My Mom was born 1939 in Königsberg in East Prussia (Ostpreussen in the very North-East, former map of Germany).
Like thousands of Germans (the vast majority of refugees were elderly people, women and children), her family crossed the frozen “Haff” (= huge “Danziger Bay” between Königsberg/Pillau and Gdingen) with the aim to escape from the Russian Red Army and their revenge. Many lifes were lost and entire treks of thousands of refugees disappeared under the ice of the Baltic Sea (the last escape corridor) after East Prussia was isolated and cut off from the German territory by the Red Army in winter 1944/45.
As far as my grandma told me, my mothers family was trying to reach the last ship leaving the harbor Gotenhafen / Gdingen (todays Gydnia) at the Baltic Sea…the famous military transport ship “MV Wilhelm Gustloff”, which was acccepting civilian refugees.
But my grandma and her family was about 1 hour too late and missed the “Wilhelm Gustloff”. The transporter ship left Gotenhafen for his final tour this day.
9.400 lifes lost after bombarding refugee rescue ship
On 30 January 1945, the “Wilhelm Gustlow” operated under the flag of the red cross was bombed by submarine S-13 (Soviet Navy) and sank immediately after being hit by 3 torpedos. By one estimate, 9.400 people died, which makes it the largest loss of life in a single ship sinking in world history.
2,5 mio German refugees evacuated by a fleet of 1000 merchant- and warships.
In a desperate act of humanity, about 2,5 mio German refugees were evacuated spontaneously by a quite unprepared fleet of approx. 1000 merchant-ships & warships quickly relocated to the Baltic Sea.
Do you notice something? Yes, we have caused a (admittedly just Germany internal) refugee crisis as well just one generation ago.
Königsberg – Kaliningrad
However, Germany lost all Eastern states/ territories (Ostpreussen, Schlesien, Pommern, Berlin-Brandenburg, Sachsen und Mitte) to Russia and Poland, as a result of the WWII. Königsberg and the region East Prussia (Ostpreussen) was part of the reparation package, Germany paid.
After being largely destroyed in World War II by Allied bombing and Soviet forces and annexed by the Soviet Union thereafter, the old German city “Königsberg” was renamed Kaliningrad because the Soviets wanted to gain access to the Baltic Sea for geo-strategical reasons.
Königsbergs unique regional cuisine is unforgotten
Königsberg was well-known within Germany for its unique regional cuisine. One of the popular dishes from the city was “Königsberger Klopse”, which is still made today in some specialist restaurants in Kaliningrad and present-day Germany.
Other food and drink native to the city included:
+ Königsberger Marzipan for teatime (pic l-h-s)
+ Kopskiekelwein, a wine made from blackcurrants or redcurrants + Bärenfang + Spirgel or Spirkel + Schwarzsauer + Klunker Soup + Rader-Cake (polnish: Faworki) + Tilsiter Cheese (Tilsit is a town in East Prussia) + Ochsenblut, literally “ox blood”, a champagne-burgundy cocktail mixed at the popular Blutgericht pub, which no longer exists.
East Prussia and and its formerly flourishing capitol Königsberg is lost but not the recipes of our grandmothers forwarded to our mothers…and then to us….
KÖNIGSBERGER KLOPSE IN CREAMY CAPER SAUCE
Für die Klößchen (for the Meat Balls):
250 g Rinderhackfleisch (Ground Beef)
250 g Schweinehackfleisch (pork minced meat)
1 Brötchen, eingeweicht (in water soaked roll)
1 große Zwiebel(n) (big onion)
2 Ei(er) (eggs)
2 EL Paniermehl (2 soup spoons bread crumbs)
etwas Sardellenpaste (some anchovy paste)
Für die Brühe (for the stock / bouillon):
1 Liter Fleischbrühe, klare (Bouillon)
1 große Zwiebel(n) (big onion)
1 Lorbeerblatt (bay leaf)
3 Körner Piment (3 corns of pimento)
3 Pfefferkörner (3 corns of black pepper)
Für die Sauce:
3 EL Butter
2 EL Mehl (flour)
Zitronensaft (Lemon Juice)
375 ml Brühe vom Kochen der Klopse (Bouillon from meat ball cooking)
125 ml Sahne (creme)
Kapern, 1 Röhrchen (caper, 1 glass)
1 Eigelb (egg yolk)
Salz und Pfeffer (salt & pepper)
Außerdem: 1 kl. Bund Petersilie, zum Garnieren. Besides: 1 Little bundle of parsley for decoration.
