History of Brandenburg and Prussia
| Northern March |
| Old Prussians |
| Lutician federation |
983 – 12th century
| Margraviate of Brandenburg |
1157–1618 (1806) (HRE)
| Teutonic Order |
(Polish fief 1466–1525)
| Duchy of Prussia |
(Polish fief 1525–1657)
| Royal (Polish) Prussia (Poland)|
1454/1466 – 1772
| Brandenburg-Prussia |
| Kingdom in Prussia |
| Kingdom of Prussia |
| Free State of Prussia (Germany)|
| Klaipėda Region |
1920–1939 / 1945–present
| Recovered Territories |
| Brandenburg |
1947–1952 / 1990–present
| Kaliningrad Oblast |
The Klaipėda Region (Lithuanian : Klaipėdos kraštas) or Memel Territory (German : Memelland or Memelgebiet) was defined by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles in 1920 and refers to the northernmost part of the German province of East Prussia, when as Memelland it was put under the administration of the Entente's Council of Ambassadors. The Memel Territory, together with other areas severed from Germany (the Saar and Danzig) was to remain under the control of the League of Nations until a future day when the people of these regions would be allowed to vote on whether the land would return to Germany or not. Today, the former Memel Territory is controlled by Lithuania as part of Klaipėda and Tauragė counties.
In 1226 Duke Konrad I of Masovia requested assistance against the Prussians and other Baltic tribes, including the Skalvians who lived along the Neman (Memel) River. In March 1226, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II issued the Golden Bull of Rimini, which provided that the Teutonic Knights would possess lands taken beyond the Masovian border in exchange for securing Masovia. After uprisings of the Baltic Prussian tribes in 1242 through 1274 failed, the Order conquered many remaining western Balts in Lithuania Minor, including the Skalvians, Nadruvians, and Yotvingians. In 1252 the Order constructed Memel Castle where the Dangė river flows into the Neman, at the north end of the Curonian Spit. In 1422, after centuries of conflict, the Order and the Polish–Lithuanian union signed the Treaty of Melno which defined a border between Prussia and Lithuania. Although Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania wanted the border to be coextensive with the Neman River, the treaty border started north of Memelberg and ran southeasterly to the Neman. This border remained until 1918. After the Treaty of Melno was signed, many Lithuanians returned to northern Prussia, which became known as Lithuania Minor in the 16th century.
After World War I ended in 1918, the Klaipėda Region was defined as a roughly triangular wedge, with the northern border being the Treaty of Melno border, the southern border following the Neman River, and on the west abutting the Baltic Sea. In 1923, fearing that the western powers would create a free state, Lithuanians took control of the region and, as part of larger regional negotiations, incorporated the region into the State of Lithuania. In March 1939 Lithuania acquiesced to Nazi demands and transferred the Klaipėda Region to Germany. As World War II came to an end in 1945, the Soviet Union incorporated the region into the Lithuanian SSR. Since 1990 the area of the Klaipėda Region has formed part of the independent Republic of Lithuania, as part of Klaipėda and Tauragė counties. The southern border established by the Treaty of Versailles defines the current international boundary between Lithuania and the Kaliningrad Oblast of the Russian Federation.
|Timeline with changes of control over the territory|
|pre-1252||Curonian and Scalovian tribes|
|1252–1525||Livonian Order and Monastic State of the Teutonic Knights (also Monastic State of Prussia)|
|1525–1657||Duchy of Prussia, a fief of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (with Prussia in personal union with Brandenburg since 1618)|
|1657–1701||Duchy of Prussia, a sovereign state in personal union with Brandenburg, a fief of the Holy Roman Empire (together also called Brandenburg-Prussia)|
|1701–1871||Kingdom of Prussia|
|1871–1918||Kingdom of Prussia, part of the German Empire|
|1918–1920||Free State of Prussia, part of Weimar Republic|
|1920–1923||Council of Ambassadors|
|1923–1939||Republic of Lithuania|
|1945–1990||Lithuanian SSR, part of the Soviet Union|
|1990–present||Republic of Lithuania|
The eastern boundaries of Prussia (from 1871, part of the German Empire), having remained unchanged since the Treaty of Melno in 1422, became a matter of discussion following World War I, as the newly independent states of Poland and Lithuania emerged. The separatist Act of Tilsit was signed by few pro-Lithuanian oriented Prussian Lithuanians in 1918, demanding the unification of Prussian Lithuania with Lithuania proper. It is traditionally viewed by Lithuanians as expressing the desire of Lithuania Minor to unite with Lithuania – but the majority of Prussian Lithuanians did not want to join with Lithuania and the Prussian Lithuanians did not make up a majority of the population.
