East Prussia

East Prussia

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East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia
Prussia (region)
Prussia is a historical region in Central Europe extending from the south-eastern coast of the Baltic Sea to the Masurian Lake District. It is now divided between Poland, Russia, and Lithuania...

 along the southeastern Baltic Coast
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

 from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia
Province of East Prussia
The Province of East Prussia was a province of Prussia from 1773–1829 and 1878-1945. Composed of the historical region East Prussia, the province's capital was Königsberg ....

 was part of the German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 state of Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

. The capital city was Königsberg
Königsberg
Königsberg was the capital of East Prussia from the Late Middle Ages until 1945 as well as the northernmost and easternmost German city with 286,666 inhabitants . Due to the multicultural society in and around the city, there are several local names for it...

.

East Prussia enclosed the bulk of the ancestral lands of the Baltic Old Prussians
Old Prussians
The Old Prussians or Baltic Prussians were an ethnic group, autochthonous Baltic tribes that inhabited Prussia, the lands of the southeastern Baltic Sea in the area around the Vistula and Curonian Lagoons...

. During the 13th century, the native Prussians were conquered by the crusading Teutonic Knights
Teutonic Knights
The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem , commonly the Teutonic Order , is a German medieval military order, in modern times a purely religious Catholic order...

. The indigenous Balts who survived the conquest
Northern Crusades
The Northern Crusades or Baltic Crusades were crusades undertaken by the Christian kings of Denmark and Sweden, the German Livonian and Teutonic military orders, and their allies against the pagan peoples of Northern Europe around the southern and eastern shores of the Baltic Sea...

 were gradually converted to Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

. Because of Germanization and colonisation over the following centuries, Germans
Germans
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

 became the dominant ethnic group, while Poles
Poles
thumb|right|180px|The state flag of [[Poland]] as used by Polish government and diplomatic authoritiesThe Polish people, or Poles , are a nation indigenous to Poland. They are united by the Polish language, which belongs to the historical Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages of Central Europe...

 and Lithuanians
Lithuanians
Lithuanians are the Baltic ethnic group native to Lithuania, where they number around 2,765,600 people. Another million or more make up the Lithuanian diaspora, largely found in countries such as the United States, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Russia, United Kingdom and Ireland. Their native language...

 formed minorities. From the 13th century, East Prussia was part of the monastic state of the Teutonic Knights
Monastic State of the Teutonic Knights
The State of the Teutonic Order, , also Monastic State of the Teutonic Knights or Ordensstaat , was formed in 1224 during the Northern Crusades, the Teutonic Knights' conquest of the pagan West-Baltic Old Prussians in the 13th century....

, which became the Duchy of Prussia in 1525. The Old Prussian language had become extinct by the 17th or early 18th century.

Following the death of Hohenzollern Albert of Brandenburg Prussia, Duke of Prussia (1525–1568), Joachim II, the prince-elector
Prince-elector
The Prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire were the members of the electoral college of the Holy Roman Empire, having the function of electing the Roman king or, from the middle of the 16th century onwards, directly the Holy Roman Emperor.The heir-apparent to a prince-elector was known as an...

 Kurfürst of Brandenburg, became co-inheritor of Ducal Prussia. In 1577, House of Hohenzollern
House of Hohenzollern
The House of Hohenzollern is a noble family and royal dynasty of electors, kings and emperors of Prussia, Germany and Romania. It originated in the area around the town of Hechingen in Swabia during the 11th century. They took their name from their ancestral home, the Burg Hohenzollern castle near...

 co-regents took over administration from Albert's only son, Albert Friedrich. In 1618 the Duchy of Prussia again passed by inheritance and in personal union
Brandenburg-Prussia
Brandenburg-Prussia is the historiographic denomination for the Early Modern realm of the Brandenburgian Hohenzollerns between 1618 and 1701. Based in the Electorate of Brandenburg, the main branch of the Hohenzollern intermarried with the branch ruling the Duchy of Prussia, and secured succession...

 with the Hohenzollerns
House of Hohenzollern
The House of Hohenzollern is a noble family and royal dynasty of electors, kings and emperors of Prussia, Germany and Romania. It originated in the area around the town of Hechingen in Swabia during the 11th century. They took their name from their ancestral home, the Burg Hohenzollern castle near...

 of Brandenburg
Margraviate of Brandenburg
The Margraviate of Brandenburg was a major principality of the Holy Roman Empire from 1157 to 1806. Also known as the March of Brandenburg , it played a pivotal role in the history of Germany and Central Europe....

 and the territory was called Brandenburg-Prussia
Brandenburg-Prussia
Brandenburg-Prussia is the historiographic denomination for the Early Modern realm of the Brandenburgian Hohenzollerns between 1618 and 1701. Based in the Electorate of Brandenburg, the main branch of the Hohenzollern intermarried with the branch ruling the Duchy of Prussia, and secured succession...

. The territories of the House of Hohenzollern
House of Hohenzollern
The House of Hohenzollern is a noble family and royal dynasty of electors, kings and emperors of Prussia, Germany and Romania. It originated in the area around the town of Hechingen in Swabia during the 11th century. They took their name from their ancestral home, the Burg Hohenzollern castle near...

 were scattered in Franconia
Franconia
Franconia is a region of Germany comprising the northern parts of the modern state of Bavaria, a small part of southern Thuringia, and a region in northeastern Baden-Württemberg called Tauberfranken...

, Brandenburg
Brandenburg
Brandenburg is one of the sixteen federal-states of Germany. It lies in the east of the country and is one of the new federal states that were re-created in 1990 upon the reunification of the former West Germany and East Germany. The capital is Potsdam...

, eastern Prussia and elsewhere.

