Research by Michael Behrent for KÖNIGSBEGR IS DEAD by Max & Gilbert






Kant's critical philosophy had been directed against dogmatism, the notion that the way in which we see the world s- including forms as basic as time and space - really do belong to the world. The French Revolution brought a new form of dogmatism onto the world stage: the nation. While we can undogmatically leave open the time when the French Revolution began from Königsberg's point of view (the day in 1789 when Kant missed his walk upon hearing the news of the storming of the Bastille? April 20 1792, when the French National Assembly declared war on Austria, bringing Prussia into the conflict? September, when revolutionary France forced Prussia into an awkward retreat?), its effect was to pull the old Hanseatic city ever more into the orbit of Prussian power politics, which culminated with establishment of unification of Germany in the new Reich in January, 1871.

            But to return to the main point: was Königsberg's integration into Germany dependent on a form of forgetfulness - of its earlier, however tenuous cosmopolitanism, of its Hanseatic connections, of its linguistically diverse population? Just as Kant recognized that the human mind could not help to lapse into dogmatism, so the French historian and Biblical critic Ernest Renan (1823 - 1892) argued that nations were founded on deliberate forgetting. In his famous lecture he delivered in 1882 on the question What is a Nation?, Renan remarked: "Forgetting, and I would even say historical error, are essential factors in the creation of a nation, and thus it is that progress in historical studies is often a danger for a nationality. Historical investigation, in effect, places back into the light the violent facts that are at the origin of all political structures, even those whose consequences have been most fortunate. Unity is always achieved brutally [...]" Thus, "the essence of a nation is that all individuals have many things in common, and also that they have forgotten many things."[1]

            To be in a nation, in short, requires returning to one's dogmatic slumbers.


I.                    Königsberg's Changing Place with "Germany"


Over the course of Germany's progressive formation, one might consider that Königsberger's place within it has, over time, has become increasingly peripheral and marginal. As Germany grew larger and more powerful, Königsberg's "weight" within it has declined. One might throw in the caveat, however, that as its real significance has decreased, its symbolic importance has tended to rise accordingly.

            To think about Königsberg's place in German identity, it is interesting to reflect on its changing political status over the centuries.

            In 1255, its supposed "birth", it was literally just a fortress, established by the Teutonic Knights who had received papal approval to lead a crusade against the pagan Preussen. A smattering of a village seems to have gravitated towards it, but everything was wiped out by the Preussen shortly afterwards.

            In 1286, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order granted the inhabitants who lived in what would become the Altstadt an urban charter, effectively recognizing it as a medieval commune. Löbenicht and Kneiphof would received this privilege at slightly later dates.

            In 1340, Königsberg's towns became members of the trading federation, the Hanseatic League.

            In 1457, Königsberg/Alstadt becomes the official residence of the Grand Masters of the Teutonic Knights.

In 1525, Grand Master Albert of Hohenzollern (the royal family of Brandenburg) secularizes the goods of the Teutonic Order; Königsberg thus becomes the capital of the temporal Duchy of Prussia, which remains, nonetheless, under Polish suzerainty.

In 1618, Johann-Sigismund's inheritance of the duchy solidifies the establishment of the Brandenburg-Prussian state, combining Brandenburg, which is a member of the Holy Roman Empire with its own elector (the Kufersten), and Prussia proper, which is not. Königsberg is its effective capital.

            In 1660, the Dukes become fully autonomous in Prussia proper, as Poland renounces its suzerainty over it.

            1701, Friedrich III of Prussia declares himself "King in Prussia" in a coronation ceremony in Königsberg. Prussia effectively becomes a kingdom, with Königsberg the official coronation town, while Berlin is the capital.

            In 1758, during the Seven Year War, Königsberg is conquered and occupied by Russian troops. This lasts until 1762.

            In 1807, following the Treaty of Tilsitt, Prussia loses most of its territories west of the Elbe in the wake of its defeat by Napoleon. A truncated state, Königsberg once again becomes the residence of the Prussian kings (who no longer belong to the Holy Roman Empire, which Napoleon abolished in 1806) and its de facto capital, from which the wars of liberation will be led.

