East Prussia after Napoleon: 1815 to Present
The capital of East Prussia remained in Konigsberg in the Konigsberg Administrative District.
The northeastern border with Lithuania, known as Memelland, remained in East Prussia until 1923. Memelland lay north of the Nemanus River and was part of what was known as Lithuania Minor. Some maps of East Prussia do not show the river, often a dividing point between nations so the researcher must be aware that some of Kreis Ragnit-Tilsit in East Prussia (with its own history of changing borders) was north of the river. Today the Nemanus divides Lithuania and the Kalinigrad Oblast of Russia.
In 1871 East Prussia was “fused” into the Second German Empire which ended in 1918.
20th Century Prussia: WWI
At the end of World War, I the borders of Prussia changed again. The most significant change was the separation of East Prussia from the rest of Germany and the establishment of the Polish Corridor.
Much of West Prussia became part of Poland, but After World War I the boundaries established by the Treaty of Versailles put five southern kreise from West Prussia back to East Prussia in what had been the original Prussia. See the map below.
Addition of Five Southern Kreise to East Prussia
Map of West and East Prussia
Memelland became part of Lithuania in 1923.
1939: The Beginning of WWII
In 1939 East Prussia “annexed” the southern kreise from Poland and what had been West Prussia.
Germany also “annexed” Memelland.
In 1939 Hitler invaded Poland to reconnect the province of East Prussia with the rest of Germany.
Map of the Former East Prussia Today
The shaded part in the north of what was Memelland in East Prussia is now in Lithuania. 1815 to 1919. to Lithuania in 1924.
Today the Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia is everything in the lighter shade above the red horizontal line.
Poland encompasses everything in the lighter shade below the dark horizontal line.
The dark green shade on the left was a part of West Prussia that became East Prussia after WWI from 1920 to 1939.
Note how the Coronian Spit is divided between Lithuania and Russia today,
The Neman/Nemanus (formerly Memel) River divides Lithuania and Russia today.
The glory of East Prussia lay in ruins after WWII when the Soviets took control and is now known as the Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia. The German people were woefully evacuated during the brutal winter of 1945 by land and by sea. What was not destroyed during the war was desecrated afterwards. A few remaining buildings like the church below in Kreis Insterburg recall the importance of the evangelische church.
This painting by Romanas Borisovas is from a 2015 calendar published by Draugas, the Lithuanian-American newspaper. It shows the remains in 2002 of a church in Obehlischken-Schulzehof, a southern parish of Kreis Insterberg. I thought it was beautifully done.
What was formerly the Russian Empire is now Suwalki Province in southwestern Lithuania. Although all the Germans were evacuated during WWII, remnants of their lives and culture are visible in Lithuania today. Much like the former East Prussia, time and tragedy have erased the visible elements. Perhaps the researchers of these families can uncover some treasures of their lives through searching for their records and preserving their stories, no matter how little is known.