East Prussia

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East Prussia
Ostpreußen
Province of the Kingdom of Prussia (until 1918) and the Free State of Prussia
Flag of Ducal Prussia.svg
1772–1829
1878–1945
Flag of the Soviet Union.svg
 
Flag of Poland (1928-1980).svg
Flagge Preussen - Provinz Ostpreussen.svg Coat of Arms of East Prussia.svg
FlagCoat of arms
Location of East Prussia German Empire - Prussia - East Prussia (1878).svg
Location of East Prussia
East Prussia (red), within the Kingdom of Prussia, within the German Empire, as of 1871
Capital Königsberg
History
   Established 31 January 1773
   Province of Prussia 3 December 1829
  Province restored1 April 1878
   Soviet capture 1945
Area
  190536,993 km2(14,283 sq mi)
Population
  19052,025,741 
Density 54.8 /km2  (141.8 /sq mi)
Political subdivisions Gumbinnen
Königsberg
Allenstein (from 1905)
West Prussia (1922–1939)
Zichenau (from 1939)
Today part ofFlag of Poland.svg  Poland
Flag of Lithuania.svg  Lithuania
Flag of Russia.svg  Russia (Kaliningrad Oblast)

East Prussia (German : Ostpreußen, pronounced [ˈɔstˌpʁɔʏsn̩] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ); Polish : Prusy Wschodnie; Lithuanian : Rytų Prūsija; Latin : Borussia orientalis; Russian : Восточная Пруссия, translit.  Vostóčnaja Prússija) was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1773 to 1829 and again from 1878 (with the Kingdom itself being part of the German Empire from 1871); following World War I it formed part of the Weimar Republic's Free State of Prussia, until 1945. Its capital city was Königsberg (present-day Kaliningrad). East Prussia was the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast. [1]

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Polish language West Slavic language spoken in Poland

Polish is a West Slavic language of the Lechitic group. It is spoken primarily in Poland and serves as the native language of the Poles. In addition to being an official language of Poland, it is also used by Polish minorities in other countries. There are over 50 million Polish language speakers around the world and it is one of the official languages of the European Union.

Lithuanian language language spoken in Lithuania

Lithuanian is a Baltic language spoken in the Baltic region. It is the language of Lithuanians and the official language of Lithuania as well as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.9 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 200,000 abroad.

Contents

The bulk of the ancestral lands of the Baltic Old Prussians were enclosed within East Prussia. During the 13th century, the native Prussians were conquered by the crusading Teutonic Knights. After the conquest the indigenous Balts were gradually converted to Christianity. Because of Germanization and colonisation over the following centuries, Germans became the dominant ethnic group, while Masurians and Lithuanians formed minorities. From the 13th century, East Prussia was part of the monastic state of the Teutonic Knights. After the Second Peace of Thorn in 1466 it became a fief of the Kingdom of Poland. In 1525, with the Prussian Homage, the province became the Duchy of Prussia. [2] The Old Prussian language had become extinct by the 17th or early 18th century. [3]

Old Prussians historical ethnical group

Old Prussians or Baltic Prussians refers to the indigenous peoples from a cluster of Baltic tribes that inhabited the region of Prussia. This region lent its name to the later state of Prussia. It was located on the south-eastern shore of the Baltic Sea between the Vistula Lagoon to the west and the Curonian Lagoon to the east. The people spoke a language now known as Old Prussian and followed pagan Prussian mythology.

The Northern Crusades or Baltic Crusades were religious wars undertaken by Catholic Christian military orders and kingdoms, primarily against the pagan Baltic, Finnic and West Slavic peoples around the southern and eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, and to a lesser extent also against Orthodox Christian Slavs. The crusades took place mostly in the 12th and 13th centuries and resulted in the subjugation and forced baptism of indigenous peoples.

Christianity is a religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, as described in the New Testament. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament.

Because the duchy was outside of the core Holy Roman Empire, the prince-electors of Brandenburg were able to proclaim themselves King beginning in 1701. After the annexation of most of western Royal Prussia in the First Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1772, eastern (ducal) Prussia was connected by land with the rest of the Prussian state and was reorganized as a province the following year (1773). Between 1829 and 1878, the Province of East Prussia was joined with West Prussia to form the Province of Prussia.

Holy Roman Empire varying complex of lands that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe

The Holy Roman Empire was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western and Central Europe that developed during the Early Middle Ages and continued until its dissolution in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars. The largest territory of the empire after 962 was the Kingdom of Germany, though it also came to include the neighboring Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Burgundy, the Kingdom of Italy, and numerous other territories.

Royal Prussia former country

Royal Prussia or Polish Prussia was a region of the Kingdom of Poland from 1466 to 1772.

First Partition of Poland

The First Partition of Poland took place in 1772 as the first of three partitions that ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth by 1795. Growth in the Russian Empire's power, threatening the Kingdom of Prussia and the Habsburg Monarchy, was the primary motive behind this first partition. Frederick the Great engineered the partition to prevent Austria, jealous of Russian successes against the Ottoman Empire, from going to war. The weakened Commonwealth's land, including what was already controlled by Russia, was apportioned among its more powerful neighbors—Austria, Russia and Prussia—so as to restore the regional balance of power in Central Europe among those three countries. With Poland unable to effectively defend itself, and with foreign troops already inside the country, the Polish parliament (Sejm) ratified the partition in 1773 during the Partition Sejm convened by the three powers.