The division of Prussia was also promoted by Poland's Roman Dmowskiin Versailles who acted by orders of Józef Piłsudski: the purpose was to give the lower part of Neman River and its delta, which was located in Germany and called the Memel River, to Lithuania as this would provide her access to the Baltic Sea, while Lithuania itself should be part of Poland. These ideas were supported by the French prime minister Georges Clemenceau.
In 1920, according to the Treaty of Versailles, the German area north of the Memel river was given the status of Territoire de Memel under the administration of the Council of Ambassadors, and French troops were sent for protection. During the period of French administration, the idea of an independent State of Memelland grew in popularity among local inhabitants. The organisation Deutsch-Litauischer Heimatbund (German-Lithuanian homeland federation) promoted the idea of a Freistaat Memelland, which later should return to Germany. It had 30,000 members, both ethnic Germans and Lithuanians, about 21% of the total population.
On 9 January 1923, three years after the Versailles Treaty had become effective, Lithuania occupied the territory during the Klaipėda Revolt,mainly by militia that had entered the region from Lithuania. France at the same time had started the Occupation of the Ruhr in Germany, and the French administration in Memel did not take any significant counteractive measures against the rebels. On 19 January, the territory was annexed by Lithuania, and the fait accompli was eventually confirmed by the Council of Ambassadors in 1924.
The area was subsequently annexed by Lithuania. In the Klaipėda Convention, signed by the Council of Ambassadors and Lithuania, the area was granted a separate parliament, two official languages, the capacity to raise its own taxes, charge custom duties, and manage its cultural and religious affairs, and was allowed a separate judicial system, separate citizenship, internal control of agriculture and forestry, as well as a separate social security system. The Council of Ambassadors accepted the resulting arrangement and confirmed the autonomy of the region within the Republic of Lithuania. On 8 May 1924 a further Convention on the Klaipėda region confirmed the annexation, and a resulting autonomy agreement was signed in Paris. The Memel Territory was recognized as an integral part[ dubious ] of the Republic of Lithuania also by The Weimar Republic on 29 January 1928, when the two countries signed the Lithuanian-German Border Treaty.[ citation needed ]
Importantly, the annexation gave Lithuania control of a year-round ice-free Baltic port. Lithuania made full use of Klaipėda's port, modernizing and adapting it, largely for its agricultural exports. The port reconstruction was certainly one of the larger long-term investment projects enacted by the government of Lithuania in the interwar period.
The inhabitants of the area were not given a choice on the ballot whether they wanted to be part of the Lithuanian state or part of Germany. Since the pro-German political parties had an overall majority of more than 80% in all elections to the local parliament (see election statistics below) in the interwar period, there can be little doubt that such a referendum would have been in favour of Germany. In fact, the area had been united since the monastic state of the 13th century, and even many Lithuanian-speakers, regarding themselves as East Prussians, declared themselves as "Memellanders/Klaipėdiškiai" in the official census (see below for demographic information) and did not want to belong to a Lithuanian national state. According to the Lithuanian point of view, Memellanders were viewed as Germanised Lithuanians who should be re-Lithuanised.
