering of the Geest. The decline in population is only noticeable in archaeological finds, which are almost entirely missing for the 5th and 6th centuries. One of the few exceptions that speak in favor of continuous settlement is the runic solidus of Schweindorf . It is certain that part of the population crossed over to England with the Anglo-Saxons .

During the migration period , the population living in East Frisia was probably incorporated into the federal tribal association of the Saxons. Finds of new ceramic forms from the area west of the Weser , where the Saxons lived at that time , also indicate a cultural rapprochement . Evidence of armed conflicts, such as fire horizons, however, is missing.

In the 7th and 8th centuries, a new settlement began, which took place as part of an extensive expansion of the Frisian settlement area. This extended in the west to Sincfal (today Het Zwin , north of Bruges ) and included South Holland, Utrecht and Westgelderland. Sausages and the North Frisian Islands have also been settled since the 8th century, later the mainland opposite. Finds from this period accordingly indicate that the settlers came from the Frisian areas west of the Lauwers .

Until the first dykes were built, settlement was only possible in higher geest areas and on so-called terps in the marshland that was regularly flooded by the North Sea . From around 1000 AD, dykes made it possible to colonize the entire march. The motto Deus mare, Friso litora fecit (God created the sea, the Frisian the coast) alludes to this.

Between 650 and 700 a Frisian army kingship emerged , which is still sometimes misunderstood as the formation of a large empire. It is undisputed that these army kings defended themselves against the Frankish expansion, which possibly brought together large parts of today's West Friesland , East Friesland and areas up to the Weser (Magna Frisia). The first known name of an army king is Aldegisel , who apparently supported the Christian missionary Wilfrid from 678 . His son and successor Radbod , like his father, had his main power center in the west, in the Utrecht area. In 716 he stood with his army in front of Cologne and in the same year defeated the Franconian caretaker Karl Martell , who suffered his only defeat. In the Wilhelmine era, Radbod († 719) became a pioneer of Germanic freedom and, since he was not baptized, stylized anti-Roman forces. As a result, industrial complexes such as the Radbod colliery in the eastern Ruhr area were named after him. It is still part of folklore today.

Part of the Franconian Empire, Christianization

Radbod's successor was Poppo . In vain he opposed the reconquest of western Friesland by the Franks, and after 720 all Frisian parts of the country west of the Vlie were in Franconian hands. Karl Martell finally defeated the Frisians in the Battle of the Boorne (734). Poppo found death in the process. After defeating the Saxons in 785, Charlemagne conquered all of Friesland, including the eastern areas as far as the Weser . The Ius paternae hereditatis , the right to their paternal inheritance and thus their free inheritance, was withdrawn from the Saxons and Frisians who had fought against Karl . To secure his conquests, Karl also had the old Frisian law recorded and summarized with Franconian laws in an overview, the Lex Frisionum . Here for the first time there are indications of a division of the Frisian areas, which is still in place today.

During this time, East Friesland was the target of multiple Norman incursions in which the population was left to fend for themselves. Karl organized the defense of the country by setting up a coast guard in Friesland along the coast and especially at the estuaries, which was based on the self-help of the armed and loyal Frisians. In fact, with the victory in the Battle of Norditi in 884, the Vikings were permanently expelled from East Friesland, but they were a constant threat. The East Frisian men were released from military service in foreign territories. From this the Frisians developed the political myth that Charlemagne was the founder of the Frisian freedom , but this was probably only granted later. The so privileged class was probably thin, since it consisted exclusively of men who were loyal to the king and from whom Charles had therefore not withdrawn the Ius paternae hereditatis . Only when Charles' son, Louis the Pious , returned it to them in 814, did all the Frisians who owned the land enjoy the freedom of the king. In return, they paid the king a fee called huslotha or koninckhuere .

Ihlow Monastery  - remains of the foundations

East Frisia was divided into two counties. At this time the failed Christianization was resumed by the missionaries Liudger and Willehad . East Friesland was partly assigned to the diocese of Bremen and the other to the diocese of Münster . In the course of Christianization, a monastery landscape was created on the Dutch and German North Sea coasts . The movement reached its peak in the 12th and 13th centuries. Altogether, from West Friesland to Groningen to East Friesland, around 120 founding of the various orders can be proven. In East Friesland itself there were more than 30 monasteries, monasteries and comrades . After the Reformation, the monasteries were secularized and some of them were used as secular buildings. Most, however, were demolished and the building material obtained in this way, such as the bricks, was used to build houses or to build fortifications for the cities. Most of the documents, contracts, image and written sources that were kept in them were also lost.

Replacement of the count's courts, consular constitution, Frisian freedom

Upstalsboom, oldest known view by CB Meyer (1790)

Towards the end of the Carolingian era, a network of districts increasingly decoupled from the ruling groups in the heart of the Franconian Empire emerged. They sent elected representatives every year, the so-called “Redjeven” (judges, councilors), who both exercised the jurisdiction and ran their districts. The group of the big ones reached back in part to the Frankish conquest, but the feudalism widespread in Europe remained little developed in East Frisia. Rather, the Frisians saw themselves as peasants who were free of landlord ties and who were neither tied to the Scholle nor developed vassal relationships like those that had arisen in the Carolingian rulers. It is true that there were unfree people, but their number must have been small.

The replacement of the count's jurisdiction by the consular constitution began before the 12th century. Every year from the 12th to the 14th century, elected envoys of the seven Frisian Zealand countries gathered in the so-called Frisian Freedom on the third day of Pentecost at the Upstalsboom near Aurich . The number seven is only to be understood symbolically, in fact it was emissaries from more regions. At the Upstalsboom, justice was pronounced and political decisions of supraregional importance were made. The deputies were already elected at Easter in the Gau. These meetings are documented between 1216 and 1231 and from 1323 to 1327.

East Frisian chiefs

East Frisia at the time of the chiefs
Frisian Zealand around 1300

In the course of the 14th century the Redjeven Constitution fell into disrepair, which may also have been contributed to by the outbreak of the plague and catastrophic storm surges, in the wake of which many of the important families were impoverished. Feudal lords like the bishops of Munster or the counts of Oldenburg had by no means given up their efforts to integrate the north into their system of rule. Some influential families took advantage of this situation and created a system of rule in which they, as chiefs (hovedlinge), gained power over more or less large areas. In doing so, they did not establish a feudal system, as was to be found in the rest of Europe, but rather a system of allegiance that resembled older forms of rule of Germanic cultures in the north, in that the inhabitants of the respective spheres of power were in a relationship of dependence on the chief, and were variously obliged to The rest of them retained their freedom and were able to settle elsewhere.

Until the end of the 14th century, power struggles between the various chief families were a local problem. After the Vitalienbrüder were expelled from the Baltic Sea island of Gotland by the Teutonic Order in 1398 , they were accepted by some of the East Frisian rulers who used them as a force. One of the pirates who found refuge in East Frisia was Klaus Störtebeker . He quartered himself in Marienhafe , which at that time was still on the Leybucht and thus had access to the open sea. This led to considerable tensions with the Hanseatic League , whose armies invaded East Friesland several times in the period that followed. The cities of Hamburg and Bremen in particular saw themselves damaged by the pirates. However, the involvement of the Hanseatic League did not resolve the conflicts among the chiefs, but made them even more complicated. In 1401 the Hanseatic League fought a successful naval battle against the pirates off Heligoland . Parts of East Friesland, including Emden, were occupied, mainly by Hamburg forces. They did not leave Emden until 1453.

It was not until the rise of the Cirksena around 1430, when Edzard Cirksena had asserted himself as the leader of a League of Freedom , that this phase marked by permanent feuds ended, but at the same time the special status of the regional social constitution. Ulrich Cirksena , a member of one of the last influential chief families, was in 1464 by Emperor Friedrich III. raised to the status of imperial count and enfeoffed with East Friesland as imperial county. It belonged to the Lower Rhine-Westphalian Empire .

The reign of the Cirksena (1464–1744)

Under the rule of the House of Cirksena , who was raised to the hereditary prince status in 1662 , East Frisia developed socially and economically advantageous. The county reached the greatest extent under Edzard the Great , the Cirksena ruler, under whose rule the Reformation began to spread in East Frisia and the East Frisian Land Law was drafted. During this time (1547–1625) lived Ubbo Emmius , humanist , historian and first rector of the University of Groningen . However, the counts could not enforce strong aristocratic rule in East Frisia as in the other states of the empire, since the Frisian estates largely knew how to uphold and defend their rights of freedom.

East Frisia around 1600, drawn by Ubbo Emmius

The Reformation found its way into East Frisia as early as 1520. Unlike in most regions, however, it was not the authorities that were in charge here. Count Edzard I supported the spread of the new doctrine, but was too weak in his position to enforce a particular creed. Catholicism, Lutheran Protestantism and Calvinism existed side by side in East Frisia without any denomination gaining the upper hand. Rather, the country was split into a Lutheran East and a Calvinist West. The city of Emden in particular benefited in the following years from the influx of religious refugees from the Netherlands, led by Menno Simons from Witmarsum - the Mennonites were named after him - but also from France and England. At times it looked as if the city could become a third Reformation center alongside Wittenberg and Geneva . The city acted more and more confidently towards the count. The tension culminated in the Emden Revolution in 1595 , during which Count Edzard II was forced to move his residence to Aurich and to renounce most of his rights in Emden.

Even Ocko I. tom Brok is said to have brought Jews to East Frisia in the 14th century , but the contacts probably go back a lot further, especially since both Frisians and Jews were very active in long-distance trade. The oldest synagogue community was established in Emden around 1550; further communities sprang up in all of the larger towns.

The Battle of Jemmingen, portrayed by Frans Hogenberg

1568 East Frisia fell into the conflicts of the Dutch War of Independence , when Dutch troops, known as Beggars , under their leader Louis of Nassau after the Battle of Heiligerlee into Rheiderland dodged. Spanish troops under Duke Alba followed them. On July 21, 1568, the two associations met at the Battle of Jemgum , which ended in a victory for the Spaniards. Albas Heer then roamed the Rheiderland for three days, pillaging, pillaging and raping.

Emden around 1575

During the Thirty Years' War, East Frisia suffered great hardship from the troops of Count von Mansfeld . The only exception was Emden, as the recently completed Emder Wall protected the city from being conquered. The city experienced its greatest heyday from 1570 until the end of the Thirty Years War and became one of the most important European ports and shipping companies. This was primarily due to the large number of Dutch religious refugees who settled in the seaport city. Several thousand merchants, ship owners and craftsmen settled in the city, the population rose by 1600 to almost 15,000. During this time, Emden was one of the leading port cities in (Northern) Europe. The city was also a stronghold of Calvinism through the work of Reformed preachers . Merchants from Emden founded the first feudal settlement in East Friesland, (West) Großefehn, in 1633.

The Thirty Years' War, which broke out in 1618, initially had no military consequences for East Frisia, and later there were no fighting here either. Instead, the area acted as a resting place for some troops with devastating consequences, as they did not harm the population. From 1622 to 1624 it was the von Mansfeld troops, from 1637 to 1651 it was Hessian troops.

The Thirty Years' War was followed by an incomparable development of power by the East Frisian estates, which made themselves largely independent of the respective sovereign. The attempt to restore the sovereign power failed. The East Frisian landscape later emerged from the representation of the East Frisian estates , which still bears their coat of arms, but has since changed from a political institution to a cultural institution.

The Principality of East Frisia came under the influence of the Netherlands and was politically, culturally and economically close to it. The Netherlands stationed troops in central locations, including Leerort near Leer and Emden.

During the Dutch War from 1672 to 1679, troops from various states passed through East Frisia, which had to buy the withdrawal through payments.

Fight between the Princely House and the Estates, Brandenburg-Prussia

Christine Charlotte , regent of East Frisia, took advantage of this situation and negotiated a protection treaty with the Prince-Bishop of Münster in 1676 in order to be able to enforce her claim to power against the estates. At the beginning of September 1676, eight companies from Munster marched into East Frisia as border guards. For their part, the estates now needed a protective power in order to be able to compensate for the dominance of the princess in domestic politics, which Brandenburg offered itself for . They were interested in East Frisia because in this way the Brandenburg-African Company could be relocated from Königsberg to the strategically much better located port of Emden, especially since it was considered one of the best in Europe at the time. In 1682 , Elector Friedrich Wilhelm took advantage of the renewed conflicts between the Princely House and the East Frisian estates. The city of Emden in particular was interested in weakening the royal house and came to an agreement with the Brandenburg ruler. He had troops deployed in East Frisia. In November 1682, Brandenburg troops under Wilhelm von Brandt landed in front of Greetsiel. Greetsiel Castle was taken on November 6th after the estates in Emden had approved this and the 16-man garrison surrendered by mutual agreement. Whereupon on April 22nd, 1683 a trade and shipping contract was negotiated with the estates of Emden. From then on, Emden became the headquarters of the Brandenburg-African Company and outpost of Brandenburg-Prussia .