Because the duchy was outside of the core Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 (Prussia was under HRE administration by the Teutonic Order grandmasters), the prince-elector
Prince-elector
The Prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire were the members of the electoral college of the Holy Roman Empire, having the function of electing the Roman king or, from the middle of the 16th century onwards, directly the Holy Roman Emperor.The heir-apparent to a prince-elector was known as an...

s of Brandenburg were able to proclaim themselves kings in Prussia
King in Prussia
King in Prussia was a title used by the Electors of Brandenburg from 1701 to 1772. Subsequently they used the title King of Prussia....

 beginning in 1701. After the annexation of most of western Royal Prussia
Royal Prussia
Royal Prussia was a Region of the Kingdom of Poland and of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth . Polish Prussia included Pomerelia, Chełmno Land , Malbork Voivodeship , Gdańsk , Toruń , and Elbląg . It is distinguished from Ducal Prussia...

 in the 1772 First Partition
First Partition of Poland
The First Partition of Poland or First Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth 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...

 of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was a dualistic state of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch. It was the largest and one of the most populous countries of 16th- and 17th‑century Europe with some and a multi-ethnic population of 11 million at its peak in the early 17th century...

, East Prussia was connected by land with the rest of the Prussian state and was reorganized as the Province of East Prussia
Province of East Prussia
The Province of East Prussia was a province of Prussia from 1773–1829 and 1878-1945. Composed of the historical region East Prussia, the province's capital was Königsberg ....

 the following year. Between 1829 and 1878, the Province of East Prussia was joined with West Prussia to form the Province of Prussia
Province of Prussia
The Province of Prussia was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1829-1878 created out of the provinces of East Prussia and West Prussia....

.

The Kingdom of Prussia became the leading state of the German Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 after its creation in 1871. However, the Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

 following World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 restored West Prussia to Poland and made East Prussia an exclave of Weimar Germany
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

, while the Memel Territory was detached and was annexed by Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

 in 1923. Following Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

's defeat in World War II in 1945, war-torn East Prussia was divided at Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

's insistence between the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 (the Kaliningrad Oblast
Kaliningrad Oblast
Kaliningrad Oblast is a federal subject of Russia situated on the Baltic coast. It has a population of The oblast forms the westernmost part of the Russian Federation, but it has no land connection to the rest of Russia. Since its creation it has been an exclave of the Russian SFSR and then the...

 in the Russian SFSR and the constituent counties of the Klaipėda Region
Klaipėda Region
The Klaipėda Region or Memel Territory was defined by the Treaty of Versailles in 1920 when it was put under the administration of the Council of Ambassadors...

 in the Lithuanian SSR
Lithuanian SSR
The Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic , also known as the Lithuanian SSR, was one of the republics that made up the former Soviet Union...

) and the People's Republic of Poland
People's Republic of Poland
The People's Republic of Poland was the official name of Poland from 1952 to 1990. Although the Soviet Union took control of the country immediately after the liberation from Nazi Germany in 1944, the name of the state was not changed until eight years later...

 (the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship
Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship
Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, or Warmia-Masuria Province , is a voivodeship in northeastern Poland. Its capital and largest city is Olsztyn...

). The capital city Königsberg was renamed Kaliningrad
Kaliningrad
Kaliningrad is a seaport and the administrative center of Kaliningrad Oblast, the Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea...

 in 1946. The German population of the province was largely evacuated
Evacuation of East Prussia
The evacuation of East Prussia refers to the evacuation of the German civilian population and military personnel in East Prussia and the Klaipėda region between 20 January, and March 1945, as part of the evacuation of German civilians towards the end of World War II...

 during the war or expelled shortly thereafter in the expulsion of Germans after World War II
Expulsion of Germans after World War II
The later stages of World War II, and the period after the end of that war, saw the forced migration of millions of German nationals and ethnic Germans from various European states and territories, mostly into the areas which would become post-war Germany and post-war Austria...

. An estimated 300,000 (around one fifth of the population) died either in war time bombings raids or the battles to defend the province.

From Catholic monastic state to Protestant duchy


Upon the invitation of Duke Konrad I of Masovia
Konrad I of Masovia
Konrad I of Masovia , from the Polish Piast dynasty, was the sixth Duke of Masovia from 1194 until his death and High Duke of Poland from 1229 to 1232.-Life:...

, the Teutonic Knights
Teutonic Knights
The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem , commonly the Teutonic Order , is a German medieval military order, in modern times a purely religious Catholic order...

 took possession of Prussia
Prussia (region)
Prussia is a historical region in Central Europe extending from the south-eastern coast of the Baltic Sea to the Masurian Lake District. It is now divided between Poland, Russia, and Lithuania...

 in the 13th century and created a monastic state
Monastic State of the Teutonic Knights
The State of the Teutonic Order, , also Monastic State of the Teutonic Knights or Ordensstaat , was formed in 1224 during the Northern Crusades, the Teutonic Knights' conquest of the pagan West-Baltic Old Prussians in the 13th century....

 to administer the conquered Old Prussians
Old Prussians
The Old Prussians or Baltic Prussians were an ethnic group, autochthonous Baltic tribes that inhabited Prussia, the lands of the southeastern Baltic Sea in the area around the Vistula and Curonian Lagoons...

. The Knights' expansionist policies brought them into conflict with the Kingdom of Poland
Kingdom of Poland (1385–1569)
The Kingdom of Poland of the Jagiellons was the Polish state created by the accession of Jogaila , Grand Duke of Lithuania, to the Polish throne in 1386. The Union of Krewo or Krėva Act, united Poland and Lithuania under the rule of a single monarch...

 and embroiled them in several wars, culminating in the Polish-Lithuanian-Teutonic War
Polish-Lithuanian-Teutonic War
The Polish–Lithuanian–Teutonic War or Great War occurred between 1409 and 1411, pitting allied Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania against the Teutonic Knights. Inspired by the local Samogitian uprising, the war began by Teutonic invasion of Poland in August 1409...