There was also a strong denominational difference since about 95% of the inhabitants of Lithuania Minor were Lutherans while more than 90% of Greater Lithuanians were Catholics. Following the Agreement concerning the Evangelical Church of the Klaipėda Region (German : Abkommen betr. die evangelische Kirche des Memelgebietes) of July 23, 1925, concluded between the Directorate of the Klaipėda Region and the Evangelical Church of the old-Prussian Union, a church of united administration of Lutheran and Reformed congregations, the mostly Lutheran congregations (and a single Reformed one in Klaipėda) in the Klaipėda Region were disentangled from the old-Prussian Ecclesiastical Province of East Prussia and formed the Regional Synodal Federation of the Memel Territory (Landessynodalverband Memelgebiet) since, being ranked an old-Prussian ecclesiastical province of its own. An own consistory in Klaipėda was established in 1927, led by a general superintendent (at first F. Gregor, elected in 1927, succeeded by O. Obereiniger, elected by the regional synod in 1933). The Catholic parishes in the Klaipėda Region used to belong to the Bishopric of Ermland until 1926 and were then disentangled, forming the new Territorial Prelature of Klaipėda under Prelate Justinas Staugaitis.
The government of Lithuania faced considerable opposition from the region's autonomous institutions, among others the Parliament of the Klaipėda Region. As years passed, claims were becoming more and more vocal about a re-integration into a resurgent Germany. It was only during the latter period that Lithuania then instituted a policy of "Lithuanization". This was met by even more opposition, as religious and regional differences slowly became insurmountable.
After the December 1926 coup d’état, Antanas Smetona came to power. As the status of the Memel Territory was regulated by international treaties, the Memel Territory became an oasis of democracy [ citation needed ]in Lithuania. Lithuanian intelligentsia often held marriages in Memel/Klaipėda, since Memel Territory was the only place in Lithuania where civil marriage was in use, in the rest of Lithuania only church marriages were legitimized. Thus, Lithuanian opposition to Smetona's regime was also based in Memel Territory.
At the start of the 1930s, certain leaders and members of pro-Nazi organizations in the region were put on trial by Lithuania "for crimes of terrorism". The 1934–5 proceedings of Neumann and Sass in Kaunas can be presented as the first anti-Nazi trial in Europe. Three members of the organizations were sentenced to death, and their leaders imprisoned. Following political and economic pressure from Germany, most were later released.
The local parliament had 29 seats, one for every 5,000 inhabitants. Men and women from age 23 had the right to vote.
See also the results of the January 1919 elections to the Nationalversammlung.
("Social Democratic Party")
|1925||38.1%: 11 seats||36.9%: 11 seats||16.0%: 5 seats||–||–||Others 9.0%: 2 seats||—|
|1927||33.6%: 10 seats||32.7%: 10 seats||10.1%: 3 seats||–||7.2%: 2 seats||–||13.6%: 4 seats|
|1930||31.8%: 10 seats||27.6%: 8 seats||13.8%: 4 seats||4.2%: 2 seats||–||–||22.7%: 5 seats|
|1932||37.1%: 11 seats||27.2%: 8 seats||7.8%: 2 seats||8.2%: 3 seats||–||–||19.7%: 5 seats|
|Unified German Election List||Greater Lithuania Parties|
|1935||81.2%: 24 seats||18.8%: 5 seats|
|1938||87.2%: 25 seats||12.8%: 4 seats|
A Lithuanian census carried out in the region in 1925 found its total population was 141,000.Declared language was used to classify the inhabitants, and on this basis 43.5 percent were German, 27.6 percent were Lithuanian, and 25.2 percent were "Klaipėdan" (Memelländisch). Other sources give the interwar ethnic composition as 41.9 percent German, 27.1 percent Memelländisch, and 26.6 percent Lithuanian.
|141,645||41.9%||27.1%||26.6%||4.4%||95% Evangelical Christians|
|141,645 (1930)||45.2%||24.2% (1925)||26.5%||–||Evangelical Lutheran 95%, Roman Catholic (1925)|
Overall, Prussian Lithuanians were more rural than Germans; the part of Lithuanian speakers in the city of Klaipėda itself increased over time due to urbanization and migration from villages into cities and later also from remaining Lithuania (in the city of Klaipėda, Lithuanian-speaking people made up 21.5% in 1912, 32.6% in 1925 and 38.7% in 1932*). Foreign citizens might include some Germans, who opted for German citizenship instead of Lithuanian (although at the time the German government pressured local Germans to take Lithuanian citizenship, so that German presence would remain). There were more Lithuanian speakers in the north of region (Klaipėdos apskritis and Šilutės apskritis) than in south (Pagėgių apskritis). Other locals included people of other nationalities who had citizenship of Lithuania, such as Jews.
