Why did Britain give Heligoland to Germany? (Short Animated Documentary)

Heligoland is a tiny island off the coast of Germany that belonged to Britain between 1814 and 1890 when it opted to hand it over to Germany. But given that Britain was a naval power and having a naval base a short distance from Germany, why didn’t Britain keep it?

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Comment (50)

  1. If the British had an Iowa class battle ship, they could have sank the islands. The USS New Jersey would have done it just to have another 2 sank islands on its battle flag.

  2. You forgot to mention one very important part: The people of Heligoland, who where evacutated during and after WWII, wanted to return back home. Two students in germany became aware of that, and travelled to the main island and rose the german flag, as a sign of protest and sovereignity. That german public was informed about this incident through newspaper, and became vocal about the ongoing occupation and destruction of the island (even though Operation: Big Bang failed, it was still used as a training- and target-zone for the RAF). That was one of the key reasons Heligoland became inhabitated again, otherwise it most properly would have been swept under the rug. There are two buildings named after the students on the main Island today

  3. I always think it would have been cool if, instead of trying to blow Heligoland up, Britain had slipped a clause into the peace treaty returning it to British control. If the local people objected, they could have been won over by giving them the same low-tax status enjoyed by the Channel Islands.

  4. Idea for a video: the Ukrainian and Belarussian SSRs received a seat at the UN. Why did the other 12 SSRs not get UN representation (aside from through the main USSR seat)?

  5. Aww, you went too short about the return of Helgoland to Germany after WWI. It is quite a story of Britain using is at bomer training target (after the faild blow* up) and two University Student's "occupation" (there were others, but those was the most popular) of that island. Also some story about the original occupants beeing deported to Mainland germany, founding their "get-helgoland-back" society(-ies?), cowardly speaking out aigainst thos "occupations" that in the end convinced the Brits that it would be less hassle to just return Helgoland to Germany.
    *They tried not to blow up the entire island, but the bunkers the Germans dug into the rock of the island, but even that failed.

  6. Interesting thing to add: post war several students and their professor squatted on the island to encourage its return to Germany and allowing it to be resettled. It worked

  7. Klaus Störtebecker ist unser Herr
    Von Godeke Michels beraten!
    Wir jagen sturmschnell über das Meer
    Des fliegenden Holländers Paten
    Gevatter ist der Klabautermann
    Schiffvolk pack an!
    Leben ist Tand
    Wir sind die Hölle von Helgoland

    Klaus Störtebecker is our master
    Advised by Godeke Michels!
    We chase swiftly across the sea
    The flying Dutchman's godfather
    The godfather is the Klabautermann
    Ship's folk pack up!
    Life is trash
    We are the hell of Heligoland

  8. I recall somewhere reading an account from a British naval officer of picking up a German sailor who had previously served in the Royal Navy when Heligoland was British. That must have made for an interesting conflict of interests!

  9. I think it would be a worthy notion that Heligoland is a Frysian Island, an endangered Germanic minority culture, language group and peoples in the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. Every year there is a sort of "Frysian conference" where Frysians from those three countries gather on the Island.

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