Map of the area flooded by the Christmas flood in 1717

The Christmas flood in 1717 had devastating consequences for East Frisia. Across the county, 2,787 people (about 3.6 percent of the population) lost their lives to the effects of the flood. The livestock also suffered heavy losses. A total of 2186 horses, 9430 cattle, 1031 pigs and 2682 sheep drowned. The ravages of the flood were followed by a period of economic decline and poverty.

Georg Albrecht

In 1726/27 the so-called appeal war broke out , which manifested itself in a renewed conflict between Prince Georg Albrecht and some of the estates, which split into "obedient" and "unruly" ones. The prince emerged victorious from this conflict. Even the city of Emden, at the head of the unruly estates, submitted. However, due to negotiating errors by Georg Albrecht's Chancellor, Enno Rudolph Brenneysen , the parties involved in the conflict did not come to a peaceful agreement. Although the chancellor and the prince demanded severe punishment of the renitents, they were amnestied by the emperor in 1732. When Prince Georg Albrecht died on June 11, 1734, Carl Edzard took over the official duties at the age of 18 as the last surviving descendant of Georg Albrecht. He too could not resolve the conflicts with the estates.

At this time the course was set for Prussia's takeover of power in East Frisia. The city of Emden played an important role in this, as it was politically isolated and economically weakened after the War of Appeal. The aim of the Emden city center was to regain its position as the capital and trading metropolis. From 1740 the opinion prevailed that this goal could be achieved with Prussian help. To this end, a contract should be created that recognized the Prussian entitlement. The economic position of Emden was to be supported by protective measures and subsidies, and the city's existing privileges (such as stacking rights ) confirmed. The negotiations on the Prussian side were led by the directorate councilor in the Lower Rhine-Westphalian Reichskreis, Sebastian Anton Homfeld , who on November 8th, 1740 presented an initial opinion on the procedure to be followed when the inheritance occurred.

Homfeld was considered one of the leading representatives of the unruly estates. After initial difficulties, two treaties were concluded on March 14, 1744, which are collectively referred to as the Emden Convention . On the one hand, this was the Royal Special Declaration and Insurance Act , and on the other, the Agitation and Convention Act , in which primarily economic regulations were made. Furthermore, Prussia relied on the expectance issued by Emperor Leopold I in 1694 , which ensured the right to enfeoff the Principality of East Frisia in the event of a lack of male heirs. Despite the resistance of the Electorate of Braunschweig-Lüneburg , Prussia prevailed in efforts to promote East Frisia.

From the first to the second Prussian rule (1744–1871)

Fehn Canal in Ihlowerfehn . The place was built from 1780.

When Carl Edzard , the last East Frisian prince from the house of Cirksena, died on May 25, 1744 , King Friedrich II of Prussia asserted his right of succession, which was regulated in the Emden Convention. Starting from Emden, he had East Frisia occupied without resistance, whereupon the country paid homage to the crown on June 23. The state capital Aurich remained the seat of the state authorities, received a war and domain chamber and became the government capital of the Prussian province of East Frisia. The entire inventory of the palace, including the East Frisian prince library and the furniture, was auctioned off in several auctions, so that little of it has survived today.

The Prussian rule brought a considerable economic upswing for East Frisia and increased opening to the outside world. In addition, the city of Emden benefited from the establishment of a free port in 1751. In 1754, a royal order ordered the establishment of fire insurance - the Ostfriesische Landschaftliche Brandkasse , which was still publicly owned . The postal system was also expanded. With the reclamation edict of 1765, the peatland colonization and the establishment of many new fen settlements began . Prussia recognized the independent position of East Frisia within the state and installed a largely autonomous chancellor. The first chancellor was the above-mentioned, extremely influential Sebastian Anton Homfeld, from a family of notables from the Rhine region, to whom rumors attribute the poisoning of the last East Frisian prince.

Map of the Kingdom of Holland with East Frisia (top right)

After the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt (1806) and then carried Treaty of Tilsit (1807) Ostfriesland first went to France and was at under the reign of the March 1808 Napoleon's brother Louis Bonaparte standing Kingdom Holland ceded . In 1810, the Ems-Oriental (East-Ems) department became part of the French Empire. The western East Friesland (Rheiderland) was spun off from East Friesland due to old Dutch claims and added to the Dutch department Ems-Occidental with the capital Groningen . France brought modern legal ideas to East Frisia and took the first steps towards a comprehensive restructuring of the social system. In 1811, by order of Napoleon, the East Frisians had to take on the previously unknown family names and give up their previous, complicated system of patronymic inheritance of names - but this only finally caught on in the middle of the 19th century. Mayors were also introduced into the villages for the first time. Until then, the village societies had no central administrative office, as the responsibility was evenly distributed among the olderlings, dikers and other local dignitaries. The civil code was also introduced. Numerous French customs officers were deployed to enforce the continental barrier, some of whose descendants still live in East Frisia. During this economically difficult time, some East Frisians became wealthy through the smuggling of England, including tea . Nevertheless, most of them (including the Jews living here, who were granted civil rights and full equality under Dutch and later French occupation) found the foreign rule oppressive and took part in the wars of liberation against Napoleon .

After Napoleon's defeat and the collapse of his rule, the Prussians again moved in between 1813 and 1815. East Frisian soldiers took part in the battles of Ligny and Belle Alliance (Waterloo). The hopes of remaining Prussian were disappointed by the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15. Prussia had to cede East Frisia to the Kingdom of Hanover. England was in the lead and wanted to prevent Prussia from being established on the North Sea coast. Article 27 of the final act of the Congress of Vienna states: “The King of Prussia cedes the Principality of East Frisia to the King of Great Britain and Hanover under the conditions mutually stipulated in Article 5 on shipping on the Ems and trade in the port of Emden. The estates of the principality will retain their rights and privileges. ”The following period was marked by economic stagnation and sometimes regression.

Emigrant newspaper Ostfriesische Nachrichten - Heimatblatt of the East Frisians in America

A provincial government based in Aurich was formed on June 17, 1817 to administer the new area . In 1823 it became the Aurich Landdrostei as the central authority of the kingdom. At that time, about 142,000 people lived in East Frisia. By the end of the Hanoverian era, the population had increased by around 37 percent to 194,033. The poor economic conditions - which lasted for a long time despite the construction of the Hanoverian Western Railway from 1854–1856, which initially connected Leer and Emden to the railway network - led to a wave of East Frisians emigrating to the USA, which reached its first peak around 1848/50. The East Frisians' main goals were the states of Illinois and Iowa , in which there are still regions today where Low German is spoken. The emigrants preferred to move in with people with whom they had already lived in their home villages. From 1882 to 1971 the newspaper Ostfriesische Nachrichten  - Heimatblatt der Ostfriesen in America - was published in the United States .

When the country became Prussian again with the annexation of the Kingdom of Hanover by Prussia in 1866 and this resulted in a development boost, this was generally welcomed in East Frisia. In addition, the cultural connection with Germany (Duitsland) finally established itself and the use of the High German language in schools became common (in some areas Dutch and East Frisian Platt were spoken before).

Prussian Province in the German Empire, First World War (1871–1918)

Photo of the visit by Kaiser Wilhelm II on July 2, 1902 to the inauguration of the new Emden port

From 1866, East Frisia was part of the Prussian province of Hanover . The Prussian administrative district Aurich was formed from the Landdrostei , with the name Landdrostei and the office structure remaining until 1885. In that year the districts of Aurich, Emden (excluding the city of Emden), Leer, Norden, Weener and Wittmund were formed. Emden was added as an independent city.

The Ems-Jade Canal was built between 1880 and 1888 . Its origin he owed the desire of Prussia, its an exclave in the former Grand Duchy of Oldenburg nearby naval port of Wilhelmshaven on the waterway with the Prussian East Frisia to the Wilhelmshaven politically belonged, and in particular the port of Emden to connect.

Economically, agriculture and cattle breeding, especially cattle breeding, remained dominant. Aurich and Leer were important cattle trading places at that time. Industrialization, however, took place very slowly. The shipyards in Leer and Emden gained importance. The district's trading centers were also located here. In terms of economic development, the Prussian state concentrated on Emden. As a result, the city developed into the seaport of the Ruhr area and an important transshipment point for bulk goods such as ores and coal. The Dortmund-Ems Canal, completed in 1899, provided a boost . In 1913 the large sea lock was inaugurated in the city . With an internal length of 260 meters, it was considered one of the largest sea locks in the world at the time. With the construction, a new harbor basin was created, the new inland port. Imports in the port of Emden increased from 75,000 tons in 1899 to 1.5 million tons in 1913. The other cities only followed this development to a limited extent. Only in Leer there was modest growth after the port was modernized from 1901 to 1903.

Population growth in the region continued. In 1905, 251,666 people lived in East Frisia, about 30 percent more than at the beginning of Prussian rule. At the turn of the century, economic growth began that lasted until the beginning of the First World War . As in the rest of the empire, the beginning of the war was enthusiastically celebrated in East Frisia. Many young men volunteered for service. The East Frisian Infantry Regiment No. 78 , stationed in Aurich, was initially sent to Belgium and was deployed on both the Western and Eastern Fronts during the course of the war . After the end of the war it was disbanded in mid-1919.

One day before the emperor's abdication, the first soldiers' council for "maintaining public order" was founded in Aurich and Emden on November 8, 1918. A little later, Leer, Norden, Esens, Wittmund and Dornum followed. On November 10, 1918, in front of around 100,000 enthusiastic demonstrators in Wilhelmshaven, the North Sea station and all surrounding islands and parts of the navy, as well as the associated Oldenburger Land, were proclaimed the socialist republic of Oldenburg / East Frisia . President was Bernard Kuhnt appointed - an episode, but without consequences for East Friesland.

In the rural, rather conservative population of East Frisia, the workers 'and soldiers' councils were unable to establish themselves, so they gradually dissolved there after the election to the Weimar National Assembly .

Weimar Republic

During the Weimar Republic, in 1922, Jann Berghaus was the first East Frisian to become the regional president in Aurich . He held this position until the Prussian strike in 1932.

Emergency money from the Aurich district in 1923

East Frisia, as a predominantly rural region, experienced a relatively favorable economic phase after the First World War during high inflation . With their surpluses, the farmers served a market that grew rapidly. While more industrialized regions and cities only fell into recession with the global economic crisis from 1929 , East Frisia came together after the currency reform of 1923/1924 - the stable currency meant Germany's "re-entry" into the world market and thus into food imports sharp drop in prices for agricultural products by up to 40 percent. This led to a fatal chain reaction in the city of Aurich, which is heavily dependent on agriculture. The value of the farms halved, the rural population became impoverished. This often led to foreclosures under value, which with a certain delay led the banks into a crisis and ultimately swept trade and commerce with it. Bills could no longer be paid, loans could no longer be serviced. Measures by the district government to stimulate the economy through government demand, such as investments in dyke construction and land reclamation projects, peatland cultivation and the construction of several pumping stations, remained ineffective.

The city of Emden was also cut off from the Ruhr area as its most important economic hinterland by the occupation of the Ruhr. The import and export of ore and coal decreased. This brought the domestic industry, namely shipbuilding , to a standstill. The following years were marked by high unemployment, strikes and recession. During this time, the previously insignificant anti-Semitism spread in East Frisia, which was directed against the Jewish cattle trade, which some met with prejudice and distrust during the agricultural crisis at that time. In particular, the case of Borkum pastor Ludwig Münchmeyer , who incited the audience with anti-Semitic hate speech and was then forced to give up his office as pastor in the so-called Münchmeyer trial , caused a sensation throughout the Reich.

In 1932 a district reform was carried out in East Frisia. The Weener district was dissolved and integrated into the Leer district. The district of Emden was also dissolved after the independent city of Emden had already incorporated some areas of the district four years earlier. The majority of the district of Emden, including the area of ​​today's communities Krummhörn , Hinte and Werdenum (East Friesland) , came to the district of Norden , a smaller part ( Oldersum , Tergast ) to the district of Leer, which almost reached its current size.