, whereby the united armies of Poland and Lithuania
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state from the 12th /13th century until 1569 and then as a constituent part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1791 when Constitution of May 3, 1791 abolished it in favor of unitary state. It was founded by the Lithuanians, one of the polytheistic...

, defeated the Teutonic Order at the Battle of Grunwald (Tannenberg)
Battle of Grunwald
The Battle of Grunwald or 1st Battle of Tannenberg was fought on 15 July 1410, during the Polish–Lithuanian–Teutonic War. The alliance of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, led respectively by King Jogaila and Grand Duke Vytautas , decisively defeated the Teutonic Knights, led...

 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 Pomerelia
Pomerelia
Pomerelia is a historical region in northern Poland. Pomerelia lay in eastern Pomerania: on the southern shore of the Baltic Sea and west of the Vistula and its delta. The area centered on the city of Gdańsk at the mouth of the Vistula...

 and under Polish control. Together with Warmia
Warmia
Warmia or Ermland is a region between Pomerelia and Masuria in northeastern Poland. Together with Masuria, it forms the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship....

 it formed the province of Royal Prussia
Royal Prussia
Royal Prussia was a Region of the Kingdom of Poland and of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth . Polish Prussia included Pomerelia, Chełmno Land , Malbork Voivodeship , Gdańsk , Toruń , and Elbląg . It is distinguished from Ducal 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
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 as well as the previous gains of the Teutonic Knights
Teutonic Knights
The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem , commonly the Teutonic Order , is a German medieval military order, in modern times a purely religious Catholic order...

 were not verified.

The Teutonic Order lost eastern Prussia when Grand Master Albert of Brandenburg-Ansbach converted to Lutheranism
Lutheranism
Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the theology of Martin Luther, a German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation...

 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
Vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

 of the Polish crown by the Prussian Homage
Prussian Homage
The Prussian Homage or Tribute was the formal investment of Albert of Prussia as duke of the Polish fief of Ducal Prussia.In the aftermath of the armistice ending the Polish-Teutonic War Albert, Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights and a member of the House of Hohenzollern, visited Martin Luther...

. Walter von Cronberg
Walter von Cronberg
Walter von Cronberg was the 38th Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, serving from 1527 to 1543.- Biography :Von Cronberg hailed from a rather poor family of knights from Kronberg Castle near Frankfurt. He joined the Teutonic Order in 1497 and held the post of a tax collector in the Komturei of...

, the next Grand Master, was enfeoffed
Enfeoffment
Under the European feudal system, enfeoffment was the deed by which a person was given land in exchange for a pledge of service. This mechanism was later used to avoid restrictions on the passage of title in land by a system in which a landowner would give land to one person for the use of another...

 with the title to Prussia after the Diet of Augsburg
Diet of Augsburg
The Diet of Augsburg were the meetings of the Imperial Diet of the Holy Roman Empire in the German city of Augsburg. There were many such sessions, but the three meetings during the Reformation and the ensuing religious wars between the Roman Catholic emperor Charles V and the Protestant...

 in 1530, but the Order never regained possession of the territory. In 1569 the Hohenzollern
House of Hohenzollern
The House of Hohenzollern is a noble family and royal dynasty of electors, kings and emperors of Prussia, Germany and Romania. It originated in the area around the town of Hechingen in Swabia during the 11th century. They took their name from their ancestral home, the Burg Hohenzollern castle near...

 prince-elector
Prince-elector
The Prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire were the members of the electoral college of the Holy Roman Empire, having the function of electing the Roman king or, from the middle of the 16th century onwards, directly the Holy Roman Emperor.The heir-apparent to a prince-elector was known as an...

s of the Margraviate of Brandenburg
Margraviate of Brandenburg
The Margraviate of Brandenburg was a major principality of the Holy Roman Empire from 1157 to 1806. Also known as the March of Brandenburg , it played a pivotal role in the history of Germany and Central Europe....

 became co-regents with Albert's son, the feeble-minded Albert Frederick
Albert Frederick, Duke of Prussia
Albert Frederick was duke of Prussia from 1568 until his death. He was a son of Albert of Prussia and Anna Marie of Brunswick-Lüneburg. He was the second and last Prussian duke of the Ansbach branch of the Hohenzollern family.-Duke of Prussia:...

.

The Administrator of Prussia, the grandmaster of the Teutonic Order Maximilian III, son of emperor Maximilian II
Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor
Maximilian II was king of Bohemia and king of the Romans from 1562, king of Hungary and Croatia from 1563, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation from 1564 until his death...

 died in 1618. Albert's line died out in 1618, and the Duchy of Prussia passed to the Electors of Brandenburg, forming Brandenburg-Prussia
Brandenburg-Prussia
Brandenburg-Prussia is the historiographic denomination for the Early Modern realm of the Brandenburgian Hohenzollerns between 1618 and 1701. Based in the Electorate of Brandenburg, the main branch of the Hohenzollern intermarried with the branch ruling the Duchy of Prussia, and secured succession...

. Through the treaties of Wehlau, Labiau
Treaty of Labiau
The Treaty of Labiau was a treaty signed between Frederick William I, Elector of Brandenburg and Charles X Gustav of Sweden on 10 November / 20 November 1656 in Labiau...

, and Oliva
Treaty of Oliva
The Treaty or Peace of Oliva of 23 April /3 May 1660 was one of the peace treaties ending the Second Northern War...

, Elector and Duke Frederick William
Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg
|align=right|Frederick William was Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia – and thus ruler of Brandenburg-Prussia – from 1640 until his death. A member of the House of Hohenzollern, he is popularly known as the "Great Elector" because of his military and political prowess...

 succeeded in revoking king of Poland's sovereignty over the Duchy of Prussia in 1660. The absolutist
Absolutism (European history)
Absolutism or The Age of Absolutism is a historiographical term used to describe a form of monarchical power that is unrestrained by all other institutions, such as churches, legislatures, or social elites...

 elector also subdued the noble estates of Prussia.

