Volume 23, No.1 - Spring 1977
Editor of this issue: Thomas Remeikis
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1977 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.


Hans -Ulrich Stamm, Frag mich nach Ostpreussen ("Ost-preussisches Mosaik", l) (Leer/Ostfriesland: Verlag Gerhard Rautenberg, 1974). 159 pages, with illustrations.

Rolf Engels, Die preussische Verwaltung von Kammer und Regierung Gumbinnen (1724 - 1870) (Köln und Berlin: Grote, 1974). 182 pages, 4 illustrations, one map of 1838.

East Prussia with its historic cultural-political center Königsberg (Karaliaučius in Lith.), presently under Soviet control and known as Kalinin Oblast and Kaliningrad respectively, continues to enjoy the attention of German publicists and scholars. For obvious reasons, the interest is political — to establish German claims to the territory. In the course of these German efforts, the history of the area is distorted, particularly as regards the facts that part of the area, known as Lithuania Minor, was an ethnic Lithuanian territory and that before the conquest by the German knights in the Middle Ages East Prussia was inhabited by the Lithuanian tribe known as Prussians.

Especially indicative of such a distortion of history of the area is the recent booklet by Hans-Ulrich Stamm. The booklet has the characteristics of a small encyclopedia. It informs the reader about a former part of Germany — East Prussia, emphasizing that which the author considered typical of that region's geography and history. This from a journalistic point of view quite adroit popularization is not unfortunately characterized by the objectivity toward Lithuania. This is evident from the following:

1) The author completely overlooks the Lithuanians' spontaneous aid rendered to those thousands of Germans, mostly women and children, who saved themselves from starvation by fleeing from Königsberg and other East Prussian areas to Lithuania throughout 1945 - 1950. The East Prussian refugee newspaper Ostpreussenblatt — with which the author is associated — has extensively written about this aid in the past. Stamm sacrificed this expression of humanity to his political tactics: to disassociate from Lithuania.

2) Following this course, in his short booklet the author, contrary to tacts, found it necessary to direct unjust accusations against Lithuanians. He asserts that "many Germans, who at that time sought to defend their rights in Klaipėda (Memel in German), made an involuntary acquaintance with Lithuanian jails." To the uninformed it would appear that during 1923 - 1939 the Germans in the Klaipėda region enjoyed no rights and that the Lithuanians locked them up in prisons when the former attempted to defend their rights. In fact, there were at the time very few political cases in Klaipėda. In the notorious Nazi case of Neumann and Sass (1935), for example — which the author omits to mention — the accused were not defending their rights, but organizing an armed insurrection against the Lithuanian state.

3) The author fails to mention by, what means Hitler retrieved the Klaipėda region and what the predicament of Lithuanians was after 1939, even though these are historically recent and important events.

4) Although there is a separate section in the booklet about the East Prussian area "Masuren," Lithuania Minor, or Prussian Lithuania is ignored everywhere. The author overlooks the former domination of the Lithuanian ethnic element in the territory of Lithuania Minor or attempts to slight the significance of the Lithuanian inhabitants. The Lithuanian dwellers are mentioned only on p. 67 of the booklet: "In the North-East near Ungura, Įsrutis and Ragaine, Lithuanian colonists also played a role in the cultivation of swampy areas;" and on p. 92: "In 1713 two-fifths of the settlements which perished from the famine were again taken over by the local peasants' sons and immigrant (eingewanderte) Lithuanians." The author overlooks that it was precisely the famine which slashed the Lithuanian numerical predominance to the south of Nemunas. Such a statement suggests that the Lithuanians had not constituted the indigenous population and had moved into Prussia only after the famine! There is not one word about the ethnic statistics of the XVIII - XIX centuries or about Lithuanian place names in the Northern parts of East Prussia.

5) Even such a biased author as Hans Mortensen did not deny that Emmanuel Kant's origins were partly Lithuanian (see Albertus - ]ahrbuch, vol. 3). Yet in the past few years German East Prussians have been ignoring that Lithuanian part of I. Kant's descent, affirming that the non-German side of his derivation was merely "Courish," just as the author does (p. 99).

6) In the language section, information about the former sphere of the Lithuanian language in East Prussia is by-passed, as well as facts about the former Lithuanian dialects of that area. The author writes only about the former German dialects there. It is known that a certain number of Lithuanian loan words existed in East Prussian German dialects. The author, in ignoring this fact, even asserts that, for example, the word "Die Marjell" is of Prussian derivation, stemming from the Prussian word "merga". However, the authoritative Preussisches Wörterbuch (Königsberg, 1935} of Walter Ziesemer shows "Marjell" and similar words stemming from the Lithuanian word "mergelės" (girls).

7) In the article about the area of Tolminkiemis (Tollmingkehmen in German) the classic Lithuanian writer Kristijonas Donelaitis (spelled: Christian Donelitius), is mentioned on p. 27. In the author's words, "he accomplished a great deal as a bridge builder for the neighboring Lithuanian nation and language." Without mentioning Donelaitis' work Metai (The Seasons), and its contents, the author, through his misleading phraseology, obscures the fact that Donelaitis created specifically for his evangelical peasants of Lithuania Minor. According to Stamm, Donelaitis was not at all a Lithuanian, but a German, who "is at present claimed by the Lithuanians and declared a Lithuanian" ("wird heute von den Litauern in Anspruch genommen und als Litauer bezeichnet"). Donelaitis is not supposed to have known Lithuanian from home; it was only during his studies at Königsberg that he allegedly learned Lithuanian. Stamm did not want to remember Kurt Forstreiter's report, published in 1964 in his own newspaper, about a discovered document, testifying that Donelaitis (Donaleitis), Kristijonas' forefather, was settled in Lazdinėliai in the XVII century, together with other Lithuanian peasants {see my article in Aidai, 1967, No. 9). Stamm paid no attention to the fact that since the early XIX century no German scholar has categorically denied Donelaitis' Lithuanian origins.

