Königsberg was founded about 1255 by the Teutonic Knights, who named it after their ally, King Ottocar of Bohemia and erected a famous castle-fortress. It was subsequently the capital city of their monastic state of Prussia, later (from 1525) becoming capital and seat of their Duchy of Prussia. This was elevated in 1701 to the German Kingdom of Prussia. This kingdom continued to 1919.
From the 1871 unification of Germany to its defeat in World War I, Prussia comprised almost two-thirds of the territory of the German Empire. It took its name from the original territory of Prussia, although its power base was moved to Brandenburg in 1701 when the capital was moved to Berlin. During the period from 1701 until 1945 Königsberg was the provincial capital of the German province of East Prussia. After Memel it was the easternmost large German city until it was conquered and destroyed by the Soviet Union near the end of World War II. In 1946 the occupied and rebuilt city was renamed Kaliningrad. It remains under occupation.
The thirteenth century Königsberg Castle was one of the landmarks of the East Prussian capital and was an Ordensburg of the Teutonic Order. In 1457, after losing the Order's great castle at Marienburg, following the Treaty of Thorn, Königsberg became the new capital of the Order's monastic state, and the Grand Masters moved into what had been the quarters of the Order's Marshal in the castle. Between 1519–1521 Königsberg was unsuccessfully besieged by Polish Forces. In 1525 the Grand Master adopted the reformed religion and Prussia became a secularised state until its union with Brandenburg in 1618.
The Order's original castle became quite extensive and was frequently altered in the 16th to 18th centuries. The tower was 330 feet high. The west wing contained the Schloss-Kirche, where Frederick I King of Prussia was crowned in 1701, and Wilhelm 1st in 1861. The Elector Frederick III of Brandenburg and his court retired to Konigsberg castle after the Napoleonic disasters of 1807, when schemes by Baron von Stein and von Humboldt were zealously canvassed for the resurrection of Prussia. It is also well-known for containing the apartments of Queen Louise of Prussia.
Destruction in World War II
The Bombing of Königsberg was a series of attacks made on the city of Königsberg in East Prussia during World War II. The Soviet Air Force had made several raids on the city since 1941, but it was the extensive attacks carried out by the Royal Air Force Bomber Command that destroyed most of the city's historic quarters in the summer of 1944, killing many thousands of the civilian population. This was one of many bloody war crimes of British "strategic" bombing during World War II.
The "Festung Königsberg" (fortress Königsberg) was also heavily attacked, mainly by artillery, during the Battle of Königsberg during the final weeks of the war in 1945. German-Jewish author and musician Michael Wieck, a native of Königsberg, wrote in A Childhood Under Hitler and Stalin that "the people of Königsberg shall never expunge these nights of terror from their memory."
Under Soviet occupation, the entire German population was forcibly expelled (German: Vertreibung) from the city in 1948. From the 110,000 Germans inhabiting the city as of May 8 1945 only 15,000 were still alive to be forcefully displaced in 1948. In 1939 Königsberg had a population 372,000 Germans.
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- In 1945, the prolonged battle of Königsberg inflicted further damage. More than 90% of the city had been destroyed when the Soviets occupied the city in April 1945.