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East Prussia

General Information


Prussia was a region which before 1772 consisted of what was later known as East Prussia (Ostpreussen) with capital of Königsberg, a duchy since 1525, a kingdom of the Hohenzollern dynasty since 1701 and West Prussia (Westpreussen) with the Hanseatic cities of Danzig, Elbing, Thorn, and Culm, part of Poland referred to as Polish Prussia before 1772.

Political Divisions

The 1806 administrative areas were:

Ostpreussen (983,034 inhabitants):

Ostpreussisches Kammer-Department included the Kreise of Samland (Schaken), Tapiau, Brandenburg, Rastenburg, Braunsberg, Heilsberg, Morungen and Neidenburg.
Litauisches Kammer-Department included the Kreise of Insterburg, Olezko and Sehesten.

Neu-Ostpreussen (914,610 inhabitants):

Department der Kriegs- und Domainen-Kammer zu Bialystok included the Kreise of Lomza, Drohicin, Bielsk, Surasz, Bialystok, Bobrz, Dombrowa, Wygry, Kalwary, Marianpol.
Departement der Kriegs- und Domainen-Kammer zu Plozk included the Kreise of Wyszogrod, Lipno, Mlawa, Przasnik, Pultusk, Ostrolenka.

The concept of Kreis was different in pre-1806 Prussia and referred to the districts of the noble families ("Die Adeligen Kreise") as well as the Immediatstädte and royal Domainen-Aemter. The term "Regierung" referred to the judicial (court) system before 1806 and to the district administration after 1815.

Between 1824-1878 there was one Province of Prussia which later was divided into two provinces with capitals in Königsberg and Danzig. In 1900 there were the following districts and Kreise (counties):


Regierungsbezirk (district) of Königsberg with 20 Kreise (counties):

Allenstein, Braunsberg, Preussisch-Eylau, Fischhausen, Friedland, Gerdauen, Heiligenbeil, Heilsberg, Preussisch-Holland, Königsberg-Stadt, Kbg-Land, Labiau, Memel, Mohrungen, Neidenburg, Ortelsburg, Osterode, Rastenburg, Roessel, Wehlau.

Regierungsbezirk (district) of Gumbinnen with 16 Kreise (counties):

*Angerburg, Darkehmen, Goldap, Gumbinnen, Heydekrug, Insterburg, Johannisburg, *Loetzen, Lyck, Niederung, Treuburg, Pillkallen, Ragnit, Sensburg, Stallupoenen, Tilsit. [This district was also called Preussisch-Litauen (Lithuania). It was here that the Austrian Salzburger refugees were settled in 1732 after the plague of 1708.]

(*) Counties my grandparents lived and came from!

Religious Divisions

The majority in 1890 was Evangelical (83.5%); the Catholics (12.8%) were concentrated in the four Kreise of Ermland (Allenstein, Braunsberg, Heilsberg and Roessel).

Court Districts

Before 1900, the highest provincial court was the
Oberlandesgericht in Königsberg. The lower courts were:

Landgericht Allenstein with (10) Amtsgerichte:
Allenstein, Gilgenburg, Hohenstein, Neidenburg, Ortelsburg, Osterode, Passenheim, Soldau, Wartenburg, Willenberg.
Landgericht Bartenstein with (17) Amtsgerichte:
Barten, Bartenstein, Bischofsburg, Bischofstein, Domnau, Preussisch-Eylau, Friedland, Gerdauen, Gutstadt, Heilsberg, Kreuzburg, Landsberg, Nordenburg, Rastenburg, Roessel, Schippenbeil, Seeburg.
Landgericht Braunsberg with (10) Amtsgerichte:
Braunsberg, Heiligenbeil, Liebstadt, Mehlsack, Mohrungen, Mühlhausen, Preussisch-Holland, Saalfeld, Wormditt, Zinten.
Landgericht Insterburg with (6) Amtsgerichte:
Darkehmen, Goldap, Gumbinnen, Insterburg, Pillkallen, Stallupoenen.
Landgericht Königsberg with (8) Amtsgerichte: Allenburg, Fischhausen, Königsberg, Labiau, Mehlauken, Pillau, Tapiau, Wehlau.
Landgericht Lyck with (10) Amtsgerichte:
*Angerburg, Arys, Bialla, Johannisburg, *Loetzen, Lyck, Margrabbowa, Nikolaiken, Rhein, Sensburg.
Landgericht Memel with (4) Amtsgerichte:
Heydekrug, Memel, Proekuls, Russ.
Landgericht Tilsit with (6) Amtsgerichte:
Heinrichswalde, Kaukehmen, Ragnit, Skaisgirren, Tilsit, Wischwill.

