The founders of the association Natur­schutz­park e.V.

The men of the Kosmos publishing house • Chairmen of the association and the foundation

“What makes the Verein Naturschutzpark quite unique, however, is the composition of its members. The King of Württemberg and numerous princes of all ruling houses belong to it. But also day laborers and cottagers are represented in its lists. Next to the university professor in white hair stands the youthful Springinsfeld of the Volksschule. Both Reich Germans and the Austrians shake hands in him.”

Wilhelm Bode (1914): Die Heimatschutzbewegung.
In: Lüneburger Heimatbuch Bd. II, S. 848

First general meeting of VNP in Stuttgart in 1910
The first general meeting of the VNP in Stuttgart: standing 5th from right F. Ecker, 7th E. Bubeck, 8th C. Floericke, in front his wife Melanie, 9th E. Nehmann, 10th W. Keller, 13th F. Regensburg, 15the W. Bode

The men of the publishing house Kosmos-Verlag

After the foundation of the association in 1909, Kosmos-Verlag declared that the publishing house would carry out all organisational and other preliminary work free of charge until further notice. This created a solid foundation for the establishment and further development of the VNP, which was now registered in Stuttgart, the headquarters of Kosmos.

Dr. Curt Floericke (1896 – 1934)

An article published in April 1909, “Umschau über die Naturschutzbewegung” (Review of the Nature Conservation Movement), drew the attention of many people to the need for nature conservation. The author of this article was the scientific director of Kosmos, Dr. Curt Floericke.

Floericke published some 100 smaller and larger books as well as around 400 essays and smaller publications in magazines. This is how he inspired many people for nature. He and his wife were founding members of the VNP.

Hofrat Walther Keller (1869 ‐ 1952)

Walther Keller, the founder of the Kosmos publishing house, took up the idea put forward by Dr. Curt Floericke in 1908 and committed himself with his whole person to its realisation.

County Administrator Fritz Ecker

In Winsen, county administrator Fritz Ecker, born in 1859, was an important man with political connections. He liaised with the Prussian authorities and the Prussian House of Representatives. This was of inestimable importance to the VNP. Ecker was a member of the VNP’s select working committee from 1910 – 1924.

As a great friend of nature and local history, he was concerned about the increasing destruction of nature. Lively correspondence proves his acquaintance with Wilhelm Bode.

Pastor Wilhelm Bode (1860 – 1927)

A name that belongs to the nature reserve like heather to juniper: Wilhelm Bode, pastor in Egestorf from 1886 – 1923.

He was strongly committed to preserving the heath and, together with County Administrator Fritz Ecker, was finally able to convince the VNP to purchase the Wilseder Berg. Later he was appointed by the VNP as administrator of the association’s own land on the heath.

“The history of the association could not have been written 100 years ago if the idea of volunteering, solidarity and private initiative had not dominated the thinking and actions of the association members, especially the members of the management bodies, from the very beginning.
Without the members’ willingness to donate, without their regular membership fees, without the generous patronage of individuals and without the considerable endowments from bequests of association members, the conservation of the Heath would not have succeeded in the past and would not have been secured for the future.”

Hans Joachim Röhrs,
Chairman from 1993 – 2008 and current honorary chairman of the VNP

The Chairmen of the Association and the Foundation

Erwin Bubeck, chairman from 1909 – 1927

Erwin Bubeck, VNP chairman 1909 - 1927

The first chairman of the VNP was Erwin Bubeck, who held his office from its foundation in 1909 until 1927.

He was a landowner in Württemberg, came from an upper middle-class background, had received professional training in the metallurgical industry, but was nevertheless, or perhaps precisely because of this, a passionate advocate of the idea of nature conservation.

Although he came from and lived in southern Germany, he loved the heath landscape above all else and fulfilled his task in the difficult initial phase of the association with determination and assertiveness, but also with the ability to reconcile opposites.

Dr. Henrich Wilkens, chairman from 1927 – 1940

Dr. Henrich Wilkens, VNP-Vorsitzender von 1927 - 1940

Bubeck’s successor in 1927 was the district court director Dr. Henrich Wilckens from Bremen. During his term of office, he acquired the Tütsberg estate in 1928 (today the association’s landscape conservation farm with an attached hotel) together with the Benninghöfen farm. The acquisition brought about a considerable increase in the amount of farmland.

