I’m currently reading Forgotten Land: Journeys Among the Ghosts of East Prussia, by Max Egremont. I’m only a third of the way through it, and it’s a fairly dense text and therefore difficult to do justice to in a short review.
If you look at a map, perhaps this one, you can get a perspective of how far east the area under discussion in Egremont’s book is situated. Some very old German people, when asked about east Germany, might not think you would be talking about the GDR. They might consider the GDR to be middle Germany, and Prussia to be east Germany.
East Prussia and its surrounding regions suffered various invasions from the west, and also from the east, over the past couple of centuries. Vast population movements resulted from many of these invasions – people avoiding the Nazis, others avoiding the Russians. The borders, in this part of Europe, were regularly changing. Prussia can’t be described as ever being the German heartland, but it was an important part of the German empire from 1871. After World War I a Polish Corridor separated it from the rest of Germany.
The city Königsberg, which was renamed Kaliningrad in 1946, plays an important role in Egremont’s book. Rather than a chronological narrative, he discovers descendants of families who once lived there and nearby, often in grand houses, who moved west during WWII to avoid the advancing Russians, and relates their stories and their pasts. He writes about the artist Käthe Kollwitz, he discusses the importance of the Battle of Tannenberg in the German psyche, and tells us about Marion Dönhoff, the political editor of Die Zeit. It was in East Prussia that the 20 July plot to assassinate Hitler took place.
I’m enjoying reading about the history of East Prussia.