Kingdom of Prussia


Although Brandenburg was a part of the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

, the Prussian lands were not within the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 and were with the administration by the Teutonic Order grandmasters under jurisdiction of the Emperor. In return for supporting Emperor Leopold I
Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor
| style="float:right;" | Leopold I was a Holy Roman Emperor, King of Hungary and King of Bohemia. A member of the Habsburg family, he was the second son of Emperor Ferdinand III and his first wife, Maria Anna of Spain. His maternal grandparents were Philip III of Spain and Margaret of Austria...

 in the War of the Spanish Succession
War of the Spanish Succession
The War of the Spanish Succession was fought among several European powers, including a divided Spain, over the possible unification of the Kingdoms of Spain and France under one Bourbon monarch. As France and Spain were among the most powerful states of Europe, such a unification would have...

, Elector Frederick III
Frederick I of Prussia
Frederick I , of the Hohenzollern dynasty, was Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia in personal union . The latter function he upgraded to royalty, becoming the first King in Prussia . From 1707 he was in personal union the sovereign prince of the Principality of Neuchâtel...

 was allowed to crown himself "King in Prussia
King in Prussia
King in Prussia was a title used by the Electors of Brandenburg from 1701 to 1772. Subsequently they used the title King of Prussia....

" in 1701. The new kingdom ruled by the Hohenzollern dynasty became known as the Kingdom of Prussia
Kingdom of Prussia
The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom from 1701 to 1918. Until the defeat of Germany in World War I, it comprised almost two-thirds of the area of the German Empire...

. The designation "Kingdom of Prussia
Kingdom of Prussia
The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom from 1701 to 1918. Until the defeat of Germany in World War I, it comprised almost two-thirds of the area of the German Empire...

" 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
Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

 and famine
Famine
A famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including crop failure, overpopulation, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality. Every continent in the world has...

 of 1709–1711, including the last speakers of Old Prussian. The plague, probably brought by foreign troops during the Great Northern War
Great Northern War
The Great Northern War was a conflict in which a coalition led by the Tsardom of Russia successfully contested the supremacy of the Swedish Empire in northern Central Europe and Eastern Europe. The initial leaders of the anti-Swedish alliance were Peter I the Great of Russia, Frederick IV of...

, killed 250,000 East Prussians, especially in the province's eastern regions. Crown Prince Frederick William I
Frederick William I of Prussia
Frederick William I of the House of Hohenzollern, was the King in Prussia and Elector of Brandenburg from 1713 until his death...

 led the rebuilding of East Prussia, founding numerous towns. Thousands of Protestants expelled from the Archbishopric of Salzburg
Archbishopric of Salzburg
The Archbishopric of Salzburg was an ecclesiastical State of the Holy Roman Empire, its territory roughly congruent with the present-day Austrian state of Salzburg....

 were allowed to settle in depleted East Prussia. The province was overrun by Imperial Russian
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 troops during the Seven Years' War
Seven Years' War
The Seven Years' War was a global military war between 1756 and 1763, involving most of the great powers of the time and affecting Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines...

.

After the First Partition of Poland
Partitions of Poland
The Partitions of Poland or Partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth took place in the second half of the 18th century and ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland for 123 years...

 in 1772, Warmia
Warmia
Warmia or Ermland is a region between Pomerelia and Masuria in northeastern Poland. Together with Masuria, it forms the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship....

, part of western Royal Prussia
Royal Prussia
Royal Prussia was a Region of the Kingdom of Poland and of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth . Polish Prussia included Pomerelia, Chełmno Land , Malbork Voivodeship , Gdańsk , Toruń , and Elbląg . It is distinguished from Ducal Prussia...

, was merged with the former Duchy of Prussia. On 31 January 1773, King Frederick II
Frederick II of Prussia
Frederick II was a King in Prussia and a King of Prussia from the Hohenzollern dynasty. In his role as a prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire, he was also Elector of Brandenburg. He was in personal union the sovereign prince of the Principality of Neuchâtel...

 announced that the newly annexed lands were to be known as the Province of West Prussia
West Prussia
West Prussia was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1773–1824 and 1878–1919/20 which was created out of the earlier Polish province of Royal Prussia...

, while the former Duchy of Prussia and Warmia became the Province of East Prussia
Province of East Prussia
The Province of East Prussia was a province of Prussia from 1773–1829 and 1878-1945. Composed of the historical region East Prussia, the province's capital was Königsberg ....

.

From 1824–1878, East Prussia was combined with West Prussia to form the Province of Prussia
Province of Prussia
The Province of Prussia was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1829-1878 created out of the provinces of East Prussia and West Prussia....

, after which they were reestablished as separate provinces.

German Empire


Along with the rest of the Kingdom of Prussia, East Prussia became part of the German Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 during the unification of Germany
Unification of Germany
The formal unification of Germany into a politically and administratively integrated nation state officially occurred on 18 January 1871 at the Versailles Palace's Hall of Mirrors in France. Princes of the German states gathered there to proclaim Wilhelm of Prussia as Emperor Wilhelm of the German...

 in 1871.

From 1885 to 1890 Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

's population grew by 20%, Brandenburg
Brandenburg
Brandenburg is one of the sixteen federal-states of Germany. It lies in the east of the country and is one of the new federal states that were re-created in 1990 upon the reunification of the former West Germany and East Germany. The capital is Potsdam...

 and the Rhineland
Rhineland
Historically, the Rhinelands refers to a loosely-defined region embracing the land on either bank of the River Rhine in central Europe....

 gained 8.5%, Westphalia
Westphalia
Westphalia is a region in Germany, centred on the cities of Arnsberg, Bielefeld, Dortmund, Minden and Münster.Westphalia is roughly the region between the rivers Rhine and Weser, located north and south of the Ruhr River. No exact definition of borders can be given, because the name "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
Ruhr Area
The Ruhr, by German-speaking geographers and historians more accurately called Ruhr district or Ruhr region , is an urban area in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. With 4435 km² and a population of some 5.2 million , it is the largest urban agglomeration in Germany...

 and Berlin (see Ostflucht
Ostflucht
The Ostflucht was a movement by residents of the former eastern territories of Germany, such as East Prussia, West Prussia, Silesia and Province of Posen beginning around 1850, to the more industrialized western German Rhine and Ruhr provinces...