In the Reichstag elections of 1932, 44.2% of the electorate in the Aurich administrative district voted for the NSDAP . The election of 1933 finally sealed the end of democracy in East Frisia as well.

National Socialism

"Ostfriesische Tageszeitung" from October 1, 1942

In the Reichstag elections on March 5, the National Socialists achieved 47.5 percent of the votes cast in East Friesland, in individual places such as Oldersum almost 70 percent. In the Wittmund district, the party achieved its top result with 71 percent of the votes cast. After the so-called seizure of power, democratically elected politicians were pushed out of office with defamation campaigns, sometimes with brute force : In Leer, Mayor Dr. Erich vom Bruch committed suicide in May 1933 after massive allegations and threats; in October Emden's mayor, Dr. Wilhelm Mützelburg besieged and after physical abuse by the National Socialists "thrown out of the town hall" in the truest sense of the word. The media were brought into line , which met little resistance. The most important organ of the NSDAP in Ostfriesland was the Ostfriesische Tageszeitung (OTZ), founded in 1932 , which became the leading medium.

Associations and clubs were structured according to the leader principle , Jewish members were pushed out and the free market economy restricted. The National Socialists also intervened in the administrative structures: East Frisia was now part of the Weser-Ems Gau of the NSDAP.

After the seizure of power in early 1933, the Jews in particular suffered from repression by state organs. Socialists and communists were taken into protective custody and some were imprisoned in concentration camps. Two months after the seizure of power and four days earlier than in other parts of the German Reich , the boycott of Jewish businesses began in East Frisia. On March 28, 1933, the SA posted itself in front of the shops. During the night, 26 shop windows were thrown in Emden, which the National Socialists later wanted to blame the Communists on.

Jewish communities in East Frisia before 1938

On the night of November 9-10, 1938, East Frisian SA troops took part in the rioting against the Jews ordered by the Reich leadership of the National Socialists, which was later referred to as the Reichskristallnacht or November Pogroms 1938. That night the synagogues of Aurich, Emden, Esens, Leer, Norden and Weener were burned down. The synagogue in Bunde was sold to the merchant Barfs and demolished before 1938. The Jemgum synagogue had already fallen into disrepair around 1930. In Neustadtgödens , which at that time still belonged to East Friesland , a merchant bought the building in 1938 and used it as a paint store, which is why the Nazis probably didn't start a fire. The synagogue in Norderney was sold in 1938, the one in Wittmund was sold for demolition in June 1938. Only the synagogue of Dornum is preserved today, which was sold to a carpenter on November 7th, 1938. All male Jews were rounded up and, after some hours of harassment, deported via Oldenburg to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp , from which they could only return after weeks.

The discrimination continued, and two years later, in April 1940, the East Frisian cities and rural communities reported to the district president, earlier than anywhere else in the Reich, that they were " free of Jews ".

Second World War

Preparations for war also began very early in East Frisia. With the introduction of general conscription , Emden and Leer also became garrison towns after Aurich.

During the Second World War , Emden, as the economic and industrial center of East Frisia, was repeatedly the target of air raids, which initially only caused minor damage. On September 27, 1943, 165 people were killed in a bomb attack in Esens. The “poor and workers house” was completely destroyed, 102 school and rural year children died in the basement of the building. Esens - even without military significance - was hit by stray bombers, who actually had Emden as their target, as a so-called "Target of Opportunity". Aurich was bombed three times during the war. 17 people were killed and 24 injured. On September 6, 1944, Emden was bombed again. In the attack by Allied bombers, around 80 percent of the city center and thus almost all of the historic buildings were destroyed. Emden is thus one of the ten German cities hardest hit by the bombing , based on the percentage of apartments destroyed.

Memorial with the names of the 188 victims of the Engerhafe concentration camp

Towards the end of the war, the Engerhafe concentration camp was built in 1944 . Those imprisoned here under inhuman conditions had to dig anti-tank trenches around the city of Aurich, which was declared a fortress. Shortly before the completion of the “all-round defense of Aurich”, the camp was closed on December 22, 1944. 188 prisoners died within the two months of its existence.

Allied ground troops reached East Frisia at the end of April 1945. On April 30, Leer was taken by British Canadian troops. They reached Oldersum and Großefehn by May 2nd. On May 3rd and 4th, 1945 a delegation from Aurich negotiated successfully with the approaching Canadians about the surrender of the city without a fight. The fighting in Aurich was then stopped due to the armistice negotiations at a higher level. On May 4, Hans-Georg von Friedeburg near Lüneburg signed the partial surrender for the troops in Northern Germany , Denmark , Holland and Norway on behalf of the last Reich President Karl Dönitz , who had left for Flensburg - Mürwik with the last Reich government . The fighting in East Frisia ended on May 5, 1945 at eight o'clock.

post war period

Emden Town Hall, rebuilt in a modern way based on the historical model (1962)

After the end of the Second World War, East Frisia became part of the British zone of occupation . Canadian soldiers were also stationed in East Frisia. In the Netherlands there were considerations to annex some areas of Germany . East Frisia was also considered. The Netherlands aimed in particular at the Dollart, the mouth of the Ems and Borkum in order to cut off Emden from sea trade. However, these plans failed due to the resistance of the Western Allies.

On August 23, 1946, the British smashed the state of Prussia and formed the state of Hanover from its former province of Hanover , from which, together with the states of Braunschweig , Oldenburg and Schaumburg-Lippe , the state of Lower Saxony emerged on November 1, 1946 . The political unity of East Frisia was also retained after 1946 under the name " Administrative Region Aurich "; the district first became part of the state of Hanover, later of Lower Saxony.

East Frisia was populated by many refugees and displaced persons from the eastern areas of the German Empire . In 1945 around 295,600 people still lived in the region, a year later there were 364,500, and in 1948 390,334. In 1950, the provisional maximum was reached with 391,570 inhabitants, of whom 16.3 percent were displaced. In 1959 Ostfriesland had 358,218 inhabitants, of which 38,678 were displaced, which corresponded to a share of 10.8 percent. Reconstruction after the war took the longest in Emden due to the massive destruction. Barrack camps still existed in the city at the beginning of the 1960s .

Economic miracle, administrative reforms, cultural self-awareness

Aerial view of the Volkswagen factory in Emden, in the background on the left the part of the port where the car handling takes place

In the course of the Lower Saxony municipal reform in 1972, the former East Frisian community of Gödens was incorporated into the Oldenburg community of Sande . Conversely, the town of Idafehn, which had previously belonged to the municipality of Strücklingen in the district of Cloppenburg , was added to the municipality of Ostrhauderfehn in the district of Leer in 1974. In 1977 there were last minor changes in the area of ​​the border between the communities of Ostrhauderfehn and Saterland . Within East Frisia, many small communities with a population in some cases only three-digit numbers have been merged into larger communities or integrated communities . Cities have also incorporated surrounding communities on a larger scale. This essentially restored the current situation.

On January 31, 1978, the Aurich administrative district was combined with the Osnabrück and Oldenburg districts in the Weser-Ems administrative district. Since then, East Frisia is no longer an independent administrative unit. Only the East Frisian landscape as a landscape association is still active throughout East Frisia - politically, however, only in the field of cultural policy, which includes the maintenance of Low German, the processing of the history of East Frisia, the preservation of the cultural heritage and, since 2006, parts of regional marketing. "The landscape", as it is called for short, is a corporation under public law and a higher municipal association , but explicitly not a regional authority . The landscape assembly as the highest body is made up of elected representatives who are to be nominated by the three district assemblies and the Emden city council and sees itself as the identity-creating institution of all East Frisians. Among the landscapes and landscape associations in Lower Saxony , the East Frisian landscape, created in 1464, is by far the oldest - all others were only founded in the 20th century.

In 1964, construction began on what is still the most important industrial company to this day, the Volkswagen factory in Emden . In 1977 the last VW Beetle built in Germany rolled off the assembly line there. In 1984 the wind turbine manufacturer Enercon was founded in Aurich , which today has around 3,000 employees in East Frisia. In the 1980s, Leer began to become the second largest German shipping location after Hamburg.

The East Frisian joke came up at the end of the 1960s ; its history explains why these jokes are only about the East Frisians and not about the North Frisians as well.

With the North Sea Hall in Emden (1972), the Kunsthalle in Emden (1986), the Johannes a Lasco Library in Emden (1995) and smaller museums in other East Frisian locations, the cultural infrastructure has been greatly expanded since the early 1970s.


The functions of the former administrative district of Aurich have largely been taken over by the administrative districts of Leer, Aurich and Wittmund and the independent city of Emden, unless they have been transferred to the state of Lower Saxony or (until its dissolution in 2004) to the administrative district of Weser-Ems .

In 2005, a discussion began in the East Frisian district assemblies about a possible merger to form a “district of East Frisia”. In 2006, regional SPD and CDU politicians instead proposed that representatives of the four districts and two independent cities on the East Frisian peninsula , including Friesland and Wilhelmshaven, form a regional council for East Frisia . However, Friesland and Wilhelmshaven have refrained from participating. Representatives from the three East Frisian district assemblies and the Emden city council founded the regional council in a constituent meeting in August 2010, the first chairman was the SPD member of the Bundestag Garrelt Duin from Hinte . The aim of the regional council is to represent the interests of the region with one voice vis-à-vis the state of Lower Saxony, the federal government and the EU. It is still to be decided which responsibility the regional council should take on in terms of content. The plan was to have the East Frisians themselves elect the regional council in the 2011 local elections; However, this election did not come about because two district councils (Leer and Wittmund) did not pass any resolutions. However, those involved sought a direct election for the subsequent local election. On April 24, 2015, the main committee of the regional council decided to dissolve the body.


In federal elections (here: first votes in 2017) the constituency of Aurich / Emden (top left) is one of the most pronounced SPD strongholds in Germany.
State election 2017: The SPD won the first-vote majority in four of the five East Frisian constituencies (top left), the CDU candidate only prevailed in the Leer constituency.

In elections, East Friesland is a traditional SPD stronghold. In the 2005 election, the SPD in the Aurich - Emden constituency achieved the highest second vote result in Germany with 55.9 percent . In the Bundestag constituency of Unterems (district of Leer / northern district of Emsland), the SPD achieved particularly high proportions in the East Frisian part, in contrast to the Catholic Emsland , which forms about the other half of this constituency and where the CDU won the clear majority of the votes. In the Bundestag constituency of Friesland - Wilhelmshaven , which also includes the Wittmund district, the SPD also traditionally won - even if the CDU itself was ahead of the SPD in the Wittmund district. The Wittmund district was also the only one with a CDU district administrator until 2010 ; in the other three municipalities, the SPD provides the main administrative officials. In the district of Wittmund, District Administrator Matthias Köring was supported by the CDU, SPD and FDP in his 2010 election.

Even after the 2017 federal election , the SPD remains the region's strongest political force with 37.8 percent. The CDU lost heavily and was able to unite 28 percent of the vote. It is followed by the AfD with 9.1 percent, the Greens with 7.4 percent and Die Linke with 7.2 percent. The FDP also clearly exceeded the five percent mark in East Frisia with 7.1 percent of the vote. In the future, the region will be represented by three members of parliament. Johann Saathoff was directly elected by the SPD in the Aurich - Emden constituency. In the Unterems constituency, the CDU MP Gitta Connemann from Leer prevailed against the SPD candidate Markus Paschke from Riepe . Siemtje Möller from the SPD is directly elected member of the Bundestag constituency Friesland - Wilhelmshaven . No candidate from the region was able to enter the Bundestag via the state list of parties.

Since the state elections in Lower Saxony in 2017, East Friesland has been represented by seven members in the state parliament. Johanne Modder ( constituency 84, Leer / Borkum ), Matthias Arends ( constituency 85, Emden / north ), Wiard Siebels ( constituency 86, Aurich ) and Jochen Beekhuis ( constituency 87, Wittmund / Insel ) as well as the CDU politician moved for the SPD Ulf Thiele ( constituency 83, Leer ) directly into parliament. The FDP, Hillgriet Eilers (Emden / Norden) and the Greens, Meta Janssen-Kucz (Leer), have two other MPs on the state lists . Throughout East Frisia (all five constituencies together) the SPD became the strongest force ahead of the CDU.

badges and flags

The Count's coat of arms

The coat of arms of East Frisia introduced by Count Rudolf Christian
The Upstalsboom coat of arms awarded by Emperor Leopold I in 1678
Flag of East Frisia

There is no longer an official East Frisian state coat of arms because East Frisia no longer exists as a regional authority . In the general public, the six-field full coat of arms of the East Frisian Count and Princely House is used today, as it was introduced in 1625 by Count Rudolf Christian . Up to 1600 (Berumer comparison) the coat of arms was four fields, without the two lower fields representing the Harlingerland. The Princely House of Cirksena used the six-field coat of arms until it died out in 1744. After 1744 the Cirksena coat of arms was included in the Prussian coat of arms.