Das Rezept ist für 4 Portionen kalkuliert. The recipe is for 4 person.
Arbeitszeit: ca. 45 Min. / Koch-/Backzeit: ca. 40 Min. / Schwierigkeitsgrad: normal / Kalorien p. P.: ca. 754 kcal
Klopse (Meat Balls):
Aus Hackfleisch, dem ausgedrückten Brötchen und der geschälten, fein gehackten Zwiebel in einer Schüssel mit den zwei Eiern, Salz und Pfeffer einen geschmeidigen Fleischteig kneten. Den Klopsteig mit Paniermehl binden. Je nach persönlichem Geschmack kann auch noch ein wenig Sardellenpaste hinzugefügt werden. Aus der Teigmasse Klopse formen.
Die geschälte, klein gehackte Zwiebel und die Gewürze in die Brühe geben. Brühe erhitzen, evtl. nachsalzen. Die Klopse in die Brühe geben und ca. 10 Minuten köcheln lassen. Dann das Lorbeerblatt, die Pfefferkörner und Pimentkörner herausnehmen. Die Klopse in der Brühe in weiteren ca. 10 Minuten gar ziehen lassen. Dann herausnehmen und abgedeckt warm stellen.
Kapernsauce (Caper Sauce):
Butter erhitzen. Mehl darin anschwitzen. Mit der Brühe unter Rühren ablöschen. Die abgetropften Kapern und die Sahne hinzugeben. Die Sauce nun nicht mehr kochen lassen. Mit Zitronensaft, Zucker, Salz und Pfeffer süß-sauer abschmecken. Anschließend ein Eigelb zum Legieren in die Sauce rühren, die Klopse hineinlegen und mit der Petersilie garniert servieren.
East Prussia – Ostpreussen is today a part of Russia, Poland and Lithuania.
Further Details about The Evacuation of East Prussia and Königsberg
In 1944 the medieval city of Königsberg, which had never been severely damaged by warfare in its 700 years of existence, was almost completely destroyed by two RAF Bomber Command raids — the first on the night of 26/27 August 1944, with the second one three nights later, overnight on 29/30 August 1944. Winston Churchill (The Second World War, Book XII) had erroneously believed it to be “a modernized heavily defended fortress” and ordered its destruction.
Gauleiter Erich Koch protracted the evacuation of the German civilian population until the Eastern Front approached the East Prussian border in 1944. The population had been systematically misinformed by Endsieg Nazi propaganda about the real state of military affairs. As a result, many civilians fleeing westward were overtaken by retreating Wehrmacht units and the rapidly advancing Red Army.
Reports of Soviet atrocities in the Nemmersdorf massacre of October 1944 and organized rape spread fear and desperation among the civilians — leading to collective suicides of entire villages of old people, women & Children left behind by their men servicing in the Wehrmacht (German Armed Forces).
Thousands lost their lives during the sinkings (by Soviet submarine) of the refugee ships Wilhelm Gustloff, the Goya, and the General von Steuben.
Königsberg surrendered on 9 April 1945, following the desperate four-day Battle of Königsberg. The number of civilians killed is estimated to be at least 320,000.
However, most of the German inhabitants, which then consisted primarily of women, children and old men, did manage to escape the Red Army as part of the largest exodus of people in human history: “A population of East Prussia which had stood at 2.2 million in 1940 was reduced to 193,000 at the end of May 1945.”
Following Nazi Germany’s defeat in World War II in 1945, East Prussia was partitioned between Poland and the Soviet Union according to the Potsdam Conference.
Southern East Prussia was placed under Polish administration, while northern East Prussia was divided between the Soviet republics of Russia (the Kaliningrad Oblast) and Lithuania (the constituent counties of the Klaipėda Region).
The city of Königsberg was renamed Kaliningrad in 1946. Most of the German population of the province had left during the evacuation at the end of the war, but several hundreds of thousands died during the years 1944–46 and the remainder were subsequently expelled.