).

The population of the province in 1900 was 1,996,626 people, with a religious make up of 1,698,465 Protestants
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

, 269,196 Roman Catholics
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, and 13,877 Jews. The Low Prussian
Low Prussian
Low Prussian , sometimes known simply as Prussian , is a dialect of East Low German that developed in East Prussia. Low Prussian was spoken in East and West Prussia and Danzig up to 1945. It developed on a Baltic substrate through the influx of Dutch and Low German speaking immigrants...

 dialect predominated in East Prussia, although High Prussian
High Prussian
High Prussian is a dialect of East Central German that developed in the region of East Prussia. The dialect developed from High German, brought in by Silesian German settlers in the 13th—15th centuries, and was influenced by the Baltic Old Prussian language...

 was spoken in Warmia
Warmia
Warmia or Ermland is a region between Pomerelia and Masuria in northeastern Poland. Together with Masuria, it forms the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship....

. The numbers of Masurians and Prussian Lithuanians
Prussian Lithuanians
The term Prussian Lithuanians or Lietuvininkai refers to a Western Lithuanian ethnic group, which did not form a nation and inhabited a territory in East Prussia called Prussian Lithuania or Lithuania Minor in contrast to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later the Republic of Lithuania .Unlike most...

 decreased over time due to the process of Germanization. The Polish-speaking population concentrated in the south of the province (Masuria
Masuria
Masuria is an area in northeastern Poland famous for its 2,000 lakes. Geographically, Masuria is part of two adjacent lakeland districts, the Masurian Lake District and the Iława Lake District...

 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 Poles estimated at the time to be 300.000.Lithuanian-speaking Prussians concentrated in the northeast (Lithuania Minor
Lithuania Minor
Lithuania Minor or Prussian Lithuania is a historical ethnographic region of Prussia, later East Prussia in Germany, where Prussian Lithuanians or Lietuvininkai lived. Lithuania Minor enclosed the northern part of this province and got its name due to the territory's substantial...

). The Old Prussian ethnic group
Old Prussians
The Old Prussians or Baltic Prussians were an ethnic group, autochthonous Baltic tribes that inhabited Prussia, the lands of the southeastern Baltic Sea in the area around the Vistula and Curonian Lagoons...

 became completely Germanized over time and the Old Prussian language
Old Prussian language
Prussian is an extinct Baltic language, once spoken by the inhabitants of the original territory of Prussia in an area of what later became East Prussia and eastern parts of...

 died out in the 18th century.

World War I


At the beginning of World War I, East Prussia became a theatre of war
Eastern Front (World War I)
The Eastern Front was a theatre of war during World War I in Central and, primarily, Eastern Europe. The term is in contrast to the Western Front. Despite the geographical separation, the events in the two theatres strongly influenced each other...

 when the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 invaded the country. The Russian Army
Imperial Russian Army
The Imperial Russian Army was the land armed force of the Russian Empire, active from around 1721 to the Russian Revolution of 1917. In the early 1850s, the Russian army consisted of around 938,731 regular soldiers and 245,850 irregulars . Until the time of military reform of Dmitry Milyutin in...

 encountered at first little resistance because the bulk of the German Army
German Army
The German Army is the land component of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. Following the disbanding of the Wehrmacht after World War II, it was re-established in 1955 as the Bundesheer, part of the newly formed West German Bundeswehr along with the Navy and the Air Force...

 had been directed towards the Western Front
Western Front (World War I)
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by first invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne...

 according to the Schlieffen Plan
Schlieffen Plan
The Schlieffen Plan was the German General Staff's early 20th century overall strategic plan for victory in a possible future war in which the German Empire might find itself fighting on two fronts: France to the west and Russia to the east...

. In the Battle of Tannenberg
Battle of Tannenberg (1914)
The Battle of Tannenberg was an engagement between the Russian Empire and the German Empire in the first days of World War I. It was fought by the Russian First and Second Armies against the German Eighth Army between 23 August and 30 August 1914. The battle resulted in the almost complete...

 in 1914 and the Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes
Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes
The Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes, also known as the Winter Battle of the Masurian Lakes, was the northern part of the Central Powers' offensive on the Eastern Front in the winter of 1915...

 in 1915, however, the Russians were decisively defeated and forced to retreat, followed by the German Army advancing into Russian territory. The majority of the civilian population fled before the invading Russian Army, 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
Abschwangen massacre
Abschwangen was a small village near Preussisch Eylau in East Prussia some 30 km south of Königsberg, today Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia and the scene of a massacre of German civilians in August 1914.- Prelude :...

. The region had to be rebuilt because of damage caused by the war.

Weimar Republic



With the forced abdication of Emperor William II
William II, German Emperor
Wilhelm II was the last German Emperor and King of Prussia, ruling the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia from 15 June 1888 to 9 November 1918. He was a grandson of the British Queen Victoria and related to many monarchs and princes of Europe...

 in 1918, Germany became a republic
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

. Most of West Prussia and the former Prussian Province of Posen
Province of Posen
The Province of Posen was a province of Prussia from 1848–1918 and as such part of the German Empire from 1871 to 1918. The area was about 29,000 km2....

, territories annexed by Prussia in the 18th century Partitions of Poland
Partitions of Poland
The Partitions of Poland or Partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth took place in the second half of the 18th century and ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland for 123 years...