            In 1815, following the expulsion of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna, Königsberg finds itself once again the provincial capital of East Prussia in a reformed Prussian kingdom, that henceforth is a member of the 39 state German Confederation. In 1830, it joins, along with the rest of Prussia, the German customs union, or Zollverein.

            In 1871, following Bismarck's wars of German unification, Königsberg remains a provincial capital of the Prussian Kingdom, which is henceforth itself one state - though by far the most significant one -  out of the 18 which have been unified to form the Second Reich - or "Germany."

In 1919, following the revolution of November 1918 and the writing of the Weimar Constitution, the province of which Königsberg is the capital becomes an enclave, separated from the rest of Germany by the Danzig corridor, while Prussia itself becomes Republic within the larger federal system of a German Republic.

            As in Kant's system, so in Königsberg's history, space is not an absolute quality of the world, but is integrally tied to human perception and experience. Its significance has been shaped by its changing location within the map of the larger entities to which it has belonged. And, as Renan would say, perhaps a certain amount of forgetting is involved in the constitution of its identity: "Prussia", though originally the name of the native population the Teutonic Knights, became the name used by the conquerors; the different versions of its originally literal and translatable name (the Polish Krulieviecz, or even the Latin Regiomonatus) are lost as it becomes increasingly "German"; with the formation of an absolutist state, the area that had originally been Prussia proper is relegated in administrative language to a geographical orientation - "East Prussia" - in relation to lands with which it was originally unconnected. Calling Königsberg "German" begs as many questions as it answers.


II.                  Königsberg as the Center of Reform and Liberation: 1806 - 1815


After establishing itself as a major European power, with arguably the mightiest military on the continent, under the rules of Friedrich-Wilhelm I, the "Sergeant-King" and of  Friedrich II the Great, the French Revolution dealt a serious blow to Prussia's status, in addition to representing an unprecedented challenge to its political legitimacy. A messy series of diplomatic and military decisions, which saw Prussia first fighting France, making a separate peace with it, taking advantage of French victories to annex new territories, allying itself with France and finally reneging on its alliance, culminated with the defeat of the Prussian armies at Jena in 1806. Following the defeat of its ally, Russia in 1807, the treaty of Tilsitt left Prussia with little to show for two centuries of state-building: it was left with its East Elbian territories, while many of its former lands became French possessions or satellite states.

Königsberg, immediately following the defeat of the Russian troops, had to receive thousands of them, even though it lacked adequate military hospitals. French troops themselves occupied the city for a little over a month.

The Prussian King, Friedrich-Wilhelm II, as well as the entire royal family, returned to live in Königsberg's Schloss, which had seen more coronations of late than it had residing monarchs. Königsberg once again returned to center state, even if its restored status was to be provisional. They remained there from January 1808 to December 1809, during which time Queen Luise gave birth to two children.

The task at hand was the reorganization of the Prussian state and the planning of a "War of Liberation" against Napoleon's armies in Europe. This task was not, as one historian has said, an enviable one.[2] The immediate agenda was the payment of a French demand for reparations, the restoration of villages and countryside left devastated by the recent fighting, and, most difficult of all, agricultural reform.

To accomplish these reforms, a group of talented, optimistic and well-educated reformers converged on Königsberg, where they set up office in the Schloss. Wilhelm von Humboldt, who would later found the University of Berlin, had mixed feelings about being called to the old Prussian capital; he wrote to his wife before arriving: "Dort soll es fürchterlich langweilig sein, die Leute esssen schlecht und lachen gar nicht."[3] Gerhard von Scharnhorst and August and Graf von Gneisenau came to reform the Prussian army.

