"There are situations where every ounce of dedication contributes to a change and every uninterested failure to act and raise one's voice makes the change a bit more impossible."
Both the rescue and the Murnauer Moos bog's protection status can primarily be attributed to one woman: the "Bog Witch", Ingeborg Haeckel. The biologist who was the headmaster (principal) of today's Staffelsee-Gymnasium, an academic secondary school, and her companions created the preconditions for what was to become a nature reserve. This was an exemplary major project of the nature conservation society which was supposed to sustainably protect the Murnauer Moos bog together with the peat bogs of the Loisach River and the Staffelsee lake as well as the Ostermoos bog in the long term – to this very day.
In Grandfather's footsteps
The granddaughter of the renowned zoologist and natural philosopher, Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919), was born in Sonthofen on 8 January 1903. Her grandfather always served as a role model for her, even if he did not live to witness her career in the natural sciences: Due to her parents' financial difficulties after World War I, she was not able to fulfil her wish of accompanying an expedition as a naturalist after graduating from secondary school with the Abitur diploma. A scholarship then enabled her to begin studying botany, chemistry and geography in 1924. To this, she later added zoology and geology. Ingeborg Haeckel wrote her dissertation under Karl von Goebel, professor of botany in Munich and director of the Botanical Garden at that time. Afterwards, she passed the State Examination (Staatsexamen) for secondary school teachers with the status of civil servants in Bavaria.
A scholarly career
Ingeborg Haeckel initially worked as a scientist at an institute in Gottingen. However, when, at the age of 36, she still had no prospects of permanent employment in research, she decided to change over to something else: In 1939, she came to Murnau to the private higher girls' school as an assistant of studies for biology, chemistry and geology and, before long, was appointed headmaster (principal) of the school. The nature classes were especially dear to her: "Very soon, I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to arouse enthusiasm in young people about nature and its organisms, to guide them to achieve thorough independent observation of living objects and to explain the interactions between organisms and the environment." As the headmaster, she was free to spontaneously move classes to the outdoors, into the Murnauer Moos bog. She became a pioneer in environmental education.
In the battle for nature
When Ingeborg Haeckel moved to Murnau a. Staffelsee, she joined the Bund Naturschutz nature conservation society in Bavaria. On natural history hikes with Max Dingler (1883-1961), a professor of zoology from Munich who was residing in Murnau at that time, she became acquainted with the beauty and unique character of this unspoiled habitat of numerous plant and animal species. This did not prevent her from recognising the dangers threatening this environment: Peat and stone mining, drainage measures and logging.
Max Dingler's first attempt to have the peat bog classified as a nature reserve failed. Ingeborg Haeckel, though, did not relent and in 1964, she succeeded in having Murnauer Moos bog recognised as a nature conservation area. It wasn't until 1980, that it was finally declared a nature reserve – the product of her persistence and dedication. Other successes included the prevention of the planned waste incineration plant near Eschenlohe, putting a stop to stone mining in the quarries at the Köchel hills and the purchase of numerous properties for the purpose of nature conservation.
Energy and Courage
Ingeborg Haeckel was a fighter with expertise and a good understanding of human nature. She only took action after she had acquired the necessary know-how. Accordingly, she attended conferences on waste management, toured waste incineration plants and read a host of specialist articles related to the subject matter. As a result, she was highly esteemed by many opponents despite their differing views.
At the ripe age of 89, she was still full of energy and drawing the public's attention to the natural beautiful sights in the peat bog and how it was endangered. Her excursions through the Murnauer Moos were legendary – first for the pupils as the headmaster of the school, then for laypersons and scientists after she retired. After a severe heart attack in the spring of 1993, she was forced to give up guiding the excursions. Nevertheless, she continued to visit the peat bog, until just two days before she died in 1994.
Dr. Ingeborg Haeckel was recognised multiple times for her dedicated work in Murnau and the Murnauer Moos: with the Bavarian Order of Merit in 1974, the nature conservation prize (Naturschutzpreis) of the German Federal Association for the Protection of the Environment and Nature (Bund für Umwelt- und Naturschutz) in 1978 and as an honorary citizen of the market town of Murnau in 1988. In this context, the former mayor of Murnau, Anton Schretter, gave her a wooded property at the Langen Köcheln, her "hill of fate", as she called it.
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