The Kingdom of Prussia became the leading state of the German Empire after its creation in 1871. However, the Treaty of Versailles following World War I granted West Prussia to Poland and made East Prussia an exclave of Weimar Germany (the new Polish Corridor separated East Prussia from the rest of Germany), while the Memel Territory was detached and annexed by Lithuania in 1923. Following Nazi Germany's defeat in World War II in 1945, war-torn East Prussia was divided at Joseph Stalin's insistence between the Soviet Union (the Kaliningrad Oblast became part of the Russian SFSR, and the constituent counties of the Klaipėda Region in the Lithuanian SSR) and the People's Republic of Poland (the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship). [4] The capital city Königsberg was renamed Kaliningrad in 1946. The German population of the province was largely evacuated during the war or expelled shortly afterwards in the expulsion of Germans after World War II. An estimated 300,000 (around one fifth of the population) died either in war time bombing raids, in the battles to defend the province, or through mistreatment by the Red Army. [ citation needed ]

German Empire empire in Central Europe between 1871–1918

The German Empire, also known as Imperial Germany, was the German nation state that existed from the unification of Germany in 1871 until the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918.

Treaty of Versailles one of the treaties that ended the First World War

The Treaty of Versailles was the most important of the peace treaties that brought World War I to an end. The Treaty ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919 in Versailles, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which had directly led to World War I. The other Central Powers on the German side of World War I signed separate treaties. Although the armistice, signed on 11 November 1918, ended the actual fighting, it took six months of Allied negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude the peace treaty. The treaty was registered by the Secretariat of the League of Nations on 21 October 1919.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Background

Ethnic settlement in East Prussia by the 14th century Image-Prussia ethnicity.JPG
Ethnic settlement in East Prussia by the 14th century

At the instigation of Duke Konrad I of Masovia, the Teutonic Knights took possession of Prussia in the 13th century and created a monastic state to administer the conquered Old Prussians. Local Old-Prussian (north) and Polish (south) toponyms were gradually Germanised. The Knights' expansionist policies, including occupation of Polish Pomerania with Gdańsk/Danzig and western Lithuania, brought them into conflict with the Kingdom of Poland and embroiled them in several wars, culminating in the Polish-Lithuanian-Teutonic War, whereby the united armies of Poland and Lithuania, defeated the Teutonic Order at the Battle of Grunwald (Tannenberg) in 1410. Its defeat was formalised in the Second Treaty of Thorn in 1466 ending the Thirteen Years' War, and leaving the former Polish region Pomerania/Pomerelia under Polish control. Together with Warmia it formed the province of Royal Prussia. Eastern Prussia remained under the Knights, but as a fief of Poland. 1466 and 1525 arrangements by kings of Poland were not verified by the Holy Roman Empire as well as the previous gains of the Teutonic Knights were not verified.

Konrad I of Masovia High Duke of Poland

Konrad I of Masovia, from the Polish Piast dynasty, was the sixth Duke of Masovia and Kujawy from 1194 until his death as well as High Duke of Poland from 1229 to 1232 and again from 1241 to 1243.

Prussia (region) historical region in Central Europe

Prussia is a historical region in Europe, stretching from Gdańsk Bay to the end of Curonian Spit on the southeastern coast of the Baltic Sea, and extending inland as far as Masuria. The territory and inhabitants were described by Tacitus in Germania in AD 98, where Suebi, Goths and other Germanic people lived on both sides of the Vistula River, adjacent to the Aesti. About 800 to 900 years later the Aesti were named Old Prussians, who, since 997, repeatedly defended themselves against take-over attempts by the newly created Duchy of the Polans. The territory of the Old Prussians and neighboring Curonians and Livonians was unified politically in the 1230s as the Teutonic Order State. Prussia was politically divided between 1466 and 1772, with western Prussia under protection of the Crown of Poland and eastern Prussia a Polish–Lithuanian fief until 1660. The unity of both parts of Prussia remained preserved by retaining its borders, citizenship and autonomy until western and eastern Prussia were also politically reunited under the German Kingdom of Prussia. It is famous for many lakes, as well as forests and hills. Since the military conquest of the area by the Soviet Army in 1945 and the expulsion of the German-speaking inhabitants it was divided between northern Poland, Russia's Kaliningrad exclave, and southwestern Lithuania. The former German kingdom and later state of Prussia (1701–1947) derived its name from the region.

Kingdom of Poland (1385–1569) Jagiellon kingdom of Poland, 1385-1569

The Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania joined in a personal union established by the Union of Krewo (1385). The union was transformed into a closer one by the Union of Lublin in 1569, which was shortly followed by the end of the Jagiellon dynasty, which had ruled Poland for two centuries.

The Teutonic Order lost eastern Prussia when Grand Master Albert of Brandenburg-Ansbach converted to Lutheranism and secularized the Prussian branch of the Teutonic Order in 1525. Albert established himself as the first duke of the Duchy of Prussia and a vassal of the Polish crown by the Prussian Homage. Walter von Cronberg, the next Grand Master, was enfeoffed with the title to Prussia after the Diet of Augsburg in 1530, but the Order never regained possession of the territory. In 1569 the Hohenzollern prince-electors of the Margraviate of Brandenburg became co-regents with Albert's son, the feeble-minded Albert Frederick.

Albert, Duke of Prussia last Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, first Duke of Prussia

Albert of Prussia was the 37th Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, who after converting to Lutheranism, became the first ruler of the Duchy of Prussia, the secularized state that emerged from the former Monastic State of the Teutonic Knights. Albert was the first European ruler to establish Lutheranism, and thus Protestantism, as the official state religion of his lands. He proved instrumental in the political spread of Protestantism in its early stage, ruling the Prussian lands for nearly six decades (1510–1568).

Lutheranism branch of Protestantism based on the teachings of Martin Luther

Lutheranism is a major branch of western Christianity that identifies with the teaching of Martin Luther, a 16th century German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation. The reaction of the government and church authorities to the international spread of his writings, beginning with the 95 Theses, divided Western Christianity.