The most important of the reformers was Freiherr Karl vom und zum Stein, whose main work was the write Edict of 1807. This ordinance was aimed at reforming Prussia's outdated social structure, which had become particularly striking in the wake of the victories of France's military success with conscription armies and in the egalitarian legal codes it promulgated in conquered territories. In working on this decree, Königsberg's experience as a center of Aufklärung was substantial. During his time there, von Stein stayed with the chief of police, Johann Gottfried Frey (1762 - 1831), whose practical experience in administration was influential. Morever, many young officials were familiar with the thought of such Albertina professors as Kant, who influenced their moral and political philosophy, and Krause, the champion of a deregulated economy and a free labor force.

One of Prussia's main problems was that serfdom still existed. The French National Assembly had abolished serfdom in 1789, but in France, little had existed of that institution for some time. The problem faced the reformers was that of emancipating the serfs without alienating their owners, the Prussian aristocrats known as the Junkers. The compromise reached by Stein and his collaborators consisted in freeing the serfs and giving them land, but placed them in a situation in which they had little choice but to sell it back to the Junkers. Not only did emancipation benefit the East Prussian Junkers more than the former serfs, but it gave what was potentially a declining group new power. Their domination was no longer based on status, but on economic power, which they exercised primarily through Guttherschaft, according to which they directly ran their vast East Elbian states as cash-crop, profit-making businesses. Moreover, they were implicitly granted a privileged place in the Prussian (and later German) bureaucracy and military. The Edict issued in 1807 proclaimed: "After St. Martin's day of 1810 hereditary servitude is abolished in all of our territories. After St. Martin's day all our people are free." In fact, it had the effect of ensconcing the East Prussian Junkers in a position that would have a determining effect on Germany's history for over a century.

Königsberg also played a significant role in the organization of the wars of liberation against the French. In 1808, the Tugelband, a civic organization whose real task was to prevent Germans from collaborating with the French occupiers, was formed in Königsberg. After being pressured into fighting on France's side against Russia in 1812, the Prussian General York von Wartenburg manages to switch sides. In 1813, he came to Königsberg to address the provincial estates, to whom he appealed for support in the war against the French. Shortly afterwards, the Prussian king declared war on France, making a special appeal to his "people" to participate in ousting the enemy. The address - An Mein Volk - was largely written by a Königsberger, Theodor Gottlieb von Hippel the younger.

            Thus Königsberg was once again a Prussian capital of sorts, at precisely the moment when Prussian leaders first became interested not only in strengthening the state, but rallying a "national", "German" consciousness to defeat France. The towns enlightenment culture were influential in a series of administrative reforms that increased the power of the most traditional of social classes, the Junkers. And Prussia's ultimate success in the war allowed the king and his administrators to return to Berlin, confining Königsberg and East Prussia to their symbolic status once again.


III.                Liberalism and Conservatism: 1815 - 1871


In the period between 1815 and 1848, there are two axes along which one might situate Königsberg's development.

            On the one hand, it participated in the general disillusionment that, following the Congress of Vienna, restored Prussia's territory and Great Power status, only to reestablish a conservative state. The enthusiasm that led to talk of constitutions, German unity and the German Volk was now dashed. Von Stein's reforms had created some participatory civic institutions, conferring citizenship on all property-holders in towns, but these often led to new problems and divisions. The "reformed" Prussia gave more power than ever to a modernized Junker class, lacked representative assemblies, and participated in the reactionary Holy Alliance with Austria and Russia.

            At the same time, Königsberg saw its economic stature dwindle. Despite its international flavor, the Baltic trade in the 18th century had merely tied together different regional economies. As it became increasingly globalized in the course of the 19th century, ports without harbors capable of welcoming large vessels or lacking in prosperous hinterlands would tend to be passed over. One historian writes: "Königsberg, which was thirty-seven kilometers from the sea on the Pregel, could not compete with better-placed outlets for eastern grain and timber. Furthermore, Königsberg, like Danzig, was disadvantaged by its distance from the growing population centers in Saxony and Prussia."[4] It had begun the process which, by the beginning of the 20th century, would see its rank among most populated German cities pass from 3rd  to 18th .[5]

            In what sense, in the midst of these developments, can we speak of Königsberg as being "German"?

