East Prussia, 1870-1945
In the 13th century, the Teutonic Knights, an organized Catholic medieval military order of German crusaders, conquered the Polish region of Pomerelia with Gdańsk (Danzig). For centuries, Prussia successfully expanded its size by way of an unusually well-organized and efficient army. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Prussia entered the ranks of the great powers and exercised most influence. Prussia, with its capital in Königsberg and from 1701 moved to Berlin, shaped the history of Germany. In 1871, German states united to create the German Empire. In this imperial federation, the Prussian king was also the Emperor of Germany.
The term "Prussian" has often been used, especially outside of Germany, to emphasize the professionalism, aggressiveness, militarism and conservatism of the Junker class of landed aristocrats in the East who dominated first Prussia and then the German Empire.
In 1918, the monarchies were abolished, and the nobility lost its political power. In the Weimar Republic, the state of Prussia lost nearly all of its legal and political importance, however, from 1918 to 1932 it was a most promising democracy in German territories.
Beginning January 1945, in a period of 15 weeks, about 1,000 vessels, including Germany's largest remaining naval units, transported 900,000 refugees and 350,000 soldiers across the Baltic Sea to Germany and occupied Denmark. The MV Wilhelm Gustloff was a German military transport ship which was sunk on 30 January 1945 by Soviet submarine S-13 in the Baltic Sea while evacuating German civilians, Nazi officials, and military personnel from Gdynia (Gotenhafen) as the Red Army advanced. At least 7,000 people died, which makes it the largest loss of life in a single ship sinking in history. The Gustloff was 13 miles off the coast of Pomerania. Barely 1,100 survived.
The total number of Prussian 1945’s casualties is estimated 2 to 4 million, including those who fled the Soviet army during the last months of the war before the 1945 Treaty. The Prussian population fled, mostly to the Western zones. With the end of the Nazi regime in 1945, the areas east of the Soviet Zone of Occupation, Eastern Prussia, Western Prussia, and Silesia were handed over to Poland, including Danzig, Breslau, and Stettin.