Duchy of Prussia historical german state

The Duchy of Prussia or Ducal Prussia was a duchy in the region of Prussia established as a result of secularization of the State of the Teutonic Order during the Protestant Reformation in 1525.

The Administrator of Prussia, the grandmaster of the Teutonic Order Maximilian III, son of emperor Maximilian II died in 1618. When Maximilian died, Albert's line died out, and the Duchy of Prussia passed to the Electors of Brandenburg, forming Brandenburg-Prussia. Taking advantage of the Swedish invasion of Poland in 1655, and instead of fulfilling his vassal's duties towards the Polish Kingdom, by joining forces with the Swedes and subsequent treaties of Wehlau, Labiau, and Oliva, Elector and Duke Frederick William succeeded in revoking the king of Poland's sovereignty over the Duchy of Prussia in 1660. The absolutist elector also subdued the noble estates of Prussia.

History as a province

New Map of the Kingdom of Prussia, John Cary 1799, split into the eastern regions of Lithuania Minor (green), Natangia (yellow), Sambia and Warmia (pink), the western Oberland territories with Marienwerder (blue), West Prussian Marienburg (yellow) and Danzig (green) 1799 Cary Map of Prussia and Lithuania - Geographicus - Prussia-cary-1799.jpg
New Map of the Kingdom of Prussia, John Cary 1799, split into the eastern regions of Lithuania Minor (green), Natangia (yellow), Sambia and Warmia (pink), the western Oberland territories with Marienwerder (blue), West Prussian Marienburg (yellow) and Danzig (green)

Kingdom of Prussia

Although Brandenburg was a part of the Holy Roman Empire, the Prussian lands were not within the Holy Roman Empire and were with the administration by the Teutonic Order grandmasters under jurisdiction of the Emperor. In return for supporting Emperor Leopold I in the War of the Spanish Succession, Elector Frederick III was allowed to crown himself "King in Prussia" in 1701. The new kingdom ruled by the Hohenzollern dynasty became known as the Kingdom of Prussia. The designation "Kingdom of Prussia" was gradually applied to the various lands of Brandenburg-Prussia. To differentiate from the larger entity, the former Duchy of Prussia became known as Altpreußen ("Old Prussia"), the province of Prussia, or "East Prussia".

Approximately one-third of East Prussia's population died in the plague and famine of 1709–1711, [5] including the last speakers of Old Prussian. [6] The plague, probably brought by foreign troops during the Great Northern War, killed 250,000 East Prussians, especially in the province's eastern regions. Crown Prince Frederick William I led the rebuilding of East Prussia, founding numerous towns. Thousands of Protestants expelled from the Archbishopric of Salzburg were allowed to settle in depleted East Prussia. The province was overrun by Imperial Russian troops during the Seven Years' War.

Monument to Immanuel Kant in Kaliningrad Monument of Immanuel Kant - panoramio.jpg
Monument to Immanuel Kant in Kaliningrad

In the 1772 First Partition of Poland, the Prussian king Frederick the Great annexed neighboring Royal Prussia, i.e., the Polish voivodeships of Pomerania (Gdańsk Pomerania or Pomerelia), Malbork, Chełmno and the Prince-Bishopric of Warmia, thereby connecting his Prussian and Farther Pomeranian lands and cutting the rest of Poland from the Baltic coast. The territory of Warmia was incorporated into the lands of former Ducal Prussia, which, by administrative deed of 31 January 1773 were named East Prussia. The former Polish Pomerelian lands beyond the Vistula River together with Malbork and Chełmno Land formed the Province of West Prussia with its capital at Marienwerder (Kwidzyn). The Polish Partition Sejm ratified the cession on 30 September 1773, whereafter Frederick officially went on to call himself a King "of" Prussia.

The former Ducal Prussian districts of Eylau (Iława), Marienwerder, Riesenburg (Prabuty) and Schönberg (Szymbark) passed to West Prussia. Until the Prussian reforms of 1808, the administration in East Prussia was transferred to the General War and Finance Directorate in Berlin, represented by two local chamber departments:

On 31 January 1773, King Frederick II announced that the newly annexed lands were to be known as the Province of West Prussia, while the former Duchy of Prussia and Warmia became the Province of East Prussia.

Napoleonic Wars

Napoleon on the Battlefield of Eylau in February 1807 Antoine-Jean Gros - Napoleon on the Battlefield of Eylau - Google Art Project.jpg
Napoleon on the Battlefield of Eylau in February 1807

After the disastrous defeat of the Prussian Army at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt in 1806, Napoleon occupied Berlin and had the officials of the Prussian General Directorate swear an oath of allegiance to him, while King Frederick William III and his consort Louise fled via Königsberg and the Curonian Spit to Memel. The French troops immediately took up pursuit but were delayed in the Battle of Eylau on 9 February 1807 by an East Prussian contingent under General Anton Wilhelm von L'Estocq. Napoleon had to stay at the Finckenstein Palace, but in May, after a siege of 75 days, his troops led by Marshal François Joseph Lefebvre were able to capture the city Danzig, which had been tenaciously defended by General Count Friedrich Adolf von Kalkreuth. On 14 June, Napoleon ended the War of the Fourth Coalition with his victory at the Battle of Friedland. Frederick William and Queen Louise met with Napoleon for peace negotiations, and on 9 July the Prussian king signed the Treaty of Tilsit.

The succeeding Prussian reforms instigated by Heinrich Friedrich Karl vom und zum Stein and Karl August von Hardenberg included the implementation of an Oberlandesgericht appellation court at Königsberg, a municipal corporation, economic freedom as well as emancipation of the serfs and Jews. In the course of the Prussian restoration by the 1815 Congress of Vienna, the East Prussian territories were re-arranged in the Regierungsbezirke of Gumbinnen and Königsberg. From 1905, the southern districts of East Prussia formed the separate Regierungsbezirk of Allenstein. East and West Prussia were first united in personal union in 1824, and then merged in a real union in 1829 to form the Province of Prussia. The united province was again split into separate East and West Prussian provinces in 1878.