            In the first place, despite its decline in economic importance, it nevertheless retained the characteristic features of German city life. If it could not rival Bremen and Hamburg as a major port, its university remained distinguished. Particularly in an age when the superiority of German universities, especially in carrying out scientific research, was becoming clear throughout Europe, Königsberg stood out. A particularly important figure during this period was the astronomer Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel. Arriving in 1810, he was charged by the Prussian government to oversee the first major German observatory, which he later directed. Like Kant, Bessel made a provincial capital quite literally a window on the universe: having identified some 50,000 stars from the Königsberg observatory, he provided one of the most accurate descriptions of the universe ever until that point. And, also like Kant, he had a keen understanding that human knowledge could be increased by grasping its limitations: he developed the mathematical equations needed to adjust for distortions in measuring stars that resulted from the position of the observer. He died shortly before the revolutions of 1848 began. Nestled in the conservative world of Prussian Junkers, Bessel represented an alternative understanding of what it might mean to be German in Königsberg.

            Another alternative form of Germanness was liberalism. Disappointed that the Prussian government had held out the carrot of democratic reform only when it was mobilizing the population against the French, liberals pressed for a constitution, civic freedoms and representative assemblies throughout the Vormärz period*. In German lands, these questions were also closely connected to the aspiration for German national unification. In Königsberg, university faculty, the business interest and liberal professions were naturally inclined to liberal sentiment. There was an important liberal newspaper, the Königsberg Hartungsche Zeitung. Moreover, there were a number of liberal spokesmen who rose to national prominence. A Jewish doctor from Königsberg, Johann Jacoby, wrote an influential pamphlet around 1847, entitled Vier Fragen, beantwortet von einem Ostpreussen, in which he appealed to King Friedrich Wilhelm IV to grant Prussia an authentic representative assembly. In making his case, he did not just appeal to high-minded liberal principles, but made the case that only democratic institutions could bring about a true sense of national belonging: "Until now the unity of its people has been artificially imposed, rather than growing naturally. Of its eight provinces, you can be certain that not one would feel like a dismembered limb, if extraordinary circumstances were to divide it from the others. No, from Saarlouis to the Memel, our Kingdom knows no such unity."[6] From the standpoint of liberal Königsberg, East Prussia was already amputated from the state decades before the Versailles Treaty.

            This being said, Königsberg was not a revolutionary town. Following the March 1848 revolution in Berlin, which led to the convocation of a National Assembly as well as to the meeting of a German Parliament in Frankfurt (both of which Jacoby attended), Königsberg itself saw no barricades, though there were meetings and street processions, and political clubs and national guards were formed.

            Yet kind of state in which Jacoby and the Königsberg liberals hoped to find themselves was not to be: King Friedrich Wilhelm's dismissal of the Frankfurt Assembly's plan as a "constitution from the gutter" in 1849 closed off the possibility of a liberal unification of Germany "from below", and paved the way for a conservative unification of Germany "from above", in which the East Prussian Junkers would play a predominant role (This was facilitated by the Prussian constitution adopted in 1850, which gave the Junkers great power in the upper house, while the lower house was elected by universal suffrage, even though it represented wealthiest citizens disproportionately through a system of three electoral classes).


III. Königsberg: Strategic Value in an Age of Power Politics


            In 1861, for the first time since the end of the 18th century, a new Prussian King was crowned in Königsberg. Wilhelm IV had been regent during the madness of King Wilhelm Friedrich IV, during which he had proclaimed a "new era" in Prussian politics, one in which the monarchy would rule with greater reliance on the middle classes. By 1862, he had appointed a fairly untypical Junker, Otto von Bismarck, as Chancellor. Over a period of three calculated wars, Bismarck succeeded in unifying Germany under Prussia's Hohenzollern family. Following the defeat of France in 1870, König Wilhelm IV of Prussia simultaneously assumed the title of Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany. Within the new Reich, Prussia's existence as a distinct state continued.

