Province of East Prussia

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Province of East Prussia
Provinz Ostpreußen
Province of the Kingdom of Prussia (1773–1829, 1878–1918) and the Free State of Prussia (1918–1945)
Duchy of Prussia
 
Prince-Bishopric of Warmia
1773–1829
1878–1945

 

 

Flag Coat of arms
Flag Coat of arms
Location of Province of East Prussia
East Prussia (red), within the Kingdom of Prussia, within the German Empire, as of 1871.
Capital Königsberg
54°44′N 20°29′E / 54.733°N 20.483°E / 54.733; 20.483Coordinates: 54°44′N 20°29′E / 54.733°N 20.483°E / 54.733; 20.483
History
 -  Established 31 January 1773
 -  Province of Prussia 3 December 1829
 -  Province restored 1 April 1878
 -  Soviet capture 9 April 1945
Area
 -  1905 36,993 km2 (14,283 sq mi)
Population
 -  1905 2,025,741 
Density 54.8 /km2  (141.8 /sq mi)
Political subdivisions Gumbinnen
Königsberg
Allenstein (from 1905)
West Prussia (1922–1939)
Zichenau (from 1939)

The Province of East Prussia (German: Provinz Ostpreußen [ˈʔɔstˌpʁɔʏsən] ( )) was a province of Prussia from 1773–1829 and 1878–1945. Composed of the historical region East Prussia, the province's capital was Königsberg (present-day Kaliningrad).

History[edit]

Duchy of Prussia (grey) until 1772

East Prussia was formed in 1773 out of the territory of the former Duchy of Prussia, a Polish vassal state, which upon the death of Duke Albert Frederick in 1618 fell to his Hohenzollern relative Elector John Sigismund of Brandenburg. From that time the Imperial Margraviate of Brandenburg and Polish Ducal Prussia were ruled in personal union.

During the Second Northern War, on 19 September 1657, the "Great Elector" Frederick William of Brandenburg concluded the Treaty of Wehlau with the Polish king John II Casimir Vasa, according to which the Polish Crown renounced its suzerainty over the Prussian duchy. The Brandenburg sovereignty was acknowledged in the 1660 Peace of Oliva; it enabled Frederick William's successor Elector Frederick III to crown himself a "King in Prussia" at Königsberg in 1701 without consent of the Holy Roman Emperor.

First Partition of Poland[edit]

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

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

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

Napoleonic Wars[edit]

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

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

World War I[edit]

Map of the province of East Prussia in 1881

As a result of World War I, the Hohenzollern monarchy of the Kingdom of Prussia was abolished in 1918, and the kingdom became the Free State of Prussia.

After the Treaty of Versailles, East Prussia was separated from Germany as an exclave; the Memelland was also separated from the province. Because most of West Prussia became part of the Second Polish Republic as the Polish Corridor, the formerly West Prussian Marienwerder region became part of East Prussia (as Regierungsbezirk Westpreußen). Also Soldau district in Allenstein region was part of Second Polish Republic.

Nazi Rule[edit]

Erich Koch headed the East Prussian Nazi party from 1928. He led the district from 1932. This period was characterized by efforts to collectivize the local agriculture and ruthlessness in dealing with his critics inside and outside the Party.[1] He also had long-term plans for mass-scale industrialization of the largely agricultural province. These actions made him unpopular among the local peasants.[1] However, through publicly funded emergency relief programs concentrating on agricultural land-improvement projects and road construction, the "Erich Koch Plan" for East Prussia allegedly made the province free of unemployment; on August 16, 1933 Koch reported to Hitler that unemployment had been banished entirely from East Prussia, a feat that gained admiration throughout the Reich.[2]

Koch's industrialization plans led him into conflict with R. Walther Darré, who held the office of the Reich Peasant Leader (Reichsbauernführer) and Minister of Agriculture. Darré, a neopaganist rural romantic, wanted to enforce his vision of an agricultural East Prussia. When his "Land" representatives challenged Koch's plans, Koch had them arrested.[3]

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

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

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Robert S. Wistrich, Who's who in Nazi Germany, 2002, pp. 142-143.
  2. ^ Dan P. Silverman (1993). "Fantasy and Reality in Nazi Work-Creation Programs, 1933-1936". The Journal of Modern History 65 (1): 113–151. doi:10.1086/244609. 
  3. ^ Richard Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich - Nazi Conceptions of Christianity 1919-1945, 2004, p. 102.

External links[edit]