My parents lived in Königsberg and were married there in 1940. The city was the capital of East Prussia in Germany. I remember a photo of them in 1937 in a rowboat on this large castle lagoon, the one pictured here. And stories of how they had dinner in the somewhat spooky Königsberg Castle’s Blutgericht (Blood Court), a restaurant in a space once used in medieval times by the Teutonic Knights as a courtroom for capital crimes. And how they would go to the famous Café Schwermer and sit there for hours just talking, slowly nursing their Kaffee und Kuchen, under the massive old oaks that shaded the outdoor seating area in summers,
Some notes on the history
The city of Königsberg represented a long history of Germans in the northern countries along the Baltic Sea. It represented the 700 years that Germans were crusading for the church, building cities, developing farming estates, and governing the populations adjoining the Baltic Sea.
Königsberg was founded by Teutonic Knights in 1255 during the Northern Crusades and named in honor of King Ottokar II of Bohemia. The German-language name Königsberg literally means “King’s mountain”. This fortress city of the Teutonic Knights eventually became the capital of their Monastic State of the Teutonic Order, which included in modern reference: West and East Prussia., parts of Poland, part of Lithuania, and all of Latvia and Estonia.
After the Catholic Knights became Lutherans in 1525, Königsberg became the capital of the Duchy of Prussia and in 1701 it became the capital of the Kingdom of Prussia. The Brandenburg Elector Frederick III of Hohenzollern became Frederick I, King in Prussia. Because Berlin and Potsdam in Brandenburg remained the main residences of the Prussian kings, soon “Kingdom of Prussia” was increasingly used to designate all of the Hohenzollern lands, and thus the former ducal Prussia became known as East Prussia, with Königsberg as its capital.
As time progressed, the Baltic port of Königsberg developed into a German cultural center, counting among its residents the famous philosopher Immanuel Kant and the writer E. T. A. Hoffmann. Even Richard Wagner lived in Königsberg for a while.
The land of East Prussia, famous as the breadbasket of Germany, was also known for its landed aristocracy, the Junkers, who contributed with great honor to the officer corps of the German Army.
After WWII, 700 years of German rule came to an end when East Prussia, West Prussia, Pommerania and Silesia were removed from Germany and split between Russia, Lithuania and Poland. Overall, 17 million ethnic Germans were expelled from their traditional homelands. These 17 million people lost everything they owned, but they were the lucky ones…2 million of the expelled died during the largest forced migration in the history of the world.