This coat of arms combines the coats of arms of the most important East Frisian chief families or the parts of the country originally ruled by them. For the Cirksena family, this should express the legitimation of their rule. It shows (unheraldically from top left to bottom right):

  • the coat of arms of the Cirksena from Greetsiel , the golden, crowned virgin eagle, accompanied by four golden tail wheels in a black field. The tail wheels represent the Itzinga family. Territorially, this stands for the Emsigerland and the western Norderland,
  • the coat of arms of tom Brok , a golden eagle crowned on head and wings. Territorially, this stands for the Brokmer and Auricherland,
  • the heraldic symbols of the Tzyerza families (diamond bars) and Mertenesna (crescent moon). Territorial both stand for the eastern Norderland (Berum). After many spellings, the name of the Tzyerza family finally became the family name Cirksena.
  • the coat of arms of chief Focko Ukena from Leer, a right-facing silver lion on a blue background with an overturned golden crown around his neck. Territorial this stands for the southern East Friesland (Reider, Mormer, Lengener and Overledingerland),
  • the coat of arms of Attena from Esens , the right-handed, red armored black bear with a gold collar on a gold background. Territorially, this stands for Esens and Stedesdorf,
  • the coat of arms of the Attena chief Hero Omken from Harlingerland , two golden diagonally crossed two-strand flagella in the blue field. It is territorial for Wittmund.

The three crowned helmets above the East Frisian coat of arms are part of the coat of arms of the Cirksena (middle helmet, which is decorated with a golden lily in front of six golden ostrich feathers) and the Harlingerland (right helmet with two diagonally crossed flagella and a lily) as well as the Count of Rieberg ( with a red and gold helmet cover and a gold eagle fuselage with a red flight). The emblem of Eala Frya Fresena indicates the tradition of Frisian freedom .

The estate coat of arms

From the liberal tradition of the Frisians, a strong position of the professional assembly developed in the county of East Friesland. In addition to the counts and princes, the estates had extensive sovereign rights. Emperor Leopold I took this into account with a process that was unique in the old empire when he left the East Frisian landscape on January 14th ( Julian calendar ) (January 24th 1678 according to the Gregorian calendar , which was only introduced in the Protestant parts of the country in 1700) awarded its own coat of arms. This Upstalsboom coat of arms is still used by the landscape today.

On a red sign it shows a green oak tree on a green hill (as a symbol for the Upstalsboom), next to it a man in armor, a lance in his right hand and a sword in his left hand, a helmet decorated with two white and two blue feathers the head.

The East Frisian flag

The East Frisian flag shows three horizontal stripes of equal width in the colors black, red and blue. These colors are taken from the crest of the Count's coat of arms: black is the basic color of the Cirksena coat of arms, the red comes from the coat of arms of the Counts of Rietberg and blue stands for the Harlingerland.

In contrast to the count's coat of arms, the popular East Frisian flag has official status again today, as it was officially adopted by the East Frisian landscape in 1989. In private use, the flag is used almost exclusively with the count's coat of arms and is hoisted in front of many houses in East Frisia.



Bilingual village sign Aurich (Auerk)
Bilingual place-name sign Lütetsburg (Lütsbörg)

The vernacular in East Frisia is East Frisian Platt, a northern Lower Saxon variant of Low German . Today East Frisia is one of the few still relatively intact Low German language areas, but is also considered a dialect retreat. Exact numbers of speakers are not available. According to the results of a study, at least 80 percent of the people in East Frisia understand Low German. About 50 percent speak the language actively. The results of a survey carried out on behalf of the East Frisian Landscape in 2007 showed a large age gap: while those over 40 stated that they could speak flatly to 60 to 88 percent, the figure was 24 percent among those under 30.

Bilingualism is promoted by the East Frisian landscape , for example through help with bilingual teaching in kindergartens and primary schools from the Plattdütskbüro . Associations such as Oostfreeske Taal (East Frisian language) are also active in this area, and regional publishers also publish books in Low German. Articles in Low German appear regularly in newspapers and magazines, and from 1992 to 2018 there was a magazine called Diesel , which appeared entirely in East Frisian Low German and which published modern poetry and prose in addition to entertainment and cultural news. Since 2004, some municipalities and cities in East Frisia have been allowed to set up bilingual place-name signs, including the cities of Aurich (Auerk) and Norderney (Nörderneei) as well as the municipalities of Großheide (Grootheid), Werdenum (Ostfriesland) (Wir'm) and Lütetsburg ( Lütsbörg). In large areas, however, the Low German place names have been retained (examples: Möhlenwarf , Moorhusen , Suurhusen , Rechtsupweg ), so that bilingual signs are not necessary.

The original vernacular in East Friesland was not low German, but the Frisian part of East Frisian language . With the Reformation, the High German language and - especially in the Calvinist west of East Frisia - Dutch came into the country. Some linguistic relics have also survived from the brief French period. In the late 19th century, the German language found its way into the Calvinist communities. At the latest during this time, even the most remote areas of East Frisia came under High German influence, and standard German began to prevail.

Due to this eventful history of language, the East Frisian Platt stands out from the neighboring dialects in pronunciation and vocabulary. Frisian and Dutch have left their mark, but the Low German core of the language is also considered to be relatively conservative. Due to its isolated location, East Frisian Low German retains some old Low German words such as fuul (dirty), Penn ((writing) pen), quaad (bad); It also contains a number of Frisian words and forms such as the personal pronouns hear (she) and hum (him / him), as well as terms such as Gulf (barn part), Heff (Wadden Sea), Jier (manure) etc., and finally (especially im western part) it has taken up a number of Dutch words such as Bahnje (employment, post), Patries (partridge) or Ühr (hour).

The old East Frisian language has only survived outside East Frisia. In Saterland , which was difficult to access for centuries , a former "island" in the moor south-east of East Frisia, around 2000 people speak Sater Frisian to this day . In contrast to the Groninger Ommelanden , where the loss of the East Frisian language also led to a loss of Frisian identity, the Frisian self-confidence in East Frisia is still strong and not as strongly linked to the regional language as in North and West Frisia.

The standard greeting in East Friesland is " Moin " and is used at all times of the day and night. Where Moin recourse in East Friesland also quite as formal salutation, while in other areas of northern Germany often similar in formal environment to "good day" o... The origin of the very young greeting Moin is still unclear, but it first appeared in East and North Frisia. The thesis that the origin of Moin is to be found in East Friesland is supported by the first written mention of the greeting in Wiard Lüpke's East Frisian Dictionary from 1932. The most common theories assume an origin from the Dutch / Low German "Mojen Dag" ( “Have a nice day”) or from a gradual shortening of “Engoden Mörgen” (“a good morning”). What speaks against the first derivation, however, is that the “oi” in Moin is spoken with a short o ([ mɔɪn ]), while in moi it is long ([ mo: i ]). The use of the greeting around the clock and not just in the morning speaks against the second theory. In addition to Moin, there are other traditional greetings in a localized manner , such as “Mui” in Rheiderland or “He” in Norderney .


The crooked church tower in Suurhusen
Lütetsburg Castle
Norderburg in Dornum
Street in Rysum
Flower hall in Wiesmoor

A large number of architectural monuments have been preserved in East Frisia . According to the structure of East Frisia, these can not only be found in the cities, but also in many villages.

Among the architecturally outstanding sacred buildings are the Ludgerikirche in the north, the largest church in East Friesland, as well as the New Church and the Great Church in Emden. The latter combines the historical structure of the reformed “Moederkerk”, which was destroyed in World War II, with a new building from the 1990s and today houses the Johannes a Lasco library . Numerous other places of worship in East Frisia date from the Middle Ages, and many village churches are built in Romanesque and Gothic styles . The Suurhuser Church is unique, it houses the most crooked church tower in the world and is therefore in the Guinness Book of Records .

A large number of noteworthy secular buildings can be found especially in the East Frisian cities. Stylish buildings can be found from all eras since around 1450. A large number of historical buildings can be found in the inner cities of Aurich and Leer, for example. Even in the city of Emden, which was badly destroyed during a bombing raid in World War II, buildings from bygone centuries still exist. In addition, Emden has a large number of bunkers from the war that are used in different ways today.

The outstanding museums in the region include the art gallery in Emden , the East Frisian State Museum in Emden and tea museums in Norden and Leer. East Frisian living culture of the 18th and 19th centuries can be seen in the Samson house in Leer. In addition, in many places there are local and regional museums such as the Aurich Historical Museum or smaller themed museums such as the East Frisian Agricultural Museum in Campen or the Moordorf Moor Museum , which is dedicated to the history of moor colonization. In Emden and Leer there are museum harbors with historical ships.

East Frisia used to be rich in monasteries, of which the Ihlow monastery had the greatest influence on politics and the development of the country. At its facility in Ihlowerfehn a stylized reconstruction of the monastery church and garden recalls since 2009 with an attached exhibition on the importance of the monasteries for the colonization of East Friesland. From a touristic point of view, the church tower also serves as one of the few publicly accessible viewing platforms in East Frisia.

All over East Frisia there are numerous fortified and magnificent buildings belonging to the country's former chief and aristocratic families. There are four of these so-called castles alone, some of which are privately owned and some of which are publicly owned. The oldest among them is Harderwykenburg , built soon after 1450 . Also the Lütetsburg castle near North is privately owned, the vast adjacent park but walks are possible. Berum Castle is located in neighboring Hage . The oldest surviving chief's castle in East Frisia is the stone house in Bunderhee . Further castles and palaces can also be found in Hinte , Pewsum , Stickhausen and Dornum . In Aurich Castle District Courts and the Lower Saxony State Office for salaries and supplies are housed.

The largest event hall in East Friesland, the North Sea Hall in Emden, has a maximum capacity of 5500 people. In addition, there are noteworthy event halls in Aurich (town hall and, since May 2009, a new building with the sponsorship name Sparkassen-Arena , maximum 3000 people) and Leer (Ostfrieslandhalle) .

Theaters can be found in Norderney ( Kurtheater Norderney ) and in Emden ( Neues Theater ). In the other places for theater performances, cabaret events etc. Usually other public buildings such as schools are used, in Aurich also the town hall.

Many villages have been upgraded in the course of village renewal over the past decades . The villages with well-preserved historical centers include, for example, the two Krummhörner towns of Rysum (state winner 1995 in the competition " Our village has a future ") and Greetsiel , the Uplengener village Hollen (second national winner in 1993 and 1995 in the competition "Our village has a future") or also Westgroßefehn, which was the starting point for the colonization of Großefehn in 1633 . The municipality of Großefehn is criss-crossed by kilometers of straight Fehn canals, as are the municipalities of Rhauderfehn , Ostrhauderfehn , large parts of the municipality of Moormerland and smaller parts of other municipalities. Greetsiel and the Rheiderland town of Ditzum are also tourist attractions as cutter ports.

In East Frisia there are a large number of windmills, mainly Dutch windmills , most of which can be visited. The largest of its kind in Germany with a canopy height of 30.2 meters is in Hage . The oldest surviving Dutch windmill in Germany, the Peldemühle in Wittmund from 1741, is also located in East Frisia. The red and green twin mills from Greetsiel , standing right next to each other, have also made it famous . In addition, the only post mill in East Frisia is located in Dornum .

The municipality of Krummhörn houses both the largest lighthouse on the German North Sea coast in Campen (65 meters) and the smallest in Pilsum (twelve meters). The yellow and red striped tower became known in particular through the Otto Waalkes film Otto - Der Ausserfriesische and has been a trademark of East Frisia - at the latest - since then.

The flower hall is the landmark of the flower city Wiesmoor . The exhibition hall, built in 1969, shows more than 10,000 flowers on an area of ​​1500 square meters. The city has many tree nurseries and large horticultural companies, and large parts of the cultivation area are under glass. Since 1952, the flower festival dedicated to flowers has been held every year on the first weekend in September.