In the 1930s, a novel by local author Ieva Simonaitytėbased on family history illustrated the centuries-old German–Lithuanian relations in the region.
The authoritarian regime of A. Smetona enforced a policy of discrimination and Lithuanisation: it sent administrators from Lithuania, and German teachers, officials and priests were fired from jobs. Local inhabitants—both Germans and Prussian Lithuanians—were not accepted for state service in Memel Territory. People were sent from Kaunas instead.
Until 1938, no Governor was appointed from local Prussian Lithuanians. This policy led Prussian Lithuanian intelligentsia and some local Germans to organise a society in 1934 to oppose Lithuanian rule. This group was soon dismantled.
Election results in Memel Territory were irritating[ citation needed ] for the authoritarian Smetona regime, and it attempted to "colonise" Memel Territory with Lithuanians. The Lithuanian settlements Jakai and Smeltė were built. The number of newcomers increased: in 1926 the number was 5,000, in 1939—30,000.
Lithuania introduced a hard-line Lithuanisation campaign that led to even deeper antagonism between local Prussian Lithuanians, Memellanders, Germans and newcomers.
By late 1938, Lithuania had lost control of the situation in the Territory. In the early hours of 23 March 1939, after an oral ultimatum had caused a Lithuanian delegation to travel to Berlin, the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Juozas Urbšys and his German counterpart Joachim von Ribbentrop signed the Treaty of the Cession of the Memel Territory to Germany in exchange for a Lithuanian Free Zone for 99 years in the port of Memel, using the facilities erected in previous years.
Hitler had anticipated this aboard a Kriegsmarine naval ship and at dawnsailed into Memel to celebrate the return heim ins Reich of the Memelland. This proved to be the last of a series of bloodless annexations of territories separated from the German or Austrian Empire by the Treaty of Versailles, which had been perceived by many Germans as a humiliation. German forces seized the territory even before the official Lithuanian ratification. The United Kingdom and France, as after the revolt of 1923, took no action. It was under these conditions that the Seimas was forced to approve the treaty, hoping that Germany would not press any other territorial demands upon Lithuania.
Still, the reunion with Germany was welcomed by the majority of the population, both by Germans and by Memellanders.
According to the treaty, the citizens of the Memel Territory were allowed to choose their citizenship: either German or Lithuanian. 303 people or, counting family members, 585, asked for Lithuanian citizenship but only 20 requests were granted.Another term stated that persons who had settled in the Memel Territory during the occupation period from 1923 to 1939 should emigrate. About 8,900 Lithuanians did so. At the same time, Germany expelled about 1,300 local Memel and Lithuanian Jews and about 40 Prussian Lithuanians.
Transitional Commissioner for the Integration of Memelland
After Nazi Germany took over the area in 1939, many Lithuanians and their organizations began leaving Memel and the surrounding area. Memel was quickly turned into a fortified naval base by the Germans. After the failure of the German invasion of the USSR the fate of East Prussia and Memel was sealed. By October 1944 the inhabitants of the area, without ethnic distinction, had to make a decision whether to stay or leave. Nearly all of the population were evacuated from the approaching Red Army, but the city itself was defended by the German army during the Battle of Memel until January 28, 1945. After its capture only six persons were found in the city.
At the end of the war, the majority of the inhabitants had fled to the West to settle in Germany. Still in 1945–46 there were around 35,000local inhabitants, both Prussian Lithuanians and Germans. The government of the Lithuanian SSR sent agitators into the displaced persons camps to make promises to former inhabitants that they could return and their property would be restored, yet the promises were never fulfilled. In the period of 1945–50 about 8,000 persons were repatriated. Bilingual Lithuanian-German returners were viewed as Germans.