Parts of the German Wehrmacht cast an eye on parts of the VNP’s territory in the Heide at this time. However, the military training areas were then established in Munster and Bergen. Dr. Wilckens succeeded in convincing the Wehrmacht not to use the Heidepark itself for military purposes of any kind.

Friedrich Roselius, chairman from 1940 – 1941

Friedrich Roselius, VNP-Vorsitzender von 1940 - 1941

After Wilken’s death in 1940, the Bremen merchant Friedrich Roselius was elected as the third chairman. One year later he died in an accident.

Hofrat Walther Keller, chairman from 1941 – 1942

Hofrat Walther Keller, VNP chairman from 1941 - 1942

In 1941 and 1942, Hofrat Keller from Stuttgart, who was a partner in the Kosmos publishing house and an active supporter in years of board work and at the same time also the managing director for the association’s activities, took over as chairman of the board.

As the best expert on the entire development of the association from the beginning, he now took on the overall responsibility in the most difficult time of the war.

He was one of the personalities who, as a member of the Executive Board, had borne responsibility for the association’s management for the longest time.

Hans Domizlaff, chairman from 1943 – 1953

Hans Domizlaff, VNP chairman from 1943 - 1953

In 1943, Hans Domizlaff (born 1892, died 1971) took over the office of the first chairman.

Through his efforts, the establishment of a military airfield within the protected area was prevented and British tanks were pushed back from the Central Heath, the Totengrund and Wilseder Berg to the Wintermoor – Haverbeck – Behringen road. Domizlaff conducted business from his residence in Egestorf.

The hardships of the war and post-war period did not permit any major development initiatives. His work was determined by the need to preserve with all his strength what had already been achieved.

Dr. Alfred Toepfer, chairman from 1954 – 1985

Dr. Alfred Toepfer, VNP chairman from 1954 - 1985

After taking over the chairmanship of the association in 1954, Alfred Toepfer (born 1894 – died 1993) steered the political discussion in a direction that raised the issue of nature conservation and environmental protection in the public’s consciousness much earlier than any political party would ever have understood.

Right at the beginning of his term of office, he published the “Nature Park Idea”, which has developed into more than 100 nature parks all over Germany almost 50 years later.

In the course of his years as chairman, he enlarged the acreage, intensified the keeping of Heidschnucken and founded his own operating company in order to be able to offer an efficient gastronomic structure to the Heide’s restarting tourism.

Fritz Kellinghusen, chairman from 1985 – 1993

Fritz Kellinghusen, VNP chairman from 1985 - 1993

A great success of the Kellinghusen era (1984 to 1994) was the conclusion of the Public Law Agreement with the State of Lower Saxony.

When the later President of the Hamburg Administrative Court took over the chair, the association was poorly secured financially. The only financial support came from lease payments by the federal government for the military use of the association’s land.

The agreement with the state assured the association annual financial support for the implementation of heathland management. This was a big step towards better economic security for the association, at least in the area of landscape conservation, which was also geared towards sustainability.

Hans Joachim Röhrs, chairman from 1993 – 2008

Hans Joachim Röhrs, VNP chairman from 1993 - 2008

In 1993, Hans Joachim Röhrs, then chief county director in the district of Harburg, was elected chairman.

He had to overcome a difficult phase of internal instability of the association, where the objectives of the association were at stake. The uncertain financial situation of the association also led to the heath landscape being endangered, as no permanent management could be guaranteed. The renaturation of the ravaged former military training areas also had to be initiated.

With the help of television, financial and advertising resources were activated and public attention mobilised in a “Save the Heath” campaign. As a result, in addition to an increase in the number of Schnucken herds, a fundamental rehabilitation of all heath areas was brought about according to plan and with new technical resources.

Wilfried Holtmann, chairman of association and foundation from 2008 – 2018

Wilfried Holtmann, chairman of VNP association and foundation from 2008 - 2018

Wilfried Holtmann, a business graduate and retired department director of the former district government of Lüneburg, took over the chairmanship of the Association at a time when improved state funding policies, the establishment of the association’s own foundation and a targeted liaising with all institutions of the federal government, the state of Lower Saxony and the municipalities have changed the general conditions for the fulfilment of the Association’s tasks in the long term.

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