            In the age of power politics, Königsberg once again became an important strategic center. Königsberg had long been the site of an important garrison and fort, the Festung Friedrichsburg, located on the Pregel's south bank on the western outskirts of town. In the post-1871 period, Germany's new status as the major power of Central Europe led to reflections on its strategic vulnerabilities. The recurring fear of the political and military leadership was of a simultaneous war on the Western front with France and on the Eastern with Russia (which was, until 1894, still a German ally, albeit an uncomfortable one). As the location of the German First Army, planners knew that Königsberg ran the risk of being encircled by Russian forces, hence cutting off land routes to the rest of Germany. Moreover, in the 1880s, the new German chancellor, Caprivi, began to worry about the superiority of the Russian navy, which could not only block off, but pose a direct military threat to Danzig as well as Königsberg. This reason was one of many that led to Admiral Tirpitz's efforts to build a significant German navy in the 1890s. By 1902, now that France and Russian had formally become allies, General von Schlieffen defined as a specific war aim in the event of conflict with these two powers was for Germany to control the Baltic Sea, in part to "keep open the communications between the Baltic Sea ports, particularly the permanent connection between Königsberg in Prussia and the western harbor towns."[7] Significantly, Königsberg's modern fortifications, the construction of which had first been undertaken in 1843, were finally completed in 1905. The entire network consisted of several layers of fortified walls, interspersed with a series of twelve small forts, six on each side of the Pregel. The two larger forts - Friedrichsburg to the west and Kaserne Kronprinz to the east, each had its own set of ramparts.

            When the First World War broke out, these fears proved to be more or less justified. As early as August 1914, Russian forces brought a two-pronged attack to bear on East Prussia, which, after heavy fighting, the German Generals Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff succeeded in fending off at Tannenburg.

            Thus in the so-called age of German militarism, Königsberg's was mainly associated in the military consciousness with its vulnerability: the fear that, as from 1758 to 1762 and as, briefly, in 1807, it would once again fall to foreign armies.


IV.               Weimar Königsberg


Following the German defeat, revolution and the creation of the first ever German Republic, Königsberg once again found itself in a relatively stable, if precarious, environment. It remained a province of the Prussian Land, which itself was now a republic as well. In fact, once the Social-Democrat Otto Braun became Prime Minister in 1920, Prussia came to be one of the most stable and democratic regions of Weimar Germany.

In Königsberg, the Weimar years were marked in particular by the presence of Carl Goerderler. Goerdeler came from a family that had a long tradition of serving the state as top civil servants. He was a devout monarchist, and seems to have had a Prussian distaste for the parliamentary democracy of the Weimar era, which he expressed by joining a nationalist party. He was named Bürgermeister of Königsberg in 1920. Though he was strongly opposed to socialism, believing in the laissez-faire notion that an economy has its own natural laws, he was a talented administrator and a progressive urbanist. His terms in office was marked by attempts to open the town up to neighboring countries and to modernize the urban infrastructure, including the development of the port, the building of a central train station connecting the southern and western stations, constructing an international airport (at what is today Khrabrovo, 30 km from the town) and the material needed for a new Eastern Fair. The latter brought together economic representatives from the Soviet Union, Poland and Scandinavia (biannually until 1928, annually from then until 1936).

What role did Nazism play in Weimar Königsberg? It was certainly present, but it does not seem to have received a great deal of overt support until eve of Hitler's appointment to the chancellorship.

On May 20, 1928 for the federal parliament, or Reichstag, and for the Prussian assembly, or Landtag, Königsberg voted as follows (keeping in mind that the Weimar electoral system involved a proportional representation system, so that voters were choosing among party slates, not individual candidates):


                                                                        Reichstag                             Landtag

Sozialdemokraten [S.P.D.]                          38,950                                    38,662

Deutschnationale                                          17,784                                    17,725

Zentrum [Catholic, mostly southern]            3,909                                      3,915

Deutsche Volkspartei [Conservative]         40, 377                                   40, 153

Kommunisten [K.P.D.]                                  31,606                                    31,382

Demokraten                                                   8,046                                      7,948

NSDAP                                                          4,156                                      4,106

Mittelstandpartei                                           2,859                                      2,877


            In other words, Hitler's party received only about 2.81% in East Prussia's capital: that is, about the same, and even slightly less, than his 3% nationwide score for the Reichstag.