Map of the province of East Prussia in 1881 Ostpreussen.JPG
Map of the province of East Prussia in 1881

Historical ethnic and religious structure

In year 1824, shortly before its merger with West Prussia, the population of East Prussia was 1,080,000 people. [7] Of that number, according to Karl Andree, Germans were slightly more than half, while 280,000 (~26%) were ethnically Polish and 200,000 (~19%) were ethnically Lithuanian. [8] As of year 1819 there were also 20,000 strong ethnic Curonian and Latvian minorities as well as 2,400 Jews, according to Georg Hassel. [9] Similar numbers are given by August von Haxthausen in his 1839 book, with a breakdown by county. [10] However, the majority of East Prussian Polish and Lithuanian inhabitants were Lutherans, not Roman Catholics like their ethnic kinsmen across the border in the Russian Empire. Only in Southern Warmia (German: Ermland) Catholic Poles - so called Warmiaks (not to be confused with predominantly Protestant Masurians) - comprised the majority of population, numbering 26,067 people (~81%) in county Allenstein (Polish: Olsztyn) in 1837. [10] Another minority in 19th century East Prussia, were ethnically Russian Old Believers, also known as Philipponnen - their main town was Eckersdorf (Wojnowo). [11] [12] [13]

In year 1817, East Prussia had 796,204 Evangelical Christians, 120,123 Roman Catholics, 864 Mennonites and 2,389 Jews. [14]

German Empire

From 1824–1878, East Prussia was combined with West Prussia to form the Province of Prussia, after which they were reestablished as separate provinces. Along with the rest of the Kingdom of Prussia, East Prussia became part of the German Empire during the unification of Germany in 1871.

Coronation of William I as King of Prussia at Konigsberg Castle in 1861 Kronungszug Konigsberg (1861).JPG
Coronation of William I as King of Prussia at Königsberg Castle in 1861

From 1885 to 1890 Berlin's population grew by 20%, Brandenburg and the Rhineland gained 8.5%, Westphalia 10%, while East Prussia lost 0.07% and West Prussia 0.86%. This stagnancy in population despite a high birth surplus in eastern Germany was because many people from the East Prussian countryside moved westward to seek work in the expanding industrial centres of the Ruhr Area and Berlin (see Ostflucht ).

The population of the province in 1900 was 1,996,626 people, with a religious makeup of 1,698,465 Protestants, 269,196 Roman Catholics, and 13,877 Jews. The Low Prussian dialect predominated in East Prussia, although High Prussian was spoken in Warmia. The numbers of Masurians, Kursenieki and Prussian Lithuanians decreased over time due to the process of Germanization. The Polish-speaking population concentrated in the south of the province (Masuria and Warmia) and all German geographic atlases at the start of 20th century showed the southern part of East Prussia as Polish with the number of Polish-speakers estimated at the time to be 300,000. [15] Kursenieki inhabited the areas around the Curonian lagoon, while Lithuanian-speaking Prussians concentrated in the northeast in (Lithuania Minor). The Old Prussian ethnic group became completely Germanized over time and the Old Prussian language died out in the 18th century.

World War I

At the beginning of World War I, East Prussia became a theatre of war when the Russian Empire invaded the country. The Russian Army encountered at first little resistance because the bulk of the German Army had been directed towards the Western Front according to the Schlieffen Plan. Despite early success and the capture of the towns of Rastenburg and Gumbinnen, in the Battle of Tannenberg in 1914 and the Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes in 1915, the Russians were decisively defeated and forced to retreat. The Russians were followed by the German Army advancing into Russian territory.

After the Russian army's first invasion the majority of the civilian population fled westwards, while several thousand remaining civilians were deported to Russia. Treatment of civilians by both armies was mostly disciplined, although 74 civilians were killed by Russian troops in the Abschwangen massacre. The region had to be rebuilt because of damage caused by the war.

Weimar Republic

Inter-war East Prussia (from 1923 to 1939) East Prussia 1923-1939.svg
Inter-war East Prussia (from 1923 to 1939)

With the forced abdication of Emperor Wilhelm II in 1918, Germany became a republic. Most of West Prussia and the former Prussian Province of Posen, territories annexed by Prussia in the 18th century Partitions of Poland, were ceded to the Second Polish Republic according to the Treaty of Versailles. East Prussia became an exclave, being separated from mainland Germany. The Memelland was also separated from the province. Because most of West Prussia became part of the Second Polish Republic as the Polish Corridor, the formerly West Prussian Marienwerder region became part of East Prussia (as Regierungsbezirk Westpreußen). Also Soldau district in Allenstein region was part of Second Polish Republic. The Seedienst Ostpreußen was established to provide an independent transport service to East Prussia.

On 11 July 1920, amidst the backdrop of the Polish-Soviet War, the East Prussian plebiscite in eastern West Prussia and southern East Prussia was held under Allied supervision to determine if the areas should join the Second Polish Republic or remain in Weimar Germany Province of East Prussia. 96.7% of the people voted to remain within Germany (97.89% in the East Prussian plebiscite district).

The Klaipėda Territory, a League of Nations mandate since 1920, was occupied by Lithuanian troops in 1923 and was annexed without giving the inhabitants a choice by ballot.