The events that attract supraregional attention include the Festival of Musical Summer in East Friesland , where many of the mostly classical concerts take place in churches, and the Emden-Norderney International Film Festival , the largest film festival in Lower Saxony based on the number of visitors. The largest folk festival in East Friesland with around half a million visitors annually is the Gallimarkt in Leer. 2008 was the 500th anniversary of the granting of market rights.

Organ landscape

Organ in Rysum (1457/1531)

East Frisia is known not least for its rich organ landscape. In the around 170 old churches there are around 100 historical organs from all epochs since the late Gothic . One of the oldest organs in the world, the basic structure of which is still preserved and playable, is the Rysum organ from 1457. The organs in Osteel (1619) are among the largely completely preserved instruments from the 17th century with pipe material from the 16th century. , Westerhusen (1642–1643) and Uttum (around 1660). The organ builder Arp Schnitger also left his mark on East Frisia with new buildings, for example in Norden and Weener ; its organs in Wittmund / St. Nicolai and Leer / Lutherkirche were later replaced by new buildings. In the 18th century, the organ culture experienced another high point, when the organ builders Johann Friedrich Wenthin and Hinrich Just Müller competed with each other and even small village churches bought valuable organs. When the level of organ building in East Frisia reached its lowest point between around 1850 and 1950, many communities had no money to buy more contemporary instruments, so that the old organs were mostly preserved. After the Second World War, almost all of the original instruments were restored, thanks primarily to the leading organ builder Jürgen Ahrend ( Leer-Loga ). Today the Organeum in Weener is an important organ center for experts, but also for the general public, to make the cultural treasures of the organ landscape accessible in a variety of ways. The instruments are also made known to a wider audience at events such as the “ Krummhörner Orgelfrühling” or the “Night Organ” in the Dornum community .

to eat and drink

A cup of East Frisian tea
Kale with piss and smoked pork

One of the most striking features of East Frisia is the high tea consumption associated with the East Frisian tea culture , which, at around 300 liters per capita and year, is around eleven times higher than in the rest of Germany. The first tea came to East Frisia as early as the 17th century, mainly through the Dutch and British. Only 100 years later, tea was already widespread in all classes of society in East Frisia and helped ensure that the previously large beer consumption was significantly reduced. In 1806 the tea trading company Bünting (part of the Bünting Group in Leer), which still exists today, was founded and mixed real East Frisian tea . Two other companies ( Thiele & Freese in Emden and Onno Behrends in the north) also produce tea with the protected name Echter Ostfriesentee . In East Friesland, guests are traditionally offered tea as a welcome drink. According to the old custom “Dree is Oostfresenrecht” (“Three is Ostfriesenrecht”), at least three cups of tea are usually drunk. If you don't want that much tea (or no more), put the spoon in the cup.

A number of spirits are made in the region, including a 32 percent herbal bitters called Kruiden . Ostfriesland's most common schnapps, Doornkaat , has not been produced in the north since 1992, but at Berentzen in Haselünne in Emsland . The production of East Frisian schnapps takes place primarily in factories in Leer (Folts & Speulda) and Friedeburg (Heiko Blume) .

The main course typical of East Friesland in winter is kale with pee and / or smoked pork and smoked bacon. In order to achieve the hearty, spicy East Frisian variant of kale, the meat must be cooked in the kale and never separately. Traditionally, kale is only harvested after it has been exposed to frost for at least one day ; this is how it achieves its unmistakable taste.

As a classic “seaman's dish”, Labskaus is also on the menu - now also in home-style restaurants. Labskaus is traditionally eaten with matjes or rollmops . Matjes is still produced in many variations in Emden today. Are also popular fish sandwiches . Crabs are landed in the Sielorten , which regionally like to eat on black bread. Anglers use the abundance of fish in East Friesland's inland waters to supply themselves with fish. This is often smoked .

Another specialty of East Frisia are the New Year's croissants, baked exclusively for New Year's Eve , in Low German Rullekes / Nijaahrskook , hard waffles shaped into croissants . Also only on New Year's Eve are the so-called Speckendicken , a pastry fried in the pan.

Other regional specialties are the Snirtjebraten and buttermilk porridge .

building and living

Gulfhof in the district of Aurich: The barn section, which is much wider than the front living area, is clearly visible

In East Frisia, self-occupied single - family homes are widespread. Many young people build their own house with the help of their families. Especially with labor-intensive trades such as B. when roofing , many friends often join them. This is where the high proportion of craftsmen among the East Frisian population comes into play.

The typical shape of the East Frisian farmhouse is the gulf house . It originated in the 16th and 17th centuries in the marshes, where better drainage systems made agriculture possible - previously only livestock could be kept there. Since the marshland is very fertile, rich harvests are possible - provided that the conditions are otherwise good. In the marshland there are therefore more larger Gulfhöfe, also called plaats , than on the Geest. Many smaller farm workers' houses are also built on the same principle as the large farms. In the front part of a Gulfhof are the living rooms, in the much larger rear part there is space for the crops and cattle. That part is much wider than the front building and drawn further down to the ground. Even the smallest corners are used, the cattle find their place on the deeply drawn sides, the harvest is mostly stored in the middle of the barn section. Access to the barn section is on the one hand within the building through a connection from the living area, on the other hand through gates on one of the side of the (wider) barn section facing the living area and on the back of the barn section. The roof load is borne by a wooden framework standing inside the barn.

The typical red clinker brick is still used most frequently in single-family houses as well as in courtyards and also in many public buildings and some industrial buildings . For purely functional buildings, however, clinker is often not used for reasons of cost.


Klaasohm on Borkum
25 years old and unmarried? This leads to the names “old sock” (men) and “old box” (women).

One of the festive customs is the setting up of the maypole on the eve of May 1st, which belongs to a great Eurasian tradition, but has its own form and rules in East Frisia. In addition to neighboring communities, there are also associations or entire villages that set up their maypole. The maypole must be guarded until dawn on May 1st, which is expressed by the constant lending of one of the owners. Otherwise the maypole can be "stolen" by three symbolic groundbreaking and can usually be released the next day with a case of beer and schnapps. Other customs are martinis singing and the bride's path on Ascension Day . Some special traditions have also been preserved on the East Frisian Islands, for example Klaasohm on the island of Borkum on the night of December 5th to 6th - an event that is only held by Borkum men.

Egg trulling or egg roaring is widespread at Easter . It is played on Easter Sunday by children (and adults) with the hard-boiled eggs received at Easter on the dike, on the East Frisian Islands in the dunes, or other available elevations (for example Plytenberg , Eierberge in Wallinghausen ).

On the eve of St. Nicholas Day, on December 5, traditional knots take place in retail stores, restaurants and various organizations and associations . Cakes, baked goods as well as poultry, meat and sausage products are rolled. Each player places his bet and then has a roll. In general, three dice are rolled in a leather cup. The player who throws the highest number wins one of the named prizes.

In new building areas in particular, when straightening the roof structure, the future neighbors will have the task of hiding a rafter the night before . The owner couple then has to look for it, trigger it with schnapps and are then carried by the neighbors through the settlement to their house, in which the missing rafter is inserted and then the topping-out ceremony is celebrated. A topping-out wreath is also attached to the roof gable.

Bow making on the occasion of a (jubilee) wedding is also very popular. For this purpose, the neighboring community usually meets a few days in advance. The men build the arch frame, which is then fitted with fir branches, while the women in the house make the roses and garlands from paper. The host is usually a direct neighbor. This bow is then carried together to the (jubilant) couple and attached to their house entrance, which is often followed by a standing party on the house entrance.

A similar custom has developed among young people. When a young person turns 16, the group of friends (the clique) meets the evening before without the knowledge of the birthday child and prepares a so-called sheet. Spray paint is used to describe an old bed sheet with original and mostly funny sayings, which are mostly related to the person whose birthday it is (for example new words from his name). Shortly before midnight, the sheet is attached to the street side of the house and at 12 noon the birthday is toasted. On the 18th birthday, the circle of friends meets to build an arch. Here, the boys attach fir green to a wire frame, usually in the shape of a heart. The girls put paper roses on the arch. Shortly before 12 noon, the arch to the house of the birthday party is carried and placed on the street side. At exactly 12 noon everyone congratulates and throws flour and raw eggs on the head of the person whose birthday it is.

“Punishments” are also very common for those who are still unmarried on their 30th birthday. Men have to sweep stairs on their 30th birthday , women clean handles. Town hall or church stairs or doors are mostly used for this. One is only released from this duty by “kissing free” a virgin or a “young man”. Unmarried men on their 25th birthday are called “old socks” or “old bottles” and women are called “old boxes” and are often given an appropriately draped bow. Ideally, this is clearly visible from the street so that everyone can take note of this "message".

A regional peculiarity is the profession of bone breaker ( Knakenbreker in Low German ), who, according to the popular East Frisian name, is a traditional , alternative healer .

Education and Research

The University of Applied Sciences Emden / Leer has its headquarters and its most powerful location in Emden. Another location is located in Leer, where the seafaring school is located, which is home to the seafaring department. Almost 4,700 students are enrolled at the two East Frisian university locations, around 420 of them in Leer. A vocational academy for the East Frisian region is located in Leer. There is no university in East Frisia, the closest is the Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg .

In addition to public libraries in cities and municipalities, there are other libraries in Emden that are accessible to everyone ( Johannes a Lasco library , focus on the history of the Reformation) and the library of the East Frisian landscape in Aurich, which mainly stocks literature on regional history and has around 115,000 volumes Includes 640 current journals. The East Frisian landscape promotes historical regional research.

The Aurich site of the Lower Saxony State Archives , which is responsible for the whole of East Frisia , is located on Oldersumer Strasse in Aurich. There are city archives in Emden , Leer, Norden, Norderney and Wittmund.

The Gerlacianum Scholarship Foundation and the Gerhard ten Dornkaat Koolman Foundation promote science and culture in the region.


Boss statue in Bensersiel

Independent sports such as Boßeln , Klootschießen and sling ball game developed in East Frisia , these three sports are also summarized as the so-called " Frisian sport ". The most common of these, Boßeln, is played as a team sport in many clubs and leagues with weekly point games and championships up to the Lower Saxony level. There are also European championships in Boßeln and Klootschießen.

Water sports practiced on the numerous bodies of water (open seas, inland seas, rivers and canals), including sailing, motor boating, rowing, paddling, fishing and surfing, are widespread. Popular surfing areas can be found in front of Norderney and on the Great Sea.

In harsher winters, when the seas and canals freeze over, ice skating ("Schöfeln") is a traditionally popular sport. In the past, the typical East Frisian ice skates with wide runners were made in Breinermoor and are therefore called Breinermoorkes .

On a professional level in their respective sports in the former were up to the summer of 2009 football - third division Kickers Emden and former handball - Zweitligist OHV Aurich represented. Kickers Emden plays after bankruptcy in the regional league , the OHV Aurich in the third-class regional league. The largest regularly used stadium in East Friesland is the East Friesland Stadium of BSV Kickers Emden (7200 seats); the largest stadium of all, however, the less used Motodrom Halbemond , whose spectator capacity of 50,000 seats at speedway races is not nearly exhausted.

According to a survey by the Lower Saxony State Office for Statistics (reference date: December 31, 2001), East Frisia, with the exception of the Leer district, has an above-average density of memberships in sports clubs within Lower Saxony. In this case, memberships are not to be equated with members , since one and the same person can of course also be a member of two or more sports clubs. The Wittmund district achieved the highest value among the cities and districts in Lower Saxony, while the three East Frisian districts and the city of Emden together had an above-average value.

Religious communities

The Ludgeri Church in the north, East Friesland's largest church

The East Frisian population is predominantly Protestant. In the Krummhörn , the coastal community between the north and Emden, and along the Dutch border ( Rheiderland ), the Reformed creed prevails . Reformed people are also strongly represented in Emden and Leer - in Emden, for example, there are only a few hundred more Lutherans. Leer is the seat of the Reformed Church . The other East Frisian regions are dominated by Lutherans . The districts of Aurich and Wittmund have the highest proportions of Lutherans in the total population in all of Germany. Around 266,000 Lutherans and around 80,000 Reformed people live in East Frisia - together around 346,000 of the around 465,000 inhabitants of East Frisia.

Important Reformed preachers worked in Emden around 1600, including Johannes a Lasco . At the time, the city was known as the “Geneva of the North” and hosted several thousand refugees from the Netherlands, who turned today's “Great Church” in Emden into the “moederkerk” (mother church) of north-western European Calvinism .