            Interestingly, for local elections, the Nazis fared somewhat better, if one examines elections for municipal elections from 1919 to 1929.



                                                1919               1924               1927               1929

Kommunisten                        ---                    23,768            26,089            30, 152

Unabhängige S.D.                28, 182           ---                    ---                    ---

SPD                                        19,790            13,336            25, 942           35,413

Demokraten                           16,546            5,856              4,321              5,389

Zentrum                                  3,216              3,673              3,183              4,049

Wirtschaftspartei                   ---                    ---                    3,328              5,400

Deutsche Volkspartei           19, 416           23, 892           26, 591           34,545

Deutschnationale                  7,762              16,919            11,734            15,770

NSDAP                                  ---                    9,294              2,405              8,391

Mieterpartei                           ---                    24,585            ---                    ---

Christl. Volksdienst               ---                    ---                    ---                    7,451

Evang. Gemeinschaftsbund---                     6,257              6,213              ---


            In 1929, the Nazi party thus obtained roughly 5.73% in the 1929 elections - better than in the previous year's parliamentary elections, but only moderately. Even if it is the largest of the "small" parties, mainstream Weimar parties like the S.P.D. (which ruled Prussia) held out well.

            Only in the two elections held in 1932 did the Nazi party become dominant:


                                                July 1, 1932                          November 8, 1932

NSDAP                                  75,760                                                62, 688

SPD                                        37,926                                                37,360

KPD                                        33,878                                                38,204

Zentrum                                  4,721                                                  4, 617

Deutschnationale                  10,478                                                18,874

Deutsch Volkspartei             3,033                                                  6,169


(Staatspartei)                        1,798                                                  2,039

Christ. Sozialer

Volksdienst                            2,502                                                  3,203[8]


Even at this point, it is interesting that in the second election, four months after the earlier one, though the Nazi party still came in clearly ahead, all parties increased their showing or remained more or less stable except for the Nazis, who fell by over 13,000 votes. The Communist won an additional 4,000 votes.

Despite being situated in the middle of East Prussia, itself separated off from the rest of Prussia and Germany as a result of the Danzig provisions of Versailles, Königsberg does not seem to have rushed to support Hitler, or recognized in him a cause with which it could immediately identify. The liberal traditions it developed in the 19th century were still present, and may even have flourished under Weimar democracy. Even those unsatisfied with Weimar seem to have been drawn to the more traditional, statist conservatism represented by Bürgermeister Goerdeler. Königsberg does not, in short, seem to have been "destined" to find itself integrated into Hitler's new Reich.



V.                 Königsberg in the Third Reich


Königsberg does not seem to have been completely invulnerable to nationalist sentiment, by any means. In 1939, members of the local Nazi party participated in stirring Germans in neighboring Memel - a historically Prussian region - to revolt against Lithuania. By placing troops in Königsberg on a high state of alert, Hitler succeeds in strong-arming Lithuania to cede Memel to Germany.

Traditional conservatives like Goerderler were inclined to support Hitler, at least initially. Goerderler considered Hitler a "good man". He also continued to hold high-level positions following Hitler's accession to power.[9] But as he began to doubt Hitler's conduct of the war, he became involved in many in Von Stauffenberg's circle who, on July 20, 1944, attempted to assassinate Hitler with a suitcase bomb in the military headquarters in Rastenberg (present-day Ketrzyn) in East Prussia. Hitler's miraculous survival meant that many East Prussian aristocrats were executed as punishment for their involvement - including Goerdeler in February, 1945.

            As the war drew to an apocalyptic end in Königsberg, Nazi officials, notably Gauleiter Koch, seem to have played an important political role in the city. Following the July 20, 1944 assassination attempt, as Königsberg became a city of questionable loyalty in the Reich, the party's power was increased by Hitler, at the expense of other authorities. This led to considerable friction between Koch and the German military commander, General Otto Lasch.