Nazi Germany

Adolf Hitler and Erich Koch in Konigsberg, 1936 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-2008-0513-501, Konigsberg, Adolf Hitler.jpg
Adolf Hitler and Erich Koch in Königsberg, 1936

Erich Koch headed the East Prussian Nazi party from 1928. He led the district from 1932. This period was characterized by efforts to collectivize the local agriculture and ruthlessness in dealing with his critics inside and outside the Party. [16] He also had long-term plans for mass-scale industrialization of the largely agricultural province. These actions made him unpopular among the local peasants. [16] In 1932 the local paramilitary SA had already started to terrorise their political opponents. On the night of 31 July 1932 there was a bomb attack on the headquarters of the Social Democrats in Königsberg, the Otto-Braun-House. The Communist politician Gustav Sauf was killed; the executive editor of the Social Democratic newspaper "Königsberger Volkszeitung", Otto Wyrgatsch; and the German People's Party politician Max von Bahrfeldt were all severely injured. Members of the Reichsbanner were assaulted while the local Reichsbanner Chairman of Lötzen, Kurt Kotzan, was murdered on 6 August 1932. [17] [18]

Through publicly funded emergency relief programs concentrating on agricultural land-improvement projects and road construction, the "Erich Koch Plan" for East Prussia allegedly made the province free of unemployment: on August 16, 1933 Koch reported to Hitler that unemployment had been banished entirely from the province, a feat that gained admiration throughout the Reich. [19] Koch's industrialization plans provoked conflict with R. Walther Darré, who held the office of the Reich Peasant Leader (Reichsbauernführer) and Minister of Agriculture. Darré, a neopaganist rural romantic, wanted to enforce his vision of an agricultural East Prussia. When his "Land" representatives challenged Koch's plans, Koch arrested them. [20]

After the Nazis took power in Germany, opposition politicians were persecuted and newspapers banned. The Otto-Braun-House was requisitioned to become the headquarters of the SA, which used the house to imprison and torture its opponents. Walter Schütz, a communist member of the Reichstag, was murdered here. [21] In 1938 the Nazis altered about one-third of the toponyms of the area, eliminating, Germanizing, or simplifying a number of Old Prussian, as well as those Polish or Lithuanian names originating from colonists and refugees to Prussia during and after the Protestant Reformation. More than 1,500 places were ordered to be renamed by 16 July 1938 following a decree issued by Gauleiter and Oberpräsident Erich Koch and initiated by Adolf Hitler. [22] Many who would not cooperate with the rulers of Nazi Germany were sent to concentration camps and held prisoner there until their death or liberation.

After the 1939 invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany opening World War II, the borders of East Prussia were revised. Regierungsbezirk Westpreußen became part of Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia, while Regierungsbezirk Zichenau was added to East Prussia. Originally part of the Zichenau region, the Sudauen district in Sudovia was later transferred to the Gumbinnen region.

World War II

East Prussia in 1941 Bundesarchiv Bild 137-065743, Ostpreussen, Ankunft von Umsiedlern aus Litauen.jpg
East Prussia in 1941

In 1939 East Prussia had 2.49 million inhabitants, 85% of them ethnic Germans, the others Poles in the south who, according to Polish estimates numbered in the interwar period around 300,000-350,000, [23] the Latvian speaking Kursenieki, and Lietuvininkai who spoke Lithuanian in the northeast. Most German East Prussians, Masurians, Kursieniki, and Lietuvininkai were Lutheran, while the population of Ermland was mainly Roman Catholic due to the history of its bishopric. The East Prussian Jewish Congregation declined from about 9,000 in 1933 to 3,000 in 1939, as most fled from Nazi rule. [24] Those who remained were later deported and killed in the Holocaust.

In 1939 the Regierungsbezirk Zichenau was annexed by Germany and incorporated into East Prussia. Parts of it were transferred to other regions, e.g. Suwałki to Regierungsbezirk Gumbinnen and Soldau to Regierungsbezirk Allenstein. Despite Nazi propaganda presenting all of the regions annexed as possessing significant German populations that wanted reunification with Germany, the Reich's statistics of late 1939 show that only 31,000 out of 994,092 people in this territory were ethnic Germans.[ citation needed ]

East Prussia was only slightly affected by the war until January 1945, when it was devastated during the East Prussian Offensive. Most of its inhabitants became refugees in bitterly cold weather during the Evacuation of East Prussia.

Evacuation of East Prussia

Konigsberg after the RAF bombing in 1944 Probsteikirche.jpg
Königsberg after the RAF bombing in 1944

In 1944 the medieval city of Königsberg, which had never been severely damaged by warfare in its 700 years of existence, was almost completely destroyed by two RAF Bomber Command raids — the first on the night of 26/27 August 1944, with the second one three nights later, overnight on 29/30 August 1944. Winston Churchill (The Second World War, Book XII) had erroneously believed it to be "a modernized heavily defended fortress" and ordered its destruction.

Gauleiter Erich Koch protracted the evacuation of the German civilian population until the Eastern Front approached the East Prussian border in 1944. The population had been systematically misinformed by Endsieg Nazi propaganda about the real state of military affairs. As a result, many civilians fleeing westward were overtaken by retreating Wehrmacht units and the rapidly advancing Red Army.

Reports of Soviet atrocities in the Nemmersdorf massacre of October 1944 and organized rape spread fear and desperation among the civilians. Thousands lost their lives during the sinkings (by Soviet submarine) of the evacuation ships Wilhelm Gustloff , the Goya , and the General von Steuben . Königsberg surrendered on 9 April 1945, following the desperate four-day Battle of Königsberg. The number of civilians killed is estimated to be at least 300,000.[ citation needed ]

However, most of the German inhabitants, which then consisted primarily of women, children and old men, did manage to escape the Red Army as part of the largest exodus of people in human history: "A population which had stood at 2.2 million in 1940 was reduced to 193,000 at the end of May 1945." [25] [26]

History after partition and annexation

Following Nazi Germany's defeat in World War II in 1945, East Prussia was partitioned between Poland and the Soviet Union according to the Potsdam Conference. Southern East Prussia was placed under Polish administration, while northern East Prussia was divided between the Soviet republics of Russia (the Kaliningrad Oblast) and Lithuania (the constituent counties of the Klaipėda Region). The city of Königsberg was renamed Kaliningrad in 1946. Most of the German population of the province had left during the evacuation at the end of the war, but several hundreds of thousands died during the years 1944–46 and the remainder were subsequently expelled.

