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Like other cities and fortresses of a region where stone was too hard to quarry, Königsberg was built of brick: a gothic forest of pinnacles, turrets and towers. In the 19th century it acquired industries as well as trade; its politics moved to the Left, from the liberal hero of the 1848 revolution and pioneer of Jewish emancipation, Johann Jacoby, to Otto Braun, socialist Prussian prime minister in the Weimar Republic and a staunch opponent of Hitler. Yet beyond the city walls lay a feudal world of large estates, worked by a variety of Germanic and Slavic peasants and ruled by a rustic aristocracy for whom this land was, depending on the individual, an idyll or a backwater.

Unlike Germany’s other eastern provinces, farmed by the notoriously reactionary Junker class, the nobility of East Prussia tended to be more cosmopolitan. One member of this caste was Countess Marion Dönhoff. As editor and publisher of Die Zeit, she became the grande dame of postwar German liberalism, but she was determined that East Prussia, where she grew up in the exquisite Schloss Friedrichstein, would not be forgotten. Her 1962 memoir of the expulsion of the surviving Germans from East Prussia, Names that Nobody Names Any More, included photographs of its lost castles and houses, including one of Königsberg as a sea of flames after a raid by RAF Lancasters. Her elegiac farewell to her beloved landscape was addressed to her embittered countrymen, who took another three decades to renounce territorial claims. The fall of Königsberg in April 1945, though on a smaller scale than that of Berlin a few weeks later, was no less apocalyptic. Hans von Lehndorff, another East Prussian count, lived through it all, surviving mainly because the Russians valued him as a doctor.

His East Prussian Diary records the transition from Nazi to Communist rule during the period from 1945-47. Published in 1967, it became an instant classic. Lehndorff recounts with a deep sense of remorse and a dry sense of humour the horrors visited on their former oppressors by Russian soldiers bent on revenge and rape. Weeks after the emaciated civilians are herded into camps, he and his staff are driven back into Königsberg to hunt in the ruins for medical supplies. One of his colleagues objects to Lehndorff’s scruffy attire: “You can’t go to the city in that hat!” He cannot believe that anybody still cares. “The city! A grandiose heap of rubble. And oneself: a tiny dung beetle that has just been crushed by a roller and still can’t comprehend how he is still alive . . . Hard to believe that there are people who take such an obvious judgment of God for a hideous accident.” Within two years, what was left of the German population was expelled and replaced by Russian settlers.

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October 24th, 2017
7:10 PM
The author has never been in Kaliningrad-Konigsberg. Why write a lie? There live normal people, not distressed. We also do not want war as you are. Our army on its territory, and that makes the American. And good to remember that 70% of königsberg was razed to the ground British aircraft in 1945. Come join us in the city, talk to people, look at our life and you will realize that we Jeno so different from you.

March 2nd, 2017
12:03 PM
"Ukraine’s territorial integrity was guaranteed by the signatories of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum" What is also disturbinb to Americans is that this "agreement" was never ratified by our Senate. It reeks of the pre-World War I commitment of Britain to aid France and Belgium -- resulting in an automatic road to war without consultation with Parliament or the British people. I thought such "gentlemen's agreements" were ruled out after 1918; but here they are back again -- diplomats commit their countries and peoples to wars over obscure obligations about which they were not consulted, over borders and foreign disputes in which they have no interest.

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