, were ceded to the Second Polish Republic
Second Polish Republic
The Second Polish Republic, Second Commonwealth of Poland or interwar Poland refers to Poland between the two world wars; a period in Polish history in which Poland was restored as an independent state. Officially known as the Republic of Poland or the Commonwealth of Poland , the Polish state was...

 according to the Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

. East Prussia became an exclave, being separated from mainland Germany. The Seedienst Ostpreußen
Seedienst Ostpreußen
The Seedienst Ostpreussen or Sea Service East Prussia was a ferry connection between the German provinces of Pomerania and, later, Schleswig-Holstein and the German exclave of East Prussia from 1920 to 1939.- Political background :...

 was established to provide an independent transport service to East Prussia.

On 11 July 1920, amidst the backdrop of the Polish-Soviet War
Polish-Soviet War
The Polish–Soviet War was an armed conflict between Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine and the Second Polish Republic and the Ukrainian People's Republic—four states in post–World War I Europe...

, the East Prussian plebiscite
East Prussian plebiscite
The East Prussia plebiscite , also known as the Allenstein and Marienwerder plebiscite or Warmia, Masuria and Powiśle plebiscite , was a plebiscite for self-determination of the regions Warmia , Masuria and Powiśle, which had been in parts of East Prussia and West Prussia, in accordance with...

 in eastern West Prussia and southern East Prussia was held under Allied supervision to determine if the areas should join the Second Polish Republic
Second Polish Republic
The Second Polish Republic, Second Commonwealth of Poland or interwar Poland refers to Poland between the two world wars; a period in Polish history in which Poland was restored as an independent state. Officially known as the Republic of Poland or the Commonwealth of Poland , the Polish state was...

 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
Klaipėda Region
The Klaipėda Region or Memel Territory was defined by the Treaty of Versailles in 1920 when it was put under the administration of the Council of Ambassadors...

, a League of Nations mandate
League of Nations mandate
A League of Nations mandate was a legal status for certain territories transferred from the control of one country to another following World War I, or the legal instruments that contained the internationally agreed-upon terms for administering the territory on behalf of the League...

 since 1920, was occupied by Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

n troops in 1923 and was annexed without giving the inhabitants a choice by the ballot.

Nazi Germany


In 1932 the local paramilitary SA
Sturmabteilung
The Sturmabteilung functioned as a paramilitary organization of the National Socialist German Workers' Party . It played a key role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s...

 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
Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany...

 in Königsberg, the Otto-Braun-House
Otto Braun
This article is about the Prime Minister of Prussia. For the German Communist and once the Comintern military adviser to the Chinese Communist revolution see Otto Braun ....

. The Communist politician Gustav Sauf was killed, the executive editor of the Social Democrat "Königsberger Volkszeitung", Otto Wyrgatsch, and the German People's Party
German People's Party
The German People's Party was a national liberal party in Weimar Germany and a successor to the National Liberal Party of the German Empire.-Ideology:...

 politician Max von Bahrfeldt were severely injured. Members of the Reichsbanner were attacked and the local Reichsbanner Chairman of Lötzen, Kurt Kotzan, was murdered on 6 August 1932.
After the Nazis took power in Germany, opposition politicians were persecuted and newspapers were banned. The Otto-Braun-House was requisitioned and became the headquarter of the SA that used the house to imprison and torture opponents. Walter Schütz
Walter Schütz
Walter Schütz was a German communist politician.- Biography :Schütz was born in Wehlau , where he attended school...

, a communist Member of the Reichstag
Reichstag (Weimar Republic)
The Reichstag was the parliament of Weimar Republic .German constitution commentators consider only the Reichstag and now the Bundestag the German parliament. Another organ deals with legislation too: in 1867-1918 the Bundesrat, in 1919–1933 the Reichsrat and from 1949 on the Bundesrat...

  was murdered here.

In 1938 the Nazis altered about one-third of the toponyms of the area, eliminating, Germanizing, or simplifying a number of Old Prussian names, as well as those Polish or Lithuanian names originating from refugees to Prussia during and after the Protestant Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

. More than 1,500 places were ordered to be renamed by 16 July 1938 following a decree issued by gauleiter
Gauleiter
A Gauleiter was the party leader of a regional branch of the NSDAP or the head of a Gau or of a Reichsgau.-Creation and Early Usage:...

 and Oberpräsident Erich Koch
Erich Koch
Erich Koch was a Gauleiter of the Nazi Party in East Prussia from 1928 until 1945. Between 1941 and 1945 he was the Chief of Civil Administration of Bezirk Bialystok. During this period, he was also the Reichskommissar in Reichskommissariat Ukraine from 1941 until 1943...

 and initiated by Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

. Many who would not co-operate with the rulers of Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 were sent to concentration camps
Nazi concentration camps
Nazi Germany maintained concentration camps throughout the territories it controlled. The first Nazi concentration camps set up in Germany were greatly expanded after the Reichstag fire of 1933, and were intended to hold political prisoners and opponents of the regime...

 and held there prisoner until their death or liberation.

World War II


In 1939 East Prussia had 2.49 million inhabitants, 85% of them ethnic Germans, the others Poles
Poles
thumb|right|180px|The state flag of [[Poland]] as used by Polish government and diplomatic authoritiesThe Polish people, or Poles , are a nation indigenous to Poland. They are united by the Polish language, which belongs to the historical Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages of Central Europe...

 in the south who, according to Polish estimates numbered in the interwar period around 300,000-350,000, and Lietuvininkai speaking Lithuanian (Baltic)
Lithuanian language
Lithuanian is the official state language of Lithuania and is recognized as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.96 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 170,000 abroad. Lithuanian is a Baltic language, closely related to Latvian, although they...

 in the northeast. Most German East Prussians, Masurians, 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. Those who remained were later deported and killed in the Holocaust.