Expulsion of Germans from East Prussia after World War II

Shortly after the end of the war in May 1945, Germans who had fled in early 1945 tried to return to their homes in East Prussia. An estimated number of 800,000 Germans were living in East Prussia during the summer of 1945. [27] Many more were prevented from returning,[ citation needed ] and the German population of East Prussia was almost completely expelled by the communist regimes. During the war and for some time thereafter 45 camps were established for about 200,000-250,000 forced labourers, the vast majority of whom were deported to the Soviet Union, including the Gulag camp system. [28] The largest camp with about 48,000 inmates was established at Deutsch Eylau (Iława). [28] Orphaned children who were left behind in the zone occupied by the Soviet Union were referred to as Wolf children.

Southern part to Poland

Representatives of the Polish government officially took over the civilian administration of the southern part of East Prussia on 23 May 1945. [28] Subsequently, Polish expatriates from Polish lands annexed by the Soviet Union as well as Ukrainians and Lemkos from southern Poland, expelled in Operation Vistula in 1947, were settled in the southern part of East Prussia, now the Polish Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship. In 1950 the Olsztyn Voivodeship counted 689,000 inhabitants, 22.6% of them coming from areas annexed by the Soviet Union, 10% Ukrainians, and 18.5% of them pre-war inhabitants. The remaining pre-war population was treated as Germanized Poles and a policy of re-Polonization was pursued throughout the country [29] Most of these "Autochthones" chose to emigrate to West Germany from the 1950s through 1970s (between 1970 and 1988 55,227 persons from Warmia and Masuria moved to Western Germany). [30] Local toponyms were Polonised by the Polish Commission for the Determination of Place Names. [31]

Northern East Prussia to the Soviet Union

Konigsberg Castle, 1895 Konigsberg Castle.jpg
Königsberg Castle, 1895
"Konigsberg" licence plate holder, 2009 Ru-koenigsberg.jpg
"Königsberg" licence plate holder, 2009

In April 1946, northern East Prussia became an official province of the Russian SFSR as the "Kyonigsbergskaya Oblast", with the Memel Territory becoming part of the Lithuanian SSR. In June 1946 114,070 German and 41,029 Soviet citizens were registered in the Oblast, with an unknown number of disregarded unregistered persons. In July of that year, the historic city of Königsberg was renamed Kaliningrad to honour Mikhail Kalinin and the area named the Kaliningrad Oblast. Between 24 August and 26 October 1948 21 transports with in total 42,094 Germans left the Oblast to the Soviet Occupation Zone (which became East Germany). The last remaining Germans left in November 1949 (1,401 persons) and January 1950 (7 persons). [32]

The Prussian Lithuanians also experienced the same fate.

A similar fate befell the Curonians who lived in the area around the Curonian Lagoon. While many fled from the Red Army during the evacuation of East Prussia, Curonians that remained behind were subsequently expelled by the Soviet Union. Only 219 lived along the Curonian Spit in 1955. Many had German names such as Fritz or Hans, a cause for anti-German discrimination. The Soviet authorities considered the Curonians fascists. Because of this discrimination, many immigrated to West Germany in 1958, where the majority of Curonians now live.

After the expulsion of the German population ethnic Russians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians were settled in the northern part. In the Soviet part of the region, a policy of eliminating all remnants of German history was pursued. All German place names were replaced by new Russian names. The exclave was a military zone, which was closed to foreigners; Soviet citizens could only enter with special permission. In 1967 the remnants of Königsberg Castle were demolished on the orders of Leonid Brezhnev to make way for a new "House of the Soviets".

Modern status

Since the fall of Communism in 1991, some German groups have tried to help settle the Volga Germans from eastern parts of European Russia in the Kaliningrad Oblast. This effort was only a small success, however, as most impoverished Volga Germans preferred to emigrate to the richer Federal Republic of Germany, where they could become German citizens through the right of return.

Although the 1945–1949 expulsion of Germans from the northern part of former East Prussia was often conducted in a violent and aggressive way by Soviet officials, the present Russian inhabitants of the Kaliningrad Oblast have much less animosity towards Germans. German names have been revived in commercial Russian trade and there is sometimes talk of reverting Kaliningrad's name to its historic name of Königsberg. The city centre of Kaliningrad was completely rebuilt, as British bombs in 1944 and the Soviet siege in 1945 had left it in nothing but ruins.

The borders of the present-day Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship in Poland correspond closely to those of southern East Prussia.

Administration

The Prussian central government appointed for every province an Oberpräsident ("Upper President") carrying out central prerogatives on the provincial level and supervising the implementation of central policy on the lower levels of administration.