Free churches in East Frisia

Evangelical free churches are also well represented in East Frisia. The history of the Mennonite community in Emden goes back to the Reformation. The Baptist congregations (official name today: Evangelical Free Churches ) emerged in the middle of the 19th century. The starting point was the communities in Jever and Westoverledingen - yours . In East Friesland there are five Protestant old reformed parishes , which were founded between 1854 and 1861. This was followed by the United Methodist Church , which began setting up parishes in East Frisia in the 19th century. Free Protestant congregations did not begin to work until the early 1950s. Furthermore, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is represented in East Frisia with two congregations. In Bagband-Hesel there has been a congregation of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) since the 1930s .

With the exception of the SELK, the Lutheran parishes belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Regional Church of Hanover , but the Reformed parishes belong to the Synod of Evangelical Reformed Churches in Northwest Germany and Bavaria or to the Evangelical Old Reformed Church mentioned above. The Evangelical Free Churches in East Friesland belong to the state association of Baptists in the northwest and form the regional association Ems-Jade . The Mennonite communities of Emden, Leer and Norden belong to the conference of the northwest German Mennonite communities .

Bedekaspel Reformed Church and Cemetery

Other religious communities are the New Apostolic Church with 12 local congregations and the Jehovah's Witnesses , which are represented with their Kingdom Halls in several locations.

The Roman Catholic Church has remained a minority church despite the influx of many Catholic refugees in the post-war period . East Frisia is known as a diaspora . Catholics strive for ecumenism . The Catholic parishes belong to the Deanery East Friesland of the Diocese of Osnabrück . Almost seven percent of the East Frisians belong to the Catholic Church.

Almost 90 percent of the residents of East Frisia are members of a Christian church.

Exact figures on the proportion of Muslims in East Frisia are not available. In 2009, the first mosque in East Frisia was opened in a converted restaurant in the immediate vicinity of Emden's main train station . It is called the Eyup Sultan Mosque .

Jewish communities existed in East Friesland for a period of about 400 years from their beginnings in the 15th century to the end of 1942. The few Jews living in East Friesland today are part of the Jewish community in Oldenburg.


Historical background

Time and again in the course of history, times of relative poverty in East Friesland have given way to phases of relative economic upswing, with a considerable social gap, particularly in the coastal area, where a small class of wealthy farm owners faced a powerful agricultural worker proletariat . In response to the poor conditions, young people often looked for a livelihood as migrant workers, for example in the Netherlands (the so-called “ Hollandgoers ”) or they left their homeland entirely. Many East Frisians emigrated to the United States of America , where a strong sense of community can still be found among them today.

Since the 20th century and up to the present day, there has also been a tendency towards educational migration: Anyone who cannot start a course of study at the regional university of applied sciences (or - due to limited options - does not want to) or who opts for a dual course / vocational training at the regional university of applied sciences is forced to leave East Frisia for study purposes. Only a small proportion return after their studies ( talent drain ).

Agriculture and fishing

Holstein Friesian
Cooking the crabs on a Greetsieler cutter

Agriculture was the main livelihood of the East Frisians for centuries, even if trade in the cities and, from around the middle of the 19th century, and even more so in the 20th century, industry also gained a significant share of the value added - and still does today.

Agriculture in East Friesland also plays a major role in the 21st century. The main agricultural association for East Frisia, which represents the interests of East Frisian farmers, has 6500 members. The proportion of employees in agriculture and forestry ranges from 0.4% in the city of Emden to 2% in the Aurich district (national average: 0.9%).

The dairy industry is particularly strong. The large areas of fertile pastureland offer good conditions for dairy farming. East Frisia, along with other northern German regions and the Bavarian Alpine foothills, is one of the main regions for dairy farming in Germany, while the districts of Aurich and Leer are among the twelve largest milk producer districts in Germany. Despite the great importance of dairy farming, there is only one larger dairy in East Friesland, the Rücker company in Aurich. Other larger dairies can be found in the neighboring districts of Ammerland and Emsland , including Nordmilch and the Ammerland dairy . These are also supplied by East Frisian dairy farmers.

As an agricultural region, East Frisia has produced several independent breeds of livestock. The East Frisian horse , the East Frisian milk sheep , the black and white cattle, which are now only represented in a few pure specimens, the Emden goose and the chicken breed East Frisian seagulls in various colors should be emphasized. The black and white cattle , belonging to the lowland cattle type, belong to the endangered old breeds. It has long been supplanted by high-performance breeders like the Holstein Friesian , a hybrid breed originating in the USA .

In the polder areas on the coastline (from the Rheiderland over the Krummhörn and the Norderland to the Harlingerland ) there are also grain, potato and vegetable farmers. Wheat and maize are predominant, but rapeseed is also grown on several thousand hectares. In the moor and geest areas of the inland, on the other hand, livestock farming is predominant.

Agriculture also plays an important role in the cultural development of East Frisia. The bog colonies with their typical fen canals were created through the work of those who wanted to build an (agricultural) existence in the bogs. Separate types of ships such as the Mutte were developed to transport the goods . The hedgerows in the middle of East Friesland were created to enclose fields.

The increasing importance of regenerative energy generation has enabled many farmers to earn additional income - be it from wind turbines or from small biomass power stations. The latter, however, in some cases already lead to competition for land between crops with a high energy value for electricity generation (e.g. maize ) and other crops. Larger outdoor photovoltaic systems can be found in several fields in East Frisia .

There are fleets of shrimp cutters in several small ports in East Frisia, especially in Ditzum, Greetsiel, Norddeich, Dornumersiel and Neuharlingersiel. The crab (actually: North Sea shrimp ) is the only marine shrimp of fishing importance in Germany. Mussels are also fished. Deep sea fishing is no longer practiced from East Friesland after the Emden herring fishery was discontinued. The whaling has been completed well before the 20th century. However, there is a significant amount of sport fishing, especially in the numerous inland waters.


Enercon wind turbine
Gas landing station on the Knock in Emden, operated jointly by StatoilHydro and ConocoPhillips under the name Gassco

In East Frisia, industrialization took place quite late in comparison to other parts of Germany . The first industries included shipbuilding companies , brickworks and individual textile industries , primarily weaving mills in Leer. The expansion of Emden into the seaport of the Ruhr area pushed the industrialization forward, Emden is the industrial focus of East Frisia. Industrialization in the region was given a further boost by the construction of the Volkswagen plant in Emden in 1964. The VW plant is the largest industrial employer in the region with 10,010 employees and 1,000 employees in an adjacent supplier park .

In addition to automobile construction, shipbuilding is an important pillar for the regional job market. Many East Frisians, especially from the southern district of Leer, find work at Meyer Werft in neighboring Papenburg , where around 2500 people are employed. There are also smaller shipyards in Emden, Leer and Oldersum; Boat builders in other places in the region. Shipbuilding suppliers can be found throughout the region.

Enercon, the largest German manufacturer of wind turbines , has its headquarters in Aurich and directly employs more than 3000 people in Aurich, Emden and Georgsheil, around 2800 of them in Aurich.

Not only are wind turbines manufactured in East Frisia, the region is itself a stronghold of wind energy use in Germany. Because of the strong winds on the coast and the sometimes very sparse settlement, there are many large wind farms in the region. The total consumption of electricity in 2007 in East Friesland was 2160 million kilowatt hours. In mathematical terms, 84.8% of this consumption was obtained from wind energy in the region, a further eleven percent from biomass and a total of one percent from photovoltaics, sewage gas, landfill gas and other regenerative energy sources. The share of renewable energy in the region's total consumption was 96.8% in 2007. At the end of 2014, 1,435 megawatts of wind energy capacity were installed in the IHK district and thus 18 percent of the total capacity in Lower Saxony. In purely mathematical terms, 128 percent of the regional electricity requirement could be covered by electricity from onshore wind energy alone. In purely mathematical terms, 168 percent of the electricity demand in the IHK district of Ostfriesland and Papenburg was covered by renewable energies.

In Emden and Dornum , the two landing stations for Norwegian North Sea - natural gas , the pipelines on the Norpipe, Europipe I and Europipe II is supplied. This means that around 30 percent of German natural gas consumption is imported and forwarded via East Frisia. Emden is the seat of the German headquarters of the Norwegian concern StatoilHydro . In Etzel in the Wittmund district there is an underground natural gas storage facility with 75 caverns in operation: 51 for natural gas and 24 for crude oil. The total volume of the facility is currently around 40 million cubic meters over an area of ​​500 ha (15 km²). An expansion to 130 caverns is ongoing. It should be completed by 2025. (As of September 2017).

In the district of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for East Friesland and Papenburg , which includes East Friesland as well as the Emsland city of Papenburg, the number of industrial employees increased by 2.2% to 21,850 employees in 2010. At 45.4%, the export quota is above the average for Lower Saxony. The VW plant in Emden, the two large shipyards Meyer Werft and Nordseewerke, Enercon and the respective suppliers were responsible for the export quota.

In addition to the companies mentioned, there are also the electrical industry , steel and mechanical engineering, the food industry and a large number of companies in the main and ancillary construction trades in East Friesland .

In the individual cities and their surrounding areas, from where many employees commute, there is a monostructure due to the dependence on the large companies . Of the more than 22,000 industrial employees in the IHK district, around 15,500 work at the four largest companies, 9100 of them at VW alone - not including the suppliers. This monostructure is symbolized by the often heard saying when VW coughs, East Frisia gets pneumonia.


Beach on Borkum
Greetsiel fishing village

The East Frisian Islands , which offer wide sandy beaches for swimming, are primarily developed for tourism . Tourism on the islands began at the end of the 18th century (Norderney was the first German North Sea spa in 1797). The ferry locations such as Norddeich or Bensersiel also benefited from this . Away from the islands and the coastal towns, inland tourism did not play a major role for a long time. However, this has been changing increasingly since the mid-1970s, and the inland regions are also trying to market their places for tourism. The creation of hiking and biking trails , paddling routes and themed tourist routes have contributed to this. Cultural tourism has also gained in importance in recent decades, including since the opening of the Kunsthalle in Emden (1986).

Leer is an important shipping company location: after Hamburg, the second largest part of the German sea merchant fleet is based here. Aurich and Leer are the main shopping locations in the region, and to a lesser extent Emden, followed by Norden and Wittmund. Retailers in the coastal cities of North and Wittmund in particular also benefit from the holidaymakers. Aurich has a retail centrality of 153% (2007), Leer is 170% and Emden is 116%.

Larger public service providers include the Federal Waterways and Shipping Authority Northwest (WSD) Aurich and the Waterways and Shipping Office Emden (WSA). Important state authorities are the Lower Saxony State Agency for Water Management, Coastal Protection and Nature Conservation (NLWKN), which has its headquarters in the north and an operating office in Aurich. In the Aurich castle district is also the headquarters of the state-wide payment and supply office (LBV) of the regional finance directorate (OFD) Lower Saxony. The University of Applied Sciences Emden / Leer (3900 students, 364 employees) has its locations in Emden and Leer. The main and administrative headquarters of the university are in Emden.

Three East Frisian towns are garrison towns : Aurich, Leer and Wittmund. The 4th Air Force Division had its headquarters in the Aurich Blücher barracks . The Richthofen Squadron is stationed in the neighboring town of Wittmund , which, among other things, sets up the alarm riot for northern Germany. In Leer von Lettow-Vorbeck Barracks is Command Rapid Reaction Forces Medical Service home.

The Aurich Regional Court, which is responsible for all five East Frisian district courts ( Aurich , Emden , Leer , Norden , Wittmund ) is located in the historic Aurich Castle. The main office of the Aurich public prosecutor's office, which is also responsible for the whole of East Frisia, is located in the immediate vicinity on Schlossplatz. The higher-level authorities are the Oldenburg Higher Regional Court and the Oldenburg Public Prosecutor's Office. The social court responsible for the whole of East Frisia is located on Kirchstrasse in the old town of Aurich. The labor court of Emden , which is responsible for the districts of Aurich and Leer and the independent city of Emden , is located in the administrative district in Emden. The Wilhelmshaven Labor Court is responsible for the Wittmund district .

The Employment Agency Emden-Leer with locations in Leer, Emden, Norden, Wittmund, Aurich, Juist, Norderney and Borkum is responsible for looking after the unemployed in East Frisia.


In East Frisia there is a large variety of daily newspapers with their own local editorial offices. The circulations of the newspapers (data from the second quarter of 2012, in each case sold circulation) range from 36,473 ( Ostfriesen-Zeitung ) down to a small four-digit number for the island papers Borkumer Zeitung and Norderneyer Badezeitung (circulation: 1,199). The Ostfriesen-Zeitung is the only regionally published daily newspaper, while the two island newspapers only appear on the respective islands. The distribution areas of the other titles are often, but not exclusively, based on (partly former) administrative boundaries of the districts.

