By William W. Hagen
The following post contains significant information quoted and paraphrased from resources at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Library and Archives and focuses on the history of Germans in Lithuania with possible East Prussian origins. They are shared here for their scholarly and historical perspective and help provide a political and social history to the family history we all seek. Although this particular publication does not focus on the 1930s and 1940s, it provides background information.
Page 9: Prussia (which later became East Prussia) was largely a land of serfs and noble estates.
Page 18: The Germans on the 18th Century Frontier: The Germans who lived there remained staunchly loyal to the Polish king as long as their privileges and local autonomy were respected.
Page 65: The Germans and Jews in South and New East Prussia: The Prussia government regarded the many Germans in south Prussia and the few in New East Prussia as valuable subjects but it did not take any systematic strains to strengthen them against the Poles or the Jews.
Page 81: There were two groups of peasants. About 40% of the serfs worked for their lord by being compensated by land, money or other services and fell in this category. The others worked for their lord at will and could be evicted. (This may need to be revised.)
Page 120-122: Conclusion: Prussian rule in partitioned Poland sought to Germanize the Polish church, prevent the peasants from buying farmland, drive the laborers westward, and drive the Polish language from public life.
Page 120: The 20th century ramifications of this suggest that (1) Hitler continued the Prussian national policy and (2) Himmler filled the land with German colonists.
Page 121: It was not the “German colonists” whom the people hated, but the Prussian government’s attempts to “Germanize” the conquered lands in the Partitions of Poland.
Page 122: The continuation of the Prussian “mission in the east” did not work. “It ended under Hitler’s command, in the destructiveness of the Jews, the devastation of Poland, and a crushing defeat, stripping the German nation of its eastern outposts.”