Introduction to the German Perspective


Before 1772 Prussia was a region which consisted of what was later known as East Prussia with the capital at Koenigsberg, today Kaliningrad, Russia. Prussia had been a duchy since 1525, a kingdom of the Hohenzollern dynasty since 1701 and along with West Prussia and the city-states of Danzig, Elbling, Thorn, and Culm, it was part of Polish Prussia before 1772. When Prussia received lands during the Partitions of Poland in the late 18th century, it formed four administrative areas, two in East Prussia and two in New East Prussia. By 1806 East Prussia had 983,034 inhabitants.
In 1806 New East Prussia had 914,610 inhabitants and two administrative districts, one in Plozk in the north with six Kreise (counties) and the other in Bialystock in the south with ten Kreise, including Kalwary and Mariampol, both in the area near Wylkowiszki.1

Bilder aus der Geschichte des evangelischen Deutschtums in Litauen
(Pictures of the History of the Protestant German Settlement in Lithuania)2

The German perspective is presented with information from the 1964 publication of Bilder aus der Geschichte des evangelischen Deutschtums in Litauen, (Pictures of the History of the Protestant German Settlement in Lithuania. This history of the German Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran church in Lithuania is not widely available. The following provides a modest description of the history of the German Synod—Lithuania and a broad overview.

Historical Background

The following provides some theories as to how and when the German people came to Lithuania:

• They came, invited by the Lithuanian Grand Duke earlier in the Middle Ages, as shopkeepers, educators, and hand-workers.
• In the beginning of modern times, it was the high nobility who brought German hand workers, the trades people, and farmers to their estates and to the cities.
• Through the spread of the Protestant Reformation in the Polish-Lithuanian area, there was a third migration.
• The last and biggest influx was at the turn of the 18th-19th century at the time of the Third Partition of Poland, when the left bank of the Memel was awarded to Prussia. 3 (See “The Russian-Polish Perspective” above.)

These…migrations (between which occurred several smaller ones, such as the founding of a Hanseatic counting house [customs] in Kauen) brought German-speaking people to Lithuania. The situation of the Germans appeared to be especially distinct. 4

It is obvious, that except for a few exceptions, most of the Germans in Lithuania were Evangelical Lutherans, so it was not unusual that they would be attached to the unaltered Augsburg Confession. That is why there came to be a close relationship between the United Church of Prussia and the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Russia (Lithuania). That is why Lithuania resembled the Evangelical Lutheran Russian, the “Old Lutherans” or the Missouri Synod in North America. 5

According to the canon law of 1832, the Evangelical Lutheran community in Lithuania on the right side of the Memel affiliated with the general church consistory in St. Petersburg. (The St. Petersburg Consistory was one of two Lutheran geographically-defined entities in Russia.)

Others joined with the Evangelical Lutheran congregation on the left side of the Memel River. These affiliated generally with the Warsaw Consistory. Here the Napoleonic Civil Law was observed. (The –at families fell under this jurisdiction.) In addition, the Czarist church laws came in the year 1849. The church allowed a consistorial order. The congregations had broad self-governance: they chose the pastor and the church vestry board; they also set the pastor’s salary. This consistorial order lasted till the end of the First World War in 1918. With restoration of sovereignty, the Lithuanians had their country again. Thus, the Lithuanian and other areas occupied by minorities had new borders.6

1 OstPreussen/East Prussia, online , data downloaded 3 March 2008.
2 Herman Jaekel, Bilder aus der Geschichte des evangelischen Deutschtums in Litauen. [The History of the Protestant German Settlement in Lithuania] (Leer: Herausgegben von Hifskomitee der evangelischen Deutschen aus Litauen in Zusammenarbeit mit der Schriftleitung der Heimatstimme, 1964), 27.
3 Jaekel, Bilder aus der Geschichte des evangelischen Deutschtums in Litauen, 27.
4 Jaekel, Bilder aus der Geschichte des evangelischen Deutschtums in Litauen, 27.
5 Jaekel, Bilder aus der Geschichte des evangelischen Deutschtums in Litauen, 27.
6 Jaekel, Bilder aus der Geschichte des evangelischen Deutschtums in Litauen, 28.

About suwalkigermans

I started family research in 1993. My first two books focused on my maternal grandparents. Both families came from Kreis Rosenberg, West Prussia, to Big Rapids, Michigan. I left the Spurgats from Wylkowiszki in the Russian Empire as the third book because of the difficult and challenging research it required. After I published the book in 2010, I wondered what to do next. I thought I might try to share some of my research with others and maybe at the same time, by going digital, someone would find me. When you read the comments, you will see that happened. The best part of all this is helping others.
This entry was posted in Ethnicities, history, Suwalki Province, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s