The few remaining ethnic Germans were then forcibly expelled, with most opting to flee to what would become West Germany. Indigenous people who remained in the former Memel territory were dismissed from their jobs. Families of notable local Lithuanians, who had opposed German parties before the war, were deported to Siberia. In 1951 the Lithuanian SSR expelled 3,500 people from the former Memel Territory to East Germany. In 1958, when emigration was allowed, the majority of the surviving population, both Germans and Prussian Lithuanians, emigrated to West Germany; this event was called a repatriation of Germans by the Lithuanian SSR. Today these formerly Lutheran territories are mostly inhabited by Lithuanians who are Catholic and by Orthodox Russians. However, the minority Prussian Lithuanian Protestants historically were concentrated in these regions, and some remain to this day. Only a few thousandnatives are left. Their continued emigration is facilitated by the fact they are considered German citizens by the Federal Republic of Germany. No property restoration was performed by the Republic of Lithuania for owners prior to 1945.
Although maintaining that the Memel Territory in 1939 was re-annexed by Germany and acknowledging that Lithuania itself was occupied in 1940 by the Soviets, Lithuania, after regaining independence on 11 March 1990, did not restore autonomy to the Memel Territory.
Memel, a name derived from the Couronian-Latvian memelis, mimelis, mēms for "mute, silent", may refer to:
Klaipėda is a city in Lithuania on the Baltic Sea coast. It is the third largest city in Lithuania and the capital of Klaipėda County.
The Nemunas,Nioman, Neman, Nyoman, Niemen or Memel, is a major Eastern European river. It rises in Belarus and flows through Lithuania before draining into the Curonian Lagoon, and then into the Baltic Sea at Rusnė Island. It begins at the confluence of two smaller tributaries about 15 kilometers (9 mi) southwest of the town of Uzda in central Belarus, and about 55 km (34 mi) southwest of Minsk. In its lower reaches it forms the border between Lithuania and Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast. It also, very briefly, forms a part of the Belarus–Lithuania border. The largest river in Lithuania, and the third-largest in Belarus, the Neman is navigable for most of its 900 km (560 mi) length.
Lithuania Minor, or Prussian Lithuania, is a historical ethnographic region of Prussia, later East Prussia in Germany, where Prussian Lithuanians lived. Lithuania Minor enclosed the northern part of this province and got its name due to the territory's substantial Lithuanian-speaking population. Prior to the invasion of the Teutonic Knights in the 13th century, the main part of the territory later known as Lithuania Minor was inhabited by the tribes of Skalvians and Nadruvians. The land became depopulated to some extent during the warfare between Lithuania and the Teutonic Order. The war ended with the Treaty of Melno and the land was resettled by Lithuanian newcomers, returning refugees, and the remaining indigenous Baltic peoples; the term Lithuania Minor appeared for the first time between 1517 and 1526. With the exception of the Klaipėda Region, which became a mandated territory of the League of Nations in 1920 by the Treaty of Versailles and was annexed to Lithuania from 1923 to 1939, the area was part of Prussia until 1945. Since 1945 a small portion of Lithuania Minor is within the borders of modern Lithuania and Poland while most of the territory is part of the Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia.
The Klaipėda Revolt took place in January 1923 in the Klaipėda Region. The region, located north of the Neman River, was detached from East Prussia, Germany by the Treaty of Versailles and became a mandate of the League of Nations. It was placed under provisional French administration until a more permanent solution could be worked out. Lithuania wanted to unite with the region due to its large Lithuanian-speaking minority of Prussian Lithuanians and major port of Klaipėda (Memel) – the only viable access to the Baltic Sea for Lithuania. As the Conference of Ambassadors favored leaving the region as a free city, similar to the Free City of Danzig, the Lithuanians organized and staged a revolt.
The Act of Tilsit was an act, signed in Tilsit by 24 members of the National Council of Lithuania Minor on November 30, 1918. Signatories demanded unification of Lithuania Minor and Lithuania Proper into a single Lithuanian state. This would mean detaching the northern areas of East Prussia, inhabited by Prussian Lithuanians, from the German Empire.
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Priekulė is a small town in Klaipėda District Municipality, Lithuania. It is located on the banks of Minija River about 20 kilometres (12 mi) south of Klaipėda. Priekulė is the seat of Priekulė elderate. Priekulė was part of East Prussia for most of its history and, as part of the Klaipėda Region, became part of Lithuania in 1923–1939 and after World War II in 1945.
