A focused history of an intensely held Prussian city on the eastern front during World War II.
While there are numerous surveys of Hitler’s advance into Russia and the hugely sacrificial Russian push back, there is less known about the devastating effect of the war on the German province of East Prussia. In this solid historical account, English journalist and educator Denny focuses on the capital city of Königsberg. Crowned in the 13th century by the imposing castle built by the Teutonic Knights, the city eventually became the seat of the Brandenburg region, and William I was anointed “King of Prussia in the Castle church in 1861.” A land of lakes and small, self-sustaining farms, East Prussia weathered the adversity of seasons and history, most notably being cut off from the rest of Germany by the creation of the Polish Corridor (including Danzig) after the German defeat in World War I, effectively isolating 1.5 million Germans and some 5,000 Jews. The Nazi Party’s promises to restore West Prussia and Danzig to Germany, get rid of the Polish Corridor, and fight communism resonated with large landowners and radical small-scale farmers of the province, and thus Hitler was overwhelmingly elected. The symbolic power of Königsberg was demonstrated when Hitler came in triumph to speak on the eve of the Reichstag election in 1933 and again after the annexation of Austria in 1938. Denny examines how the Jews were gradually routed out, while the German population remained relatively well cared for during the war, with the arrival of Poles as slave labor. By 1942, Königsberg was used as an assembly point for armed services heading to the eastern front. As German might waned and the Russian invasion was imminent, a huge evacuation of civilians took place from April to May 1945. The city’s surrender to the Soviet Army and the Allied bombing campaigns essentially destroyed the city.
A knowledgeable survey of a specific point in the eastern front and its ramifications for the Baltic region.