In 1939 the Regierungsbezirk Zichenau
Zichenau (region)
Regierungsbezirk Zichenau was a Regierungsbezirk, or administrative region, of the Prussian Province of East Prussia from 1939-45. It is also referred to as South East Prussia...

 was annexed by Germany
Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany
At the beginning of World War II, nearly a quarter of the pre-war Polish areas were annexed by Nazi Germany and placed directly under German civil administration, while the rest of Nazi occupied Poland was named as General Government...

 and incorporated into East Prussia. Despite Nazi propaganda
Nazi propaganda
Propaganda, the coordinated attempt to influence public opinion through the use of media, was skillfully used by the NSDAP in the years leading up to and during Adolf Hitler's leadership of Germany...

 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 the annexed Polish western territories were ethnic Germans.

East Prussia was only slightly affected by the war until January 1945, when it was devastated during the East Prussian Offensive
East Prussian Offensive
The East Prussian Offensive was a strategic offensive by the Red Army against the German Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front . It lasted from 13 January to 25 April 1945, though some German units did not surrender until 9 May...

. Most of its inhabitants became refugees in bitterly cold weather during the Evacuation of East Prussia
Evacuation of East Prussia
The evacuation of East Prussia refers to the evacuation of the German civilian population and military personnel in East Prussia and the Klaipėda region between 20 January, and March 1945, as part of the evacuation of German civilians towards the end of World War II...

.

Evacuation of East Prussia


In 1944 the medieval city of Königsberg
Königsberg
Königsberg was the capital of East Prussia from the Late Middle Ages until 1945 as well as the northernmost and easternmost German city with 286,666 inhabitants . Due to the multicultural society in and around the city, there are several local names for it...

, which had never been severely damaged by warfare in its 700 years of existence, was almost completely destroyed by two Allied air raids on the night of 26/27 August 1944 and three nights later on the 29/30 August 1944. Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 (The Second World War, Book XII) had erroneously believed it to be "a modernised heavily defended fortress" and ordered its destruction.

Gauleiter
Gauleiter
A Gauleiter was the party leader of a regional branch of the NSDAP or the head of a Gau or of a Reichsgau.-Creation and Early Usage:...

 Erich Koch
Erich Koch
Erich Koch was a Gauleiter of the Nazi Party in East Prussia from 1928 until 1945. Between 1941 and 1945 he was the Chief of Civil Administration of Bezirk Bialystok. During this period, he was also the Reichskommissar in Reichskommissariat Ukraine from 1941 until 1943...

 protracted the evacuation of the German civilian population until the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

 approached the East Prussian border in 1944. The population had been systematically misinformed by Endsieg
Endsieg
Endsieg is German for "final victory". It is used in the meaning that a victory is taken for granted even though all odds are against it.- Origin and historical usage :The word became commonly used in World War I...

Nazi propaganda about the real military state of affairs. As a result many civilians fleeing westward were overtaken by retreating Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 units and the rapidly advancing Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

.

Reports of Soviet atrocities in the Nemmersdorf massacre of October 1944 and organised rape
Rape
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent. The...

 spread fear and desperation among the civilians. Thousands lost their lives during the sinkings by Soviet submarine of the refugee ships Wilhelm Gustloff
Wilhelm Gustloff (ship)
The MV Wilhelm Gustloff was a German KdF flagship during 1937-1945, constructed by the Blohm & Voss shipyards. It sank after being torpedoed by the Soviet submarine on 30 January 1945....

, the Goya
Goya (ship)
The Goya was a German transport ship sunk by a Soviet submarine in the Baltic Sea, near the end of the Second World War, while carrying wounded Wehrmacht troops and civilians who were fleeing the advance of Soviet forces. Most of the crew and passengers died...

, and the General von Steuben
Dampfschiff General von Steuben
SS General von Steuben was a German luxury passenger liner. She was launched as the München , renamed in 1930 as the General von Steuben , and renamed again in 1938 as Steuben...

. Königsberg surrendered on 9 April 1945, following the desperate four-day Battle of Königsberg
Battle of Königsberg
The Battle of Königsberg , was one of the last operations of the East Prussian Offensive during World War II. In four days of violent urban warfare, Soviet forces of the 1st Baltic Front and the 3rd Belorussian Front captured the city of Königsberg...

. The number of civilians killed is estimated to be at least 300,000 with most dying under horrible conditions.

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."


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. Many more were prevented from returning, and the German population of East Prussia was almost completely expelled
Expulsion of Germans after World War II
The later stages of World War II, and the period after the end of that war, saw the forced migration of millions of German nationals and ethnic Germans from various European states and territories, mostly into the areas which would become post-war Germany and post-war Austria...

 by the communist regimes. During the war and for some time thereafter forty-five camps for about 200 to 250 thousand forced labourers were established, the vast majority of them were deported to the Soviet Union, including the Gulag
Gulag
The Gulag was the government agency that administered the main Soviet forced labor camp systems. While the camps housed a wide range of convicts, from petty criminals to political prisoners, large numbers were convicted by simplified procedures, such as NKVD troikas and other instruments of...

 camp system. The largest camp with about 48,000 inmates was established at Deutsch Eylau
Ilawa
Iława is a town in northeastern Poland with 33,912 inhabitants . It is situated in the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship ; previously it was in Olsztyn Voivodeship . It is the capital of Iława County.- History :...

 (Ilawa).

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.
Subsequently Polish expatriate
Expatriate
An expatriate is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person's upbringing...

s from Polish lands annexed by the Soviet Union
Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union
Immediately after the German invasion of Poland in 1939, which marked the beginning of World War II, the Soviet Union invaded the eastern regions of the Second Polish Republic, which Poles referred to as the "Kresy," and annexed territories totaling 201,015 km² with a population of 13,299,000...

 as well as Ukrainians
Ukrainians
Ukrainians are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Ukraine, which is the sixth-largest nation in Europe. The Constitution of Ukraine applies the term 'Ukrainians' to all its citizens...

 from southern Poland, expelled throughout Operation Vistula in 1947, were settled in the southern part of East Prussia, now the Polish Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship
Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship
Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, or Warmia-Masuria Province , is a voivodeship in northeastern Poland. Its capital and largest city is Olsztyn...