Since 1875, with the strengthening of self-rule, the urban and rural districts (Kreise) within each province (sometimes within each governorate) formed a corporation with common tasks and assets (schools, traffic installations, hospitals, cultural institutions, jails etc.) called the Provinzialverband (provincial association). Initially the assemblies of the urban and rural districts elected representatives for the provincial diets (Provinziallandtage ), which were thus indirectly elected. As of 1919 the provincial diets (or as to governorate diets, the so-called Kommunallandtage) were directly elected by the citizens of the provinces (or governorates, respectively). These parliaments legislated within the competences transferred to the provincial associations. The provincial diet of East Prussia elected a provincial executive body (government), the provincial committee (Provinzialausschuss), and a head of province, the Landeshauptmann ("Land Captain"; till the 1880s titled Landdirektor, land director). [33]

Upper Presidents of East Prussia and Prussia

1765–1791: Johann Friedrich von Domhardt, president of the Gumbinnen and Königsberg War and Demesnes Chambers
1791–1808: Friedrich Leopold von Schrötter, president of the Gumbinnen and Königsberg War and Demesnes Chambers, as of 1795 Minister for East and New East Prussia
1808–1814: vacancy?
1814–1824: Hans Jakob von Auerswald, upper president of East Prussia
1824–1842: Heinrich Theodor von Schön, upper president of Prussia, merged from East and West Prussia, since 1816 already upper president of West Prussia
1842–1848: Carl Wilhelm von Bötticher, upper president of Prussia
1848–1849: Rudolf von Auerswald, upper president of Prussia
1849–1850: Eduard Heinrich von Flottwell (1786–1865), upper president of Prussia
1850–1868: Franz August Eichmann, upper president of Prussia
1868–1869: vacancy
1869–1882: Carl Wilhelm Heinrich Georg von Horn, upper president of Prussia, after 1878 of East Prussia
1882–1891: Albrecht Heinrich von Schlieckmann, upper president of East Prussia
1891–1895: Count Udo zu Stolberg-Wernigerode, upper president of East Prussia
1895–1901: Count Wilhelm von Bismarck-Schönhausen, upper president of East Prussia
1901–1903: Hugo Samuel von Richthofen, upper president of East Prussia
1903–1907: Count Friedrich von Moltke, upper president of East Prussia
1907–1914: Ludwig von Windheim, upper president of East Prussia
1914–1916: Adolf Tortilowicz von Batocki-Friebe, upper president of East Prussia
1916–1918: Friedrich von Berg, upper president of East Prussia
1918–1919: Adolf Tortilowicz von Batocki-Friebe, upper president of East Prussia
1919–1920: August Winnig (SPD), upper president of East Prussia
1920–1932: Ernst Siehr (DDP), upper president of East Prussia
1932–1933: Wilhelm Kutscher (DNVP), upper president of East Prussia
1933–1945: Erich Koch (NSDAP), upper president of East Prussia

Elections to the provincial diets

Summary of the East Prussian Provincial Diet direct election results

e    d  
Parties%
1921
+/-
1921
Seats
1921
+/-
1921
%
1925
+/-
1925
Seats
1925
+/-
1925
%
1929
+/-
1929
Seats
1929
+/-
1929
%
1933
+/-
1933
Seats
1933
+/-
1933
SPD 24.12024.8+0.7 (-)22+2 (-4)26+1.223+113.6-12.412-11
USPD 6+6merged
in SPD
DNVP [34] 13.4+13.411+1145.6 [35] 40(+4)31.2(+17.8)27(+16)12.7 [34] -18.511-16
DVP 3.6+3.64+48.7(+5.1)8(+4)0-8
BWA 16+160-160000
Zentrum 9.38+86.9-2.46-28.1+1.27+17-1.170
KPD [36] 7+76+66.9-0.1608.6+1.78+26-2.66-2
BWW 6+60-60000
Parties%
1921
+/-
1921
Seats
1921
+/-
1921
%
1925
+/-
1925
Seats
1925
+/-
1925
%
1929
+/-
1929
Seats
1929
+/-
1929
%
1933
+/-
1933
Seats
1933
+/-
1933
DDP 5.7+5.76+63.6-2.13-32.8-0.8300-3
NSDAP not runnot runnot runnot run4.34+458.2+53,951+47
LL/WP [37] 2+24.2+4.24+24-1.2400-4
DFP not runnot runnot runnot run4.2+4.24+40-400
CSVD not runnot runnot runnot runnot runnot runnot runnot run3+33+30-3
AuA not runnot runnot runnot run2+20-200
FOW 2+20-20000
Poles' Party 1+10-10000
Others2+?0-20000
Total
1921
85Total
1925
87Total
1929
87Total
1933
87

Land Directors and Land Captains of East Prussia

1876–1878: Heinrich Edwin Rickert (NLP, later DFP), titled land director
1878–1884: Kurt von Saucken-Tarputschen (Fortschritt, later DFP), titled land director
1884–1888: Alfred von Gramatzki (DKP), titled land director
1888–1896: Klemens von Stockhausen, titled land director
1896–1909: Rudolf von Brandt, titled land captain
1909–1916: Friedrich von Berg, titled land captain
1916–1928: Manfred Graf von Brünneck-Bellschwitz, titled land captain
1928–1936: Paul Blunk, titled land captain
1936–1941: Helmuth von Wedelstädt (NSDAP), titled land captain
1941–1945: vacancy
1941–1945: Reinhard Bezzenberger, first land councillor, per pro