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Nemirseta is a district of the Lithuanian seaside resort Palanga, located on the Baltic coast north of Klaipėda. The place, which consists mainly of two deserted buildings which lost their former purpose as an inn and customs house, is notable for having marked for about five centuries the northernmost point of Prussia and the northeastern tip of the German Empire from 1871. Its German name literally means "glutton", although etymologically it is a corruption of the Old Curonian toponym Nimersata denoting marshy land (nemiršele).
The 1939 German ultimatum to Lithuania was an oral ultimatum which Joachim von Ribbentrop, Foreign Minister of Nazi Germany, presented to Juozas Urbšys, Foreign Minister of Lithuania on 20 March 1939. The Germans demanded that Lithuania give up the Klaipėda Region which had been detached from Germany after World War I, or the Wehrmacht would invade Lithuania. The Lithuanians had been expecting the demand after years of rising tension between Lithuania and Germany, increasing pro-Nazi propaganda in the region, and continued German expansion. It was issued just five days after the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. The 1924 Klaipėda Convention had guaranteed the protection of the status quo in the region, but the four signatories to that convention did not offer any material assistance. The United Kingdom and France followed a policy of appeasement, while Italy and Japan openly supported Germany, and Lithuania was forced to accept the ultimatum on 22 March. It proved to be the last territorial acquisition for Germany before World War II, producing a major downturn in Lithuania's economy and escalating pre-war tensions for Europe as a whole.
The Klaipėda Convention was an international agreement between Lithuania and the countries of the Conference of Ambassadors signed in Paris on May 8, 1924. According to the convention, the Klaipėda Region became an autonomous region under unconditional sovereignty of Lithuania.
Erdmonas Simonaitis was a Prussian Lithuanian activist particularly active in the Klaipėda Region and advocating its union with Lithuania. During the staged Klaipėda Revolt of 1923, he headed the pro-Lithuanian government of the region. For his anti-German activities, he was persecuted by the Nazis during World War II. He survived the Mauthausen-Gusen and Dachau concentration camps. After the war he remained in Germany and rejoined various Lithuanian organizations. He was awarded the Order of Vytautas the Great and Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas.
The Directorate of the Klaipėda Region was the main governing institution in the Klaipėda Region from February 1920 to March 1939. It was established by local German political parties to govern the region between the signing of the Treaty of Versailles and establishment of French provision administration. Instead of replacing it, the French legitimized the Directorate. It mainly represented German interests and supported the idea of leaving the region as a free city, similar to the Free City of Danzig. Dismayed Lithuanian government and Prussian Lithuanian activists, who campaigned for incorporation into Lithuania, organized the Klaipėda Revolt in January 1923. The revolt was staged as a popular uprising against the unbearable oppression by the German Directorate. The revolt was successful and the region was incorporated into Lithuania as an autonomous region, governed by the Klaipėda Convention of May 1924.
The Parliament of the Klaipėda Region was the parliament of the Klaipėda Region, an autonomous region of Lithuania. The parliament was established by the Klaipėda Convention of 1924 and the first elections took place in October 1925. In all elections pro-German parties received more than 80% of the vote. The major parties included the Memel Agricultural Party, Memel People's Party, and Social Democratic Party of the Memel Territory. The pro-German parliament often clashed with the pro-Lithuanian Klaipėda Directorate and the first three parliaments were dismissed before the end of their full three-year term. The parliament was disbanded after the ultimatum of March 1939 and subsequent Nazi German takeover of the region.
Wilhelm "Willi" Bertuleit was a Prussian Lithuanian active in the Klaipėda Region (Memelland). He supported Nazi Germany and its attempts to retake the region from Lithuania. He was a member of the NSDAP and SA. He was killed in action serving in the Wehrmacht in the Eastern Front.
Apie norą susijungti su nuskurdusia Lietuva daugumai lietuvininkų negalėjo būti nė kalbos.
Tr.: The majority of Prussian Lithuanians did not even want to talk about unification with poor Lithuania.
The strong lithuanization policy from Lithuanian State gave the inverse effect, reflected by anti-Lithuanian dispositions among Germans and local Lietuvininkai people. The forms of Lithuanization policy were not acceptable for Klaipėda region local Lietuvininkai people. Having no other alternatives, they started to nestle themselves with much more known for them German national identity