In 1772 King Friedrich II of Prussia annexed part of Poland (without the Danzig Territory) calling it West Prussia (Westpreussen) and united it with East Prussia (Ostpreussen) . In 1793 King Friedrich Wilhelm II also annexed the Danzig and Thorn Territories.Königsberg was the capital and coronation city of the Prussian kings. Terms like the German army have no meaning for this time period.

Before 1806 Germany was one kingdom and empire with one Kaiser and one king who resided in Wien (Vienna). He was elected by the collegium of Kurfürsten (electors) who in 1800 were the 3 archbishops of Koeln (Cologne), Mainz and Trier and the 4 secular electors of Rheinland-Pfalz, Brandenburg, Sachsen (Saxony), and Boehmen (Bohemia).

The electors of Brandenburg and Sachsen had also ambitions to acquire the title of king. Since they could not acquire this title inside Germany they succeeded outside Germany: Brandenburg by declaring themselves "King in Prussia" at Königsberg in 1701. The Kaiser in Wien was powerless to prevent this ploy.

The Prussian kings were as follows:

Kurfürst (Elector) Friedrich III was crowned first king Friedrich I in Königsberg in 1701, died 1712, his son was...
King Friedrich Wilhelm I, 1712-1740, intolerant, his son was...
King Friedrich II the Great (Old Fritz), 1740-1786, his nephew was...
King Friedrich Wilhelm II, 1786-1797, intolerant, his son was...
King Friedrich Wilhelm III, 1797-1840, his son was...
King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, 1840-1861, his brother was
King Wilhelm I, 1861-1888, became German Kaiser 1871, his son was...
Kaiser and King Friedrich III, 1888 (99 days), his son was...
Kaiser and King Wilhelm II, 1888-1918.

After Napoleon's final defeat in 1815 the kingdom of Prussia became known as "Die Vereinigten Preussischen Staaten" (United Prussian States) which now also included provinces like Schlesien/Silesia, Brandenburg, Pommern/Pomerania and areas as far west as the Rhine province. Berlin now became the Prussian capital.

In 1871 Germany as an empire with a Kaiser was re-established with Berlin as the capital of Germany and Prussia and with the Prussian king having the title of German Kaiser. All monarchies in Germany were abolished in 1918 and Prussia was declared defunct in 1945 by the Allied victors. The original (West und Ostpreussen) Prussia was cleansed of its ethnic German population and given to Poland and Russia. The Western powers were silent on the ethnic cleansing of original Prussia and Eastern Germany resulting in 12 millions of German refugees.

Arbeitsmann, (non-farm) laborer.
Bauer, modern term after about 1850 for middle-sized farmer (<500 Morgen).
Deputant, land laborer paid in kind (Deputat) like grain, potatos, lodging.
Einlieger, subtenant.
Hakenbuedner,Hoeker, store owner/tenant selling everyday supplies which are displayed on hooks from walls and ceiling.
Kaetner, Katner, tenant of small shack (Kate) with land.
Krueger, Krugpaechter, tenant of inn (Krug) or pub or pharmacy owned and licensed by king or noble landlord.
Nachbar, member of group (Nachbarschaft) leasing land from landlord
Paechter, tenant.
Rittergutsbesitzer, owner of large medieval estate farm.
Tageloehner, land laborer earning daily wage in kind (Deputat), some cash.