Cities and towns

City/TownDistrict (Kreis)Pop. in 1939Current NameCurrent Administrative Unit
Allenburg Landkreis Wehlau 2 694 Druzhba Kaliningrad Oblast (Russia)
Allenstein Landkreis Allenstein 50 396 Olsztyn Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship (Poland)
Angerburg Landkreis Angerburg 10 922 Węgorzewo (Węgobork)Warmia-Masuria
Arys Landkreis Johannisburg 3 553 Orzysz Warmia-Masuria
Barten Landkreis-Rastenburg 1 541 Barciany Warmia-Masuria
Bartenstein Landkreis Bartenstein 12 912 Bartoszyce Warmia-Masuria
Bischofsburg Landkreis Rößel Biskupiec Warmia-Masuria
Bischofstein (Ostpreußen) Rößel3 200 Bisztynek Warmia-Masuria
Braunsberg Landkreis Braunsberg 21 142 Braniewo Warmia-Masuria
Darkehmen/Angerapp Landkreis Darkehmen Ozyorsk Kaliningrad
Domnau Bartenstein Domnovo Kaliningrad
Elbing Stadtkreis85 952 Elbląg Warmia-Masuria
Eydtkuhnen Landkreis Stallupönen 4 922 Chernyshevskoye Kaliningrad
Fischhausen Landkreis Samland 3 879 Primorsk Kaliningrad
Frauenburg (Ostpreußen) Braunsberg2 951 Frombork Warmia-Masuria
Friedland (Ostpreußen) Bartenstein Pravdinsk Kaliningrad
Gehlenburg Johannisburg Biała Piska Warmia-Masuria
Gerdauen Landkreis Gerdauen 5 118 Zheleznodorozhny Kaliningrad
Gilgenburg Landkreis Osterode 1 700 Dąbrówno Warmia-Masuria
Goldap Landkreis Goldap 12 786 Gołdap Warmia-Masuria
Gumbinnen Landkreis Gumbinnen 24 534 Gusev Kaliningrad
Guttstadt Landkreis Heilsberg Dobre Miasto Warmia-Masuria
Heiligenbeil Landkreis Heiligenbeil 12 100 Mamonovo Kaliningrad
Heilsberg Heilsberg Lidzbark Warmiński Warmia-Masuria
Heydekrug Landkreis Heydekrug 4 836 Šilutė Klaipėda County (Lithuania)
Hohenstein Osterode Olsztynek Warmia-Masuria
Insterburg Landkreis Insterburg 48 711 Chernyakhovsk Kaliningrad
Johannisburg Johannisburg Pisz (Jańsbork)Warmia-Masuria
Königsberg (Preußen) Stadtkreis372 000 Kaliningrad Kaliningrad
Kreuzburg (Ostpreußen) Landkreis Preußisch Eylau Slavskoye Kaliningrad
Labiau Landkreis Labiau 6 527 Polessk Kaliningrad
Landsberg in Ostpreußen Preußisch Eylau Górowo Iławeckie Warmia-Masuria
Liebemühl Osterode Miłomłyn Warmia-Masuria
Liebstadt Landkreis Mohrungen 2 742 Miłakowo Warmia-Masuria
Lötzen Landkreis Lötzen 13 000 Giżycko (Lec)Warmia-Masuria
Lyck Landkreis Lyck 16 482 Ełk (Łęg)Warmia-Masuria
Marggrabowa/Treuburg Landkreis Oletzko/Treuburg Olecko Warmia-Masuria
Marienburg in Westpreußen Landkreis Marienburg (Westpr.) Malbork Pomeranian Voivodeship (Poland)
Mehlsack Braunsberg Pieniężno (Melzak)Warmia-Masuria
Memel Stadtkreis41 297 Klaipėda Klaipėda
Mohrungen Mohrungen5 500 Morąg Warmia-Masuria
Mühlhausen Landkreis Preußisch Holland Młynary Warmia-Masuria
Neidenburg Landkreis Neidenburg 9 201 Nidzica (Nibork)Warmia-Masuria
Nikolaiken Landkreis Sensburg Mikołajki Warmia-Masuria
Nordenburg Gerdauen3 173 Krylovo Kaliningrad
Ortelsburg Landkreis Ortelsburg 14 234 Szczytno Warmia-Masuria
Osterode (Ostpreußen) Osterode19 519 Ostróda Warmia-Masuria
Passenheim Ortelsburg2 431 Pasym Warmia-Masuria
Peterswalde OsterodePiertzwaldWarmia-Masuria
Pillau Samland12 000 Baltiysk Kaliningrad
Preußisch Eylau Preußisch Eylau7 485 Bagrationovsk Kaliningrad
Preußisch Holland Preußisch Holland Pasłęk Warmia-Masuria
Ragnit Landkreis Tilsit-Ragnit 10 094 Neman Kaliningrad
Rastenburg Rastenburg19 634 Kętrzyn (Rastembork)Warmia-Masuria
Rhein (Ostpreußen) Lötzen Ryn Warmia-Masuria
Rößel Rößel5 000 Reszel Warmia-Masuria
Saalfeld Mohrungen Zalewo Warmia-Masuria
Schippenbeil Bartenstein Sępopol Warmia-Masuria
Schirwindt Landkreis Pillkallen Kutuzovo Kaliningrad
Pillkallen-Schlossberg Pillkallen Dobrovolsk Kaliningrad
Seeburg Rößel Jeziorany (Zybork)Warmia-Masuria
Sensburg Sensburg Mrągowo (Żądzbork)Warmia-Masuria
Soldau Neidenburg 5 349 Działdowo Warmia-Masuria
Stallupönen Stallupönen6 608 Nesterov Kaliningrad
Tapiau Wehlau 9 272 Gvardeysk Kaliningrad
Tilsit Stadtkreis59 105 Sovetsk Kaliningrad
Wartenburg (Ostpreußen) Allenstein 5 841 Barczewo (Wartembork)Warmia-Masuria
Wehlau Wehlau7 348 Znamensk Kaliningrad
Willenberg Ortelsburg2 600 Wielbark Warmia-Masuria
Wormditt Braunsberg Orneta Warmia-Masuria
Zinten Heiligenbeil Kornevo Kaliningrad

See also

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  35. DVP and DNVP formed the united list called Prussian Block (PB, Preußenblock).
  36. In 1921 the party was named United Communist Party of Germany, VKPD.
  37. In 1921 the Landliste (LL, Rural List) gained two seats, in 1926 the LL formed a united list with the WP and the East Prussian Farmers' Federation (OBB), in 1929 they all ran as part of the WP.

Bibliography

Publications in English
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Publications in Polish


Coordinates: 54°44′N20°29′E / 54.733°N 20.483°E / 54.733; 20.483