The Ostfriesen-Zeitung is de facto the only daily newspaper in a part of the district of Leer (city of Leer as well as northern and eastern district of Leer). The General-Anzeiger is also published in the southeast of the Leer district, in Overledingerland (circulation: 9,060). General-Anzeiger and Ostfriesen-Zeitung are combined in the publishing house Zeitungsgruppe Ostfriesland economically and for the most part also editorially. In Rheiderland , the area of the former district Weener that has Rheiderland-Zeitung (5592) its edition of gravity.

The Emder Zeitung (circulation: 10,506) focuses on the independent city of Emden and its surrounding communities. The Ostfriesische Kurier (14,013) appears primarily in the area of ​​the former district of Norden , the Ostfriesische Nachrichten (13,321) primarily in the old district of Aurich (cities of Aurich, Wiesmoor and the communities of Großefehn, Ihlow and Südbrookmerland). The Anzeiger für Harlingerland (13,929) has the focus of its sold circulation in the district of Wittmund.

Two newspapers (Ostfriesische Nachrichten, Rheiderland-Zeitung) get the so-called coat from the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung , which appears in Osnabrück , while almost all other publishers get their coat from the Nordwest-Zeitung, which appears in Oldenburg . Only the Emder Zeitung is a full newspaper , one of the smallest in Germany in terms of circulation.

The Ostfriesland magazine is the monthly magazine for East Friesland. In several cities and municipalities there are also advertising papers with different appearances.

The citizens' broadcaster Radio Ostfriesland, with its headquarters in Emden and studios in Aurich and Leer, broadcasts news and features from the region on a daily basis in addition to its music program, sometimes also in full in Low German. The station Radio Jade , based in Wilhelmshaven , also broadcasts as far as East Friesland. On Norderney, the private radio SWS (storm wave transmitter) has developed from a former pirate station , which broadcasts a program for the coast, especially the island of Norderney itself, in the summer months.

The Frisian broadcasting company is a private regional television broadcaster. It was initially based in Hinte, but has since moved to the sand in Friesland .

The terrestrial broadcasting coverage of Ostfriesland is ensured by the basic network transmitter Ostfriesland in Aurich-Popens.


For centuries, waterways have been the most important traffic routes for East Frisia - at least for long-distance trade and regional trade within East Frisia. Due to its peripheral location, the region was connected to the railway and later the motorway network late .

The most important traffic connections roughly follow the course of the Ems to the south and cross East Friesland in an east-west direction at the level of the cities of Leer and Oldenburg.

Road traffic

Traffic in East Frisia
East Frisian-Oldenburg "border crossing" near Middoge

Three motorways lead through East Friesland, another further east is of great importance, at least for eastern East Friesland (Wittmund district).

The A 28 federal motorway, completed in 1988 on the East Frisian section, is an east-west connection from Leer via Oldenburg to the A 1 near Stuhr . The A 28 is the most important east-west connection in East Friesland and connects the region with the Bremen-Oldenburg conurbation as well as with Hamburg and Hanover .

The completed in December 2004. A 31 connects the North Sea port of Emden with the Ruhr area situated A 2 / A 3 in Bottrop . It is also known as the Ostfriesenspieß or Emslandautobahn . Its construction was partly financed by the regions of Emsland and Ostfriesland, by donations from private individuals and companies from the two regions mentioned, as well as by the Netherlands, for which the A 31 is an important border connection. This financing model is so far unprecedented in Germany.

The four kilometer long A 280 extends the Dutch A7 , which leads from Zaandam via Groningen to Germany, to the A 31. It thus connects the German and Dutch motorway networks . The total length of the A 280, followed by a section of the A 31 and the total length of the A 28, are part of the European route 22 .

In addition, the A 29 , which connects Wilhelmshaven with the A 1 at Ahlhorn , is the most important feeder for eastern East Frisia, essentially the Wittmund district. At no point does the A 29 run over East Frisian soil.

After the A 28, the B 210 federal road is the second important east-west connection in East Frisia. It leads from Emden via Aurich, Wittmund, Jever and Schortens to Wilhelmshaven . For the Wittmund district it is one of the two connecting roads to the A 29. Another east-west connection is the B 436 from Weener to the A 29 near Sande in the Friesland district. Between Weener and Hesel , the B 436 runs along the same route as the B 75 , which has since been de-dedicated in East Frisia , and which has been replaced by the A 28.

In the time before the opening of the autobahns in East Friesland - in addition to the former B 75 - two federal highways in particular played an important role for supra-regional traffic: the B 70 and the B 72 . The B 70 is one of the longest federal highways in north-west Germany and connects East Friesland with the Lower Rhine. On its way from Neermoor to Wesel, the B 70 almost always runs along the Ems. While the B 70 ends today in Neermoor, in earlier decades it continued via Emden to Norddeich. The B 72 leads from the A 1 near Cloppenburg via Aurich to the coast to Norddeich and was expanded before the A 28 was opened because it was an important feeder for holidaymakers. Between Friesoythe (district of Cloppenburg) and the Filsum junction on the A 28, the B 72 runs as a motor road in the “2 to 1” system. It is also an alternative to driving on the entire motorway if the destination is the Osnabrück area.

The B 438 leads from Folmhusen (municipality of Westoverledingen) via Collinghorst, Rhaudermoor, Westrhauderfehn (municipality of Rhauderfehn) and Ostrhauderfehn, Idafehn (municipality of Ostrhauderfehn) to Wittensand (Saterland). It connects the B 70 with the B 72 and opens up the southern district of Leer. The B 461 leads from the district town of Wittmund to the sluice ports in the Wittmund districts of Carolinensiel and Harlesiel . This makes it one of the few federal highways in Germany that is located in its entire length within a municipality.

The busiest section of a federal road in East Frisia is the B 72/210 on the western outskirts of Aurich, in the Extum district . Almost 28,000 vehicles pass by there every day. On the eastern inner city ring of Aurich (B 72) there are still almost 26,300 vehicles, including almost 1,400 trucks , which is the highest value for trucks on East Friesland's federal roads. On the B 210 in the Harsweg district of Emden , the main arterial road in the north, the third highest value is reached: almost 23,100 vehicles. The fourth highest value is observed at the southern city entrance to the north near the train station (22,200 vehicles).

Many of the coastal towns - including those ferry locations that are not on a motorway (Emden) or federal road (Norddeich, Harlesiel) - are connected to the regional transport network by state roads . The numbering of the state roads in Lower Saxony begins in East Friesland with the L1 from Oldersum to Aurich .

The road-bound local public transport (ÖPNV) with buses is ensured by the Verkehrsverbund Ems-Jade (VEJ).

Rail transport

View of the building and part of the tracks in Emden Hauptbahnhof before the extensive renovation
The Friesenbrücke over the Ems near Weener - Germany's longest railway bascule bridge

The most important railway lines in East Frisia are the electrified main railway lines from the north towards Oldenburg / Bremen and towards Münster, which are used by Deutsche Bahn AG for regional ( RE , RB ) and long-distance ( IC ) services.

The Rheine – Norddeich Mole railway line (route 395) from the north via Emden and Leer to Münster has two tracks and - due to the earlier ore transports between Emden and the Ruhr area - is designed for heavy haulage. The Oldenburg – Leer railway line (course book line 390), on the other hand, is only single-track. In the Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan, a double-track expansion is only recorded as a “further requirement”.

InterCity train connections exist from Norddeich Mole station in the direction of Berlin / Leipzig and in the direction of Cologne. Sometimes trains end at Emden Außenhafen station instead of in Norddeich. The IC line from Norddeich Mole / Emden-Außenhafen via Emden and Leer to Cologne / Koblenz / Stuttgart / Konstanz (IC line 35) is served every two hours, the route from Norddeich Mole via Emden and Leer to Berlin / Cottbus or Leipzig (IC line 56) too. Regional express connections exist from Norddeich Mole to Hanover and from Emden to Münster. Some of the connections to Münster do not end at Emden main station , but at Emden Außenhafen station, coordinated with the ferry times to Borkum. The route between Emden Hauptbahnhof and the outer harbor is the 395 route book.

The route of the East Frisian Coast Railway ran between Emden and Wittmund . It is a single track line. Today, the Emden-Norddeich Mole section is used for regular passenger traffic. Between the north and Dornum , trains of the museum railway coastal railway Ostfriesland (MKO) run for excursions . The section between Dornum and Esens has been dismantled.

Passenger traffic on the Wilhelmshaven – Oldenburg (- Osnabrück , not on East Frisian territory) and Esens – Wilhelmshaven lines is operated by NordWestBahn GmbH . Trains run daily from Esens via Wittmund to Wilhelmshaven, with connections in the direction of Oldenburg. The route between Esens and the border with the district of Friesland today forms the eastern section of the East Frisian Coast Railway.

The Abelitz – Aurich railway line was reactivated in April 2008 after it was temporarily closed in 1996. However, this route is used exclusively for freight traffic, especially as a connection for Enercon to the port of Emden.

The international rail connection from Leer via Weener and Neuschanz to Groningen ( Leer – Groningen line , course book route 397) was long served by buses on the German side. The route is now being used by the transport company Arriva . The junction of the East Frisian railway network with routes in all four directions is empty. The city therefore calls itself the gateway to East Frisia . In the course of this route, the Friesenbrücke over the Ems, Germany's longest railway bascule bridge, is used. This route has not been navigable since December 3, 2015 until further notice, as a freighter rammed the Friesenbrücke bridge. The bridge was so badly damaged by the collision that it will probably have to be replaced by a new building. Since then, it has been necessary to switch to the 620 bus on the Leer – Weener section.

Shipping traffic and ports

A RoRo ship loaded with cars leaves the Emden outer harbor, on the right the west pier

The Ems is the most important transport route by water. On its right bank are the three seaports (arranged upstream) Emden, Leer and Papenburg - the latter already being part of the Emsland district . With a good six million tons of annual turnover, the port of Emden is the largest of these three. After Bremerhaven and Zeebrugge (Belgium), Emden is the third largest car loading port in Europe with around one million vehicles handled per year - almost exclusively from Volkswagen AG . In addition, forest products and liquid chalk are handled, both for UPM Nordland Papier in Dörpen . These goods are transported on by barge across the Ems. The handling of Enercon windmills, which are exported overseas, is becoming increasingly important for the port of Emden. Other goods handled include building materials and magnesium chloride. The Ems is also of immense importance for the Meyer shipyard in Papenburg, as the shipyard's ships are transported to sea on it. On the one hand as a measure of coastal protection, but on the other hand also to damming the Ems when large cruise ships of the Meyer shipyard are transferred, the Ems barrage was built near Gandersum . The Leda is only important for shipping on the short section between its confluence with the Ems and the port of Leer.

The Ems-Jade Canal , once created as an inner-East Frisian connection between Emden and Wilhelmshaven , is now almost exclusively used for pleasure craft. Only the transport of building materials from the port of Emden to the inland port of Aurich is still a little significant. The Ems Lateral Canal was once built to complement the Dortmund-Ems Canal , but is also only used for recreational shipping. The Dortmund-Ems Canal itself, once an important transport route for ore from Emden to the Ruhr area, does not run over East Frisian soil. It only begins (viewed from a northern perspective) in the Emsland, until inland barges use the Ems.

In earlier centuries the fen canals in East Frisia were important transport routes. Today they are also used for recreation on the water. The Nordgeorgsfehnkanal is one of the longest fen canals in East Frisia .

Ferry ports to the islands are - from west to east - Emden (to Borkum), Norddeich-Mole (to Juist and Norderney - with 825,000 passengers and 180,000 vehicles, the connection was the second most important German ferry connection in the first half of 2004), Neßmersiel (after Baltrum), Bensersiel (to Langeoog), Neuharlingersiel (to Spiekeroog) and Harlesiel (to Wangerooge). Other smaller ports (sometimes more marinas ) with lock-free connections to the Ems and the North Sea are located in Pogum , Ditzum , Midlum , Jemgum , Bingum , Weener , Oldersum and Petkum on the Ems and in Dornumersiel on the Wadden Sea. The ports of Greetsiel and Carolinensiel can be reached through locks. The ports in Ditzum, Greetsiel, Norddeich, Dornumersiel and Neuharlingersiel are particularly important for fishing. In Oldersum there is also a smaller shipyard at the port.