. In 1950 the Olsztyn Voivodeship
Olsztyn Voivodeship
Olsztyn Voivodeship was an administrative division and unit of local government in Poland in the years 1745-75, and a new territorial division between 1975–1998, superseded by Warmian-Masurian 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 Most of these "Autochthones" chose to emigrate to West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

 from the 1950s through 1970s (between 1970 and 1988 55,227 persons from Warmia and Masuria moved to Western Germany).
Local toponyms were Polonised by the Polish Commission for the Determination of Place Names
Commission for the Determination of Place Names
The Commission for the Determination of Place Names was a commission of the Polish Department of Public Administration, founded in January 1946...

.

Northern East Prussia to the Soviet Union





In April 1946, northern East Prussia became an official province of the Russian SFSR as "Kenigsbergskaya Oblast", with the Memel Territory
Klaipėda Region
The Klaipėda Region or Memel Territory was defined by the Treaty of Versailles in 1920 when it was put under the administration of the Council of Ambassadors...

 becoming part of the Lithuanian SSR
Lithuanian SSR
The Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic , also known as the Lithuanian SSR, was one of the republics that made up the former Soviet Union...

. 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
Kaliningrad
Kaliningrad is a seaport and the administrative center of Kaliningrad Oblast, the Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea...

 to honour Mikhail Kalinin
Mikhail Kalinin
Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin , known familiarly by Soviet citizens as "Kalinych," was a Bolshevik revolutionary and the nominal head of state of Russia and later of the Soviet Union, from 1919 to 1946...

 and the area named the Kaliningrad Oblast
Kaliningrad Oblast
Kaliningrad Oblast is a federal subject of Russia situated on the Baltic coast. It has a population of The oblast forms the westernmost part of the Russian Federation, but it has no land connection to the rest of Russia. Since its creation it has been an exclave of the Russian SFSR and then the...

. Between 24 August and 26 October 1948 21 transports with in total 42,094 Germans left the Oblast to the Soviet Occupation Zone. The last remaining Germans left in November 1949 (1,401 persons) and January 1950 (7 persons). After the expulsion of the German population ethnic Russians
Russians
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....

, Belarusians
Belarusians
Belarusians ; are an East Slavic ethnic group who populate the majority of the Republic of Belarus. Introduced to the world as a new state in the early 1990s, the Republic of Belarus brought with it the notion of a re-emerging Belarusian ethnicity, drawn upon the lines of the Old Belarusian...

, and Ukrainians
Ukrainians
Ukrainians are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Ukraine, which is the sixth-largest nation in Europe. The Constitution of Ukraine applies the term 'Ukrainians' to all its citizens...

 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
Closed city
A closed city or closed town is a settlement with travel and residency restrictions in the Soviet Union and some of its successor countries. In modern Russia, such places are officially known as "closed administrative-territorial formations" ....

, which was closed to foreigners; Soviet citizens could only enter with special permission. In 1967 the remnants of Königsberg Castle
Königsberg Castle
The Königsberg Castle was a castle in Königsberg, Germany , and was one of the landmarks of the East Prussian capital Königsberg.- History :...

 were demolished on the orders of Leonid Brezhnev
Leonid Brezhnev
Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev  – 10 November 1982) was the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union , presiding over the country from 1964 until his death in 1982. His eighteen-year term as General Secretary was second only to that of Joseph Stalin in...

 to make way for a new "House of the Soviets".

Modern situation


Since the fall of Communism in 1991, some German groups have tried to help settle the Volga Germans from eastern parts of Russia in the Kaliningrad Oblast
Kaliningrad Oblast
Kaliningrad Oblast is a federal subject of Russia situated on the Baltic coast. It has a population of The oblast forms the westernmost part of the Russian Federation, but it has no land connection to the rest of Russia. Since its creation it has been an exclave of the Russian SFSR and then the...

. This effort was only a small success, however, as most impoverished Volga Germans preferred to emigrate to the richer Federal Republic of Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, 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 seeking revenge for Nazi crimes committed in the Soviet Union, 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
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 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
Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship
Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, or Warmia-Masuria Province , is a voivodeship in northeastern Poland. Its capital and largest city is Olsztyn...

 in Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 correspond closely to those of southern East Prussia.

See also

  • Lithuania Minor
    Lithuania Minor
    Lithuania Minor or Prussian Lithuania is a historical ethnographic region of Prussia, later East Prussia in Germany, where Prussian Lithuanians or Lietuvininkai lived. Lithuania Minor enclosed the northern part of this province and got its name due to the territory's substantial...

  • List of cities and towns in East Prussia
  • Drang nach Osten
    Drang nach Osten
    Drang nach Osten was a term coined in the 19th century to designate German expansion into Slavic lands. The term became a motto of the German nationalist movement in the late nineteenth century...

  • East Colonisation
  • Kaliningrad Oblast
    Kaliningrad Oblast
    Kaliningrad Oblast is a federal subject of Russia situated on the Baltic coast. It has a population of The oblast forms the westernmost part of the Russian Federation, but it has no land connection to the rest of Russia. Since its creation it has been an exclave of the Russian SFSR and then the...

  • Landsmannschaft Ostpreußen
  • Masuria
    Masuria
    Masuria is an area in northeastern Poland famous for its 2,000 lakes. Geographically, Masuria is part of two adjacent lakeland districts, the Masurian Lake District and the Iława Lake District...

  • Teutonic Knights
    Teutonic Knights
    The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem , commonly the Teutonic Order , is a German medieval military order, in modern times a purely religious Catholic order...

  • Warmia
    Warmia
    Warmia or Ermland is a region between Pomerelia and Masuria in northeastern Poland. Together with Masuria, it forms the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship....


External links