The booklet furnishes much information about the former East Prussian Germans and their culture, but holds back the facts about the region's native Lithuanians. The author does not provide full and factual account of that region, but suggests a distorted view which he would like to project, i.e., Lithuania Minor without Lithuanians and not in existence.

There are other similar books and articles such as Stamm's encyclopedia, produced particularly by the refugees from East Prussia and their younger generation. Fortunately, there are also serious German historic and ethnographic studies about the area, including the recently published work by Rolf Engels. His is not a biased popularization, but a serious scholarly study of the history of Lithuania Minor's administration in the XVIII and XIX centuries. Nevertheless, the author shrinks from fully declaring the subject matter in the title: the author was apparently advised to substitute "Regierung Gumbinnen" for the designation Prussian Lithuania in the title. The former is the same as the latter: Gumbinė was the capital of Prussian Lithuania. In 1832 the government buildings in Gumbinė burned down; almost the entire archives perished. In 1864 a second fire again destroyed numerous documents. The greatest devastation of all was caused by World War II. Merely a small portion of the archival materials from Prussian Lithuania, which were preserved in Königsberg, was salvaged and taken to Göttingen. Some of the material the author discovered in Berlin in the former Secret Prussian State Archives and the archives of the Evangelical Church. In addition, he made use of the Amtsblatt der Regierung Gumbinnen, whose volumes have survived. Nevertheless, this unsatisfactory status of source material does not diminish the worth of the work. 

During the XVIII century, old Prussia was not a homogenous entity, including German, Lithuanian and Polish (Mazurian) regions. The author fails to explain when and for what reasons such a terminology - "language custom" (Sprachgebrauch), as he puts it, appeared. The principal administrative organ was termed "Council of War and Domains" (Kriegs- und Domaenenkammer), of which there were two: one in Konigsberg. called the Prussian or German, and the second in Gumbinė, known as the Lithuanian Council or Chancellery. The Lithuanian Council was officially instituted on February 4, 1723. From this date only two administrative areas existed in old Prussia: East Prussia (Ostpreussen) and Lithuania (Litthauen). Lithuania (Lith. Minor) in the XVIII century was not considered a part of East Prussia, as it is in our times. Instead, it was viewed as a province next to East Prussia. (This fact graphically came to light in 1972, in the course of doing research on Lithuania Minor's cartographic material. Compare P, Rėklaitis, "Litauen in der Kartographie Preussens," in Lithuania Minor, New York, 1976, p. 103). After 100 years the term Prussian Lithuania was officially eliminated from the administrative terminology by introducing in 1825 the terms "Government in Gumbinė" and "Government in Königsberg." But even after this date the designation Prussian Lithuania (Preussisch-Litthauen) continues to be employed not only in various spheres of life, but also within the administrative organs. It was even applied (up to 1905) to the Southern Polish-Mazurian part. Until 1905 the entire Prussian Lithuanian territory encompassed an area of 14,327 sq. km., in which there were 353,527 inhabitants (1816). By 1871, it included 724,724 inhabitants. The author did not clarify the language question of this population. At the beginning of our century, according to the author, approximately 200,000 inhabitants of this province considered the Mazurian language to be their native tongue. "There was only about half this number of people in the northern part of the province whose native language was Lithuanian." Evidently, the author did not include in this total the population of the Klaipeda area, which in 1815 was joined to the Königsberg province. What the language situation was in the XIX century and later the author does not say. Admittedly, the language question does not constitute the subject matter of the work. It would, however, be very useful to the reader to have clear facts regarding this question, which are very characteristic of this province. Vincas Vileišis' book Ethnic Relations in Lith. Minor until the Great War in the Light of History and Statistics (Kaunas, 1935) provided considerable material about the language situation in Lith. Minor. Even before the war German critics denounced this book as "unscholarly"; they ignore it at present. Certain Lithuanian specialists, like Prof. Salys and Prof. Ivinskis, also did not concur with all of Vileišis' theses. One cannot doubt, however, that Vileišis' study provided the most substantial collection of data about the statistics of the Lithuanian language and its significance for Lithuania Minor. In the XIX century much was written by Germans about the range of Lithuanian in Lith. Minor, including indications of the number of those speaking the language (139,450 in 1871, for example), (Compare Ostpr. ztg., v. 21, Mai 1881, Nr. 117). Engels' books does not have any more detailed information regarding the language situation. For this reason, its very important discussion of the administrative history lacks the background of past reality.

The section of the work, entitled "The Development of Administration in Prussian Lithuania During the XVIII Century," is important for understanding the Donelaitis era through the Prussian administration's point of view. The development of the administration in the period between 1808 -1825 and 1871 - 1880 — a period of administrative reform — is discussed in considerable detail. Administrative questions are analyzed, dealing with state officials, the police, schools, churches, control of the land, forests, fishery, horse raising and other public economic fields. How the government of Lithuania Minor solved these questions in the XIX century is investigated.

Dr. Povilas Rėklaitis 
Marburg a. d. Lahn



The Lithuanian province in Prussia. Administrative division after 1818, Districts of Lithuania Minor (Lithuanian names; German names next to map): L Šilutė; 2. Tilžė; 3. Pakalnė; 4. Ragainė; 5, Pilkalnis; 6. Įsrutis; 7. Gumbine; 8. Stalupėnai; 9. Darkiemis; W. Galdapė; The district of Klaipėda was administered from Königsberg.