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Memel / Klaipeda

Memel was once the northernmost city in Prussia. There is a water connection from the Curonian Lagoon, including the delta of the Memel River of the same name (Lithuanian Nemunas) to the Baltic Sea via the Memel Deep. From the city you can reach the unique landscape of the Curonian Spit in a few moments, which was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2000.

The landscapes of the Curonian Lagoon along the Memel were once home to Prussian-Baltic tribes. Christianity came to the area in the 13th century with the Livonian Brotherhood of the Sword. First, the Sword Brothers built a castle and a little later - in 1253 - the city of Memel. It is one of the oldest city foundations in East Prussia , in which merchants from Dortmund played a decisive role. In 1258, the young commune - mentioned as Memele castrum - was granted the town charter in the region, which is rare in the region.

In 1328 Memel came under the rule of the Teutonic Order. The oldest city seal from which the city coat of arms, which is still valid today, originates from the founding time. In the center you can see a tower of the Memelburg, which is secured by wooden beacons. A boat floats on the water in front of it,
underlining Memel's maritime connection to the Curonian Lagoon and the Baltic Sea.


When the Grand Master from Franconia, Albrecht von Brandenburg, from the younger line of Hohenzollern-Ansbach, was elected Grand Master in 1511, the Teutonic Order was politically at an end. Albrecht looked for new ways for his state, whereby he became increasingly enthusiastic about the teaching of the Reformation. Martin Luther himself advised him to transform the religious state into a secular duchy in 1525. Albrecht was the first hereditary duke in Prussia to swear the feudal oath of the Polish-Lithuanian crown, whose sovereignty he recognized.

Prussia was the first Protestant country in the world. In the spirit of the Reformation, Duke Albrecht promoted not only German but also the other languages of his duchy: Lithuanian, Polish and Prussian. During this time, the duchy gained great importance for science and literature. The early baroque Koenigsberg poets played a major role in German literature. One member, the poetics professor Simon Dach , came from Memel and created one of the most beautiful German love songs with Ännchen von Tharau.


The Ännchen von Tharau

Finally, the Duchy of Prussia fell to the Brandenburg line of the Hohenzollern, whose Elector Friedrich III. crowned himself king in Prussia in 1701 in the Königsberg castle church. From this core Prussia - later East Prussia - the Prussian state emerged and gave it the name Prussia . Memel remained primarily a small port town, but its fortress continued to have important strategic importance for securing the Curonian Lagoon and the Memel estuary. With the Napoleonic Wars, however, Memel was suddenly on everyone's lips when the Prussian royal court and government had to flee here from distant Berlin.

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View of the port

For a year Memel rose to become the secret capital, where the fate of the Prussian state, shaken by war and occupation, was conducted. During this time in 1807 the legendary meeting between Napoleon I and the Russian Tsar Alexander I took place upstream on the Memel, which culminated in the Peace of Tilsit. The Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III. and his wife Luise remained humiliated onlookers. Shortly after the liberation, Memel had 6,000 inhabitants.

In the middle of the 19th century an economic upswing began, which was particularly favored by the timber trade via the Memel from Lithuania and Belarus. The devastating fire in the city in 1854 meant a severe setback for development in the short term. In the German Empire, however, Memel made a brilliant comeback. The proud Jewish community , one of the largest in the province of East Prussia, also flourished during this time, which was later completely destroyed by the Nazi terror in 1939. In 1910 the town had 21,470 inhabitants , when Memel also benefited from the discovery of the Curonian Spit for tourism.

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Simon Dach fountain


Memel was the northernmost city in Prussia until 1920 and Germany since 1871. As a result of the Versailles regulations , the city has since been part of the Memel area under the mandate of the League of Nations. After the annexation by Lithuania in 1923, it was part of the republic with extensive autonomy status for the majority of the German population.

On March 22, 1939, the Memel area fell back to Germany under German pressure. At the end of the German era, Memel had over 43,000 inhabitants. The East Prussian civilian population was evacuated from the summer of 1944 or later fled the Soviet attack. On January 19, 1945, Soviet troops captured the city. From then on
Memel belonged to the Soviet Union as part of the Lithuanian Soviet Republic and since 1990 the city of Klaipėda - the old Lithuanian name - has belonged to the Republic of Lithuania as the westernmost city. 
Its eventful history ranges from a Baltic settlement to belonging to Prussia and the Soviet Union to the independent Republic of Lithuania, and since 2004 also as a member of the European Union. Today Memel has about 150,000 inhabitants.

As the most important seaport in Lithuania, Klaipėda is a pulsating metropolis with a university. The town honored her son Simon Dach with its landmark, the Simon Dach fountain , which was rebuilt in 1989 and is adorned by a figure of Ännchen von Tharau, whose history he made immortal.

The Ännchen connects all the people who live in this city -
whether Memel or Klaipėda - call it "home".

© Findeisen watches

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