Air traffic

East Frisia has civil airfields in Leer-Nüttermoor , Emden and Norden-Norddeich . In addition, all islands with the exception of Spiekeroogs have airfields. These are used to transport people to and from the islands, and sometimes also to transport goods with lighter goods. Most of the flight movements are recorded at the airfield in Leer, which is particularly frequented by business travelers from Leer and Papenburg. The Emden airfield is also important for the local companies, especially the VW plant. The Norddeich airfield, on the other hand, is used for island traffic. OFD Ostfriesischer-Flug-Dienst GmbH (OFD, formerly OLT; subsidiary of Reederei AG Ems) is based in Emden, and FLN FRISIA-Luftverkehr GmbH (subsidiary of Reederei Frisia) in Norden / Norddeich. The closest international airport is Bremen Airport .


Wolfgang Petersen
Otto Waalkes
Ubbo Emmius

East Frisia has produced a number of well-known personalities over the past centuries - and until today. Most of them have in common that they began or continued their careers elsewhere - which can be understood as an indication of the peripheral location of the region and the lack of a metropolis.

The internationally best-known East Frisian is likely to be the Emden-born film director Wolfgang Petersen . The nationally best known East Frisians also include comedians Otto Waalkes and Karl Dall , who also come from Emden . Otto in particular always emphasized his origins in many music albums and films. The real name of the front man of the techno band Scooter , HP Baxxter , is Hans-Peter Geerdes and comes from Leer.

The Emden-born journalist Henri Nannen founded the Stern magazine and thus made an essential contribution to the press landscape in post-war Germany. The television journalist and long-time ARD correspondent in Paris, Heiko Engelkes , was born in Norden.

Born in Aurich, Hermann Lübbe is one of the most important contemporary German philosophers . Rudolf Eucken was also born in Aurich , who was the second German to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1908, making him the only East Frisian to have received this honor. Hermine Heusler-Edenhuizen from Pewsum was the first officially recognized and established gynecologist in Germany in 1911. The polymath Ubbo Emmius from Greetsiel, who was founding rector of the University of Groningen, and the astronomer Johann Fabricius from Resterhafe , who discovered sunspots independently of Galileo Galilei, worked in earlier centuries . The Leer-based historian Onno Klopp became known as the last historiographer of the Guelphs in the 19th century.

The SPD politician Garrelt Duin from Hinte was a member of the European Parliament (2000–2005), a member of the Bundestag (2005–2012) and was Minister for Economic Affairs, Energy, Industry, SMEs and Crafts of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia from 2012 to 2017 . Ulf Thiele from Uplengen acts as CDU general secretary in Lower Saxony. The former defense commissioner of the German Bundestag , Reinhold Robbe (SPD), comes from Bunde. In 2013 Johann Saathoff , born in Emden, entered the Bundestag as a direct candidate for the SPD.

Dieter Eilts from Upgant-Schott, a former professional soccer player at Werder Bremen, contributed to winning the 1996 European Championship. Born in Norderneyer, Bernd Flessner is the most successful German windsurfer with 14 German championship titles. One of the best-known German sports medicine specialists, the native Leerhafer Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt, takes care of the health of athletes . The former boxing world champion Heidi Hartmann was born in Emden, as was the Iranian national soccer player Ferydoon Zandi , while the athlete Silvia Rieger comes from Hinte.

A number of well-known personalities were not born in East Frisia, but had various ties to the region. This includes the pirate Klaus Störtebeker , who in the 14th century took advantage of East Friesland's location on sea routes while at the same time being isolated by land and found shelter in East Friesland, especially in Marienhafe.

The legal scholar Johannes Althusius , who came from Diedenshausen near Siegen, was one of the most important non-East Frisians who worked in East Frisia. As the town councilor of Emden, he largely steered the town's fortunes during its greatest heyday around 1600. Althusius is also one of the first Germans to have scientifically studied politics.

The later governing mayor of Berlin, Ernst Reuter , born in North Schleswig, spent part of his youth in Leer. He attended elementary school and high school there.

Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has set up a second home on the island of Borkum. The painter Ole West, who comes from Wedel in Schleswig-Holstein, lived and worked on Norderney until 2008 .

See also

Portal: Ostfriesland  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of Ostfriesland

Web links

Commons : Ostfriesland  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Ostfriesland  - Sources and full texts
Wiktionary: Ostfriesland  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikivoyage: East Frisia  - travel guide


The twelve-volume compendium Ostfriesland in the protection of the dyke is considered the standard work for describing the country . Contributions to the cultural and economic history of the East Frisian coastal region , which was initially self-published by Deichacht Krummhörn in Pewsum and later published by the Leeran publishing houses Rautenberg and partly Schuster.

  • Volume I: K.-H. Sindowski: Geological Development of Ostfriesland , H. Voigt / G. Roeschmann: The soils of Ostfriesland , P. Schmidt: The prehistoric and early historical foundations of the settlement of East Frisia after the turn of the times , W. Reinhardt: The local and land forms of Ostfriesland in their settlement history development , H. Wiemann: Contributions to the economic and social history of Ostfriesland .
  • Volume II: H. Homeier: The shape change of the East Frisian coast over the centuries - A millennium East Frisian dike history , E. Siebert: Development of the dyke system from the Middle Ages to the present , J. Kramer: New dykes, sluices and pumping stations between Dollart and Jadebusen .
  • Volume III: G. Siebels: The flora of the East Frisian peninsula , G. Siebels: Die Tierwelt Ostfriesland , J. Köppe: Ostfriesische Tierzucht .
  • Volume IV: G. Kiesow: Ostfriesische Kunst .
  • Volume V: H. Schmidt: Political history of East Frisia .
  • Volume VI: M. Smid : East Frisian Church History .
  • Volume VII (History of the City of Emden 3): E. Siebert: From 1750 to 1890 , W. Deeters: From 1890 to 1945 , Bernard Schröer: From 1945 to the present .
  • Volume VIII: H. Wiemann / J. Engelmann: Old streets and ways in East Frisia .
  • Volume IX: O. Minssen: Friedrich von Thünen (1785-1865) - Life and work of a Frisian househusband .
  • Volume X (History of the City of Emden 1): K. Brandt: Archaeological Sources for the Early History of Emden , H. van Lengen: History of the City of Emden from the Beginnings to the End of the Middle Ages , H. Schmidt: History of the City of Emden from 1500 bis 1575 , W. Deeters: History of the city of Emden from 1575 to 1611 .
  • Volume XI (History of the City of Emden 2): Bernd Kappelhoff: Emden as a quasi-autonomous city republic from 1611 to 1749 .
  • Volume XII: M. Wilken / U. Hang / W. Deeters: dykes and dykes in the Krummhörn .

Further literature:

Ostfriesland in fiction texts

Since the mid-1980s, East Friesland was discovered by several authors, in particular as a setting for crime novels. The start was made by Theodor J. Reisdorf, who comes from North Rhine-Westphalia but has lived in East Friesland since the 1970s. He was followed by Klaus-Peter Wolf, who also comes from North Rhine-Westphalia and lives in East Frisia, whereas the author Sandra Lüpkes was born in Göttingen, but grew up on the island of Juist. The writer Wolfgang Bittner, who grew up in East Friesland and worked temporarily for the Wittmund district and for the district government in Aurich, also deals with East Friesland in several of his works, for example in the novels "The climber or an attempt to live" (1978) , “No Man's Land” (1992) and “Hellers Gradual Homecoming” (2012).

A selection of fiction texts with the subject of East Frisia:

  • Erskine Childers : Das Riddle der Sandbank (Orig .: The Riddle of the Sands , published in 1903, is considered to be one of the first spy novels and deals with a possible German invasion of England)
  • Sophie Wörishöffer : Onnen Visser, the smuggler's son from Norderney (in the late German Empire one of the most popular books for young people about East Friesland under French rule).
  • Hansjörg Martin : No schnapps for Tamara (plays in the north, strong references to local business people), also a TV film.
  • Detective stories with local color by Theodor J. Reisdorf : Land, People and Leichen (1982), Inselschönheit (1984), Jadedistel (1986), Frisian Death Symphony (2006).
  • Wolfgang Bittner : Writing, Reading, Traveling (2006) (with a reflection on growing up in East Friesland and an afterword by Wittmund's mayor Karl-Heinz Krüger).
  • Detective stories with local color by Klaus-Peter Wolf : Ostfriesenkiller (2007), Ostfriesenblut (2008), Ostfriesengrab (2009), Ostfriesensünde (2010), Ostfriesenfalle (2011), Ostfriesenangst (2012), Ostfriesenmoor (2013), Ostfriesenfeuer (2014), Ostfriesenwut (2015), Ostfriesenschwur (2016), Ostfriesentod (2017), Ostfriesenfluch (2018).
  • Detective stories with local color by Sandra Lüpkes : The Sea Buckthorn Queen (2001), The Blackberry Pirate (2002), Fisherman, How Deep is the Water (2003), The Rose Hip Girl (2004), Half Mast (2005), The Wacholderteufel (2006), The Sundew Child (2007), The Flower Woman (2008).
  • Rainer Joedecke (also photos): Ostfriesland: Closed society . In: Geo-Magazin. Hamburg 1978, 10, pp. 8-32. Informative experience report, with map: "The landscape with the most children in the Federal Republic" ISSN  0342-8311

East Frisia in film and television

  • Britta , two-part ARD - television game from 1978. The author and director Berengar Pfahl had moved the bulk of the action to East Friesland and understood it at that, living conditions and lifestyle of the region to transport particularly that of young people. Production was a street sweeper in large parts of East Frisia.
  • Otto - Der Ausserfriesische , movie by and with Otto Waalkes from 1989, in which he saved his homeland East Frisia from a test track for high-speed trains being built there. In that film, Otto lives in the Pilsum lighthouse , which has made it famous, not least because of this film, and is regarded as the “trademark” of East Frisia. Otto Waalkes also made his East Frisian an issue in cabaret and other feature films.
  • Schnaps in a kettle , documentary by Hans-Erich Viet (1991). The director Hans-Erich Viet goes to his homeland, the Rheiderland , and leaves among others the farm workers, farmers, maids, schnapps and brick makers, hunters and VW workers mostly in the Rheiderland Platt, which the director himself still speaks tell about their life and work.
  • Frankie, Johnny and the Others , movie by Hans-Erich Viet (1993). In the swamp of the Rheiderland: Five friends, led by Frankie (Detlef Kuper) try to dispel their boredom by learning Far Eastern martial arts and meditation, and finally plan a bomb attack on the village fair.
  • Sun and Storm , episode of the ARD series Tatort (2003), which takes place in the fictional coastal town of "Nordersiel", but was shot in Greetsiel.
  • Doctor Martin , comedic early evening family series on ZDF . Broadcast from 2007 to 2009. Doctor Martin, played by Axel Milberg , is a doctor whois looking fora new start in the fishing village of Neuharlingersiel because of a blood phobia.
  • As part of the ZDF Saturday Crime, two crime series acting and filmed in East Friesland will be broadcast:
    • Friesland is a series of crime novels with comedic elements and so far more than ten episodes. The village police officers Jens Jensen ( Florian Lukas ) and Süher Özlügül ( Burcu Dal ) arestationedin Leer in East Frisia. Supported by the village pharmacist and hobby forensic scientist Insa Scherzinger ( Theresa Underberg ), they exceed their competencies by solving murder cases and in doing so preempting the detective superintendent Jan Brockhorst ( Felix Vörtler ) from Wilhelmshaven .
    • Ostfriesland Krimis is a crime series by Klaus-Peter Wolf originally published in book form, several episodes of which made it to the top of the Spiegel bestseller list with sales in the millions. ZDF bought the film rights and began the television series on April 1, 2017 with the filming of his novel Ostfriesenkiller . The plot of both the novels and the films essentially takes place in the book author's East Frisian hometown of Norden , where the main protagonist and crime inspector Ann Kathrin Klaasen also lives. East Frisian filming locations such as the police station on Marktplatz in the north, the town hall in Aurich and the North Sea coast can also be seen in the television series . Although Wolf has already written several scripts for the crime series Tatort , for example , he left the cinematic implementation to other authors.


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  127. presseportal.de
  128. zdf.de: Saturday crime thriller - Ostfriesenkiller ( Memento from September 18, 2017 in the Internet Archive )
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on November 29, 2008 in this version .

Coordinates: 53 ° 28 '  N , 7 ° 29'  E