            In late 1944, it has recently been discovered, Jews of mostly Lithuanian and Hungarian origin were forced by the S.S. to evacuate concentration camps in Poland that were on the verge of being run over by Soviet forces. Some 7,000 of these Jews were stationed in a camp in Königsberg. Around January 26, 1945, S.S. forces in Königsberg forced them on a two day march to the coast at the town of Palmnicken. Several thousand died along the way. Arriving at the coast, they were forced, in groups, to run out onto the frozen Baltic ice, where they were then gunned down. Very few survived, and very few witnessed the event.[10]

            By late January, Koch had abandoned the city, leaving it in the hands of Kreistleiter Wagner, who, in early February, appealed to the population by announcing: "Annihilate the Bolsheviks, wherever you can. Make a mass grave of their path to Königsberg [... ] Death to the Bolsheviks."

            Following the failure of a counter-offensive by German forces, Otto Lasch decided to sue for terms in early April. On April 9, Königsberg surrendered to the Soviet command. The city was pillaged. German soldiers were taken to Stablack camp, near Eylau.

At the time of its fall, Königsberg's population was estimated by Otto Lasch to have been around 170,000: between 110 and 120,000 civilians, 15,000 prisoners and forced laborers of foreign nationality, 32,000 Wehrmacht soldiers and 8,000 Volkssturm.




            Once Königsberg and surrounding areas were annexed  by the Soviets following the Potsdam conference, it was frequent for them to refer to former inhabitants there as "fascists" and to speak of the former city as a hotbed of "German militarism." While not totally false, this was in many ways the "foundational myth" of Kaliningrad - which itself was constituted by an act of willful forgetting. The irony of Königsberg's history over the past two centuries is that the identities that coexisted within it - its immersion in networks of trade, its liminal presence on Polish, German, Lithuanian, Jewish and Russian cultural boundaries, its combination of culture and strategic interest - has been twice roped into the all-encompassing dogmatisms of the German nationalist and the Soviet "imagined communities". Not that Königsbergers were passive spectators to these events: but a closer examination of life in this provincial cosmopolis (or is it a cosmopolitan province?) reveals the subtle variations in the way in which one could live in and adapt to the centripetal forces of nationalism. Even while in the deepest throws of dogmatism, it is not evident that Königsberg ever completely slumbered.


Michael Behrent, 2002


Copyright © 2002, TABULA RAZA



* Vormärz: that is, the period preceding the Berlin revolution of March, 1848.

[1] Ernest Renan, Qu'est-ce qu'une Nation? Conférence faite en Sorbonne, le 11 mars, 1882. My translation.

[2] Georges Lefebvre, Napoléon. (Paris: P.U.F., 1969).

[3] Gergard von Glinski and Peter Wörster, Königsberg: Die Ostpreussiche Haupstadt in Geschichte und Gegenwart. (Berlin/Bonn: Westkreuz-Verlag, 1990), p. 58.

[4] James J. Sheehan, German History, 1770 - 1866. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), p. 490.

[5] See J. J. Lee, "Aspects of Urbanization and Economic Development in Germany, 1815 - 1914" in Philip Abrams, E. A. Wrigley, Towns in Societies: Essays in Economic History and Historical Sociology. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978).

[6] Quoted in Rudolf von Thadden, Prussia: The History of a Lost State. Translated by Angi Rutter. (Cambridge, Paris: C. U. P. and Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, 1987), p. 17. My emphasis.

[7] Ivo Nikolai Lambi,  The Navy and German Power Politics, 1862 - 1914. (London:Allen & Unwin, 1984), p. 198.

[8] These figures can be found in Fritz Gause's Die Geschichte der Stadt Königsberg in Preussen. III. Band: Vom Ersten Weltkrieg bis zum Untergang Königsberg (Köln: Böhlau Verlag GmbH, 1996).

[9] See "Goerdeler, Carl" in C. Paul Vincent, A Historical Dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic. (Westport Conn: Greenwood Press, 1997).

[10] Michael Wines, "Russians awake to a Forgotten S.S. Atrocity", New York Times, January 30, 2000.