Frankfurt a/Oder



In prehistoric times the Southern Baltic Coast was inhabited by the Celts, and later German tribes. By the 5th century, the inhabitants were "ousted" by a Slavic tribe known as Pomorzanies, ruled by the Piast dynasty and Pomeranian princes. The first recorded history of Pomerania is in 970's with the conquering by Piast King Mieszko I, when he took control of what became the Pomeranian capitol Szczecin (Stettin). Mieszko I, fearing Otto the Great (the Holy Roman Emperor) from the west, married the sister of the Duke of Bohemia, thereby converting Pomerania from a Pagan to a Catholic state, and under the Roman papacy. 1

In the 12 c., the southern Baltic coast (near Brandenburg) was mostly forests, colonization was offered to anyone who wanted to log the forests, and create an agriculture territory, in exchange for the German citizenship, including the Pomeranian cities Greifwal, Cammin and Kilberg, north of Stettin.2

By 1521, Pomerania held an ethnic mix of Slavs, Teutonic settlement in the east (later known as East and West Prussia), and German and Brandenburg colonization in the west; the Pomerianian princes took loyalty with the westward migration, and joined the Holy Roman Empire. This weakened Pomeranias ties with Catholic Poland who was more preoccupied with its' eastern borders, than the provinces in the west. In 1532 the Slavic Gryfit dynasty divided Pomerania into two, the Hinter Pomerania, and Hither Pomerania (upper and lower); Hinter Pomerania holding Szczecin (Stettin), Trzebiatów (Treptow) and Swinoujscie (Swinemunde).1

During the 16th c. the Hanseatic League emerged. The Hanseatic League was a league of German cities organized for prosperity in Baltic trading. The League owned the regional banks and traded fish, wool, cloth, mining, timber and fur with Russia, Sweden and Britain.2

In the south, in 1517 Martin Luther nails his 95 Thesis to a door in Wittenberg thus the Protestant Reformation begins as well as the early industrial revolution (as some historians call the first printing factories).4



In 1648 after the 30 Years War and the Protestant defeat of Catholisicm, Germans poured into Czech lands. They began controlling civil and mercantile institutions, while the native Czechs were slowly becoming the peasants and artisans. The Germanic Hapsburgs ruled the slavic territory and initially welcomed the German infiltration (practically German-Austrian colonies but not officially). By 1781 Joseph II legalized Protestant and Orthodox faiths in Bohemia. His mother The Empress Maria Theresea also granted the peasant Slavs the right to an education under Hungarian law.4 Later, between 1848-1867, Slavs were heavily "Germanized" under the Hapsburgs, until the Austro-Hungarian Empire brought their education under Hungarian customs, languages and education. In 1849 Slavs supported the Hapsburgs after being laughed at by the Hungarian Diet for putting forth a Slavic constitution (demanding a Slavic Nation) during the 1848 Revolutions. However, the Slavs gained the abolishment of surfdom during the process.4 In 1861, Czech council elections finally defeated Germany in Prague ending 200 years of German political majority. A German minority was influencial until it died out in the 1880's.4


This Prussian territory of Pomeriania stayed in effect until the end of WWI, when a portion of upper Pomerania was allocated to Poland, and after WWII when nearly all of Pomerania was allocated to Poland (to compensate Polish losses of the east to Russia), including Szczecin (Stettin), Trzebiatów (Treptow), Swinoujscie (Swinemunde) and Slubice (the eastern side of the river in Frankfurt an der Oder). During this time, mass German emmigration began; while the area was replaced with post war displaced Polish settlers.1


Originally settled in the 1253 circa, the town was built for trade by German merchants. Frankfurt (on the river - oder) began because of a wooden bridge stretching accross the Oder. This important trade route became the wealthiest and most important town in the Mark Brandenburg.

St. Marien Kirche
An important expression of this status was the size and decoration of the Church St. Marien. In 1524 an annex was built for the sacristy and martyr choir. In 1826 the southern spire collapsed initiating the neo-gothic rennovation according to the designs by the famous architect Carl Friedrich Schinkel who recommended rebuilding the spire. April 26th 1945 the Church burned to the ground and GDR housing was built around the church grounds. For decades the town fought the removal of the remains until 1989 when Frankfurt a/Oder spent 8.5 million DM restoring the surviving stonework which was completed in 1998. Significant medieval artworks were saved in underground seclusion during the war, including a candelabra (only 50 from medieval times exists in the world), this one bears the shield with the eagle of the Mark Brandenburg; a bronze font, and the high altar from 1489 was also among the saved items. Some highly unique items, including stain glass, were confiscated to St. Petersburg and remain there today. 6

Frankfurt an der Oder is the home of 19th c. dramatists, short story writer Heinrich von Kleist; and CPE Bach spent part of his life living, writing and performing here.1

In the 1890's Frankfurt an der Oder was the largest city in Brandenburg outside of Berlin/Potsdam, with over half million people.

During World War II, the town was heavily devistated.
In 1945 the west bank of the town continued as Frankfurt an der Oder, Germany; while the East Bank became the Polish town of Slubice.1



This capitol of Pomerania was settled by the Piast monarch, Mieszko I, in 10th c. By the 13th c., German colonization and the Hanseatic League were present. The city was captured by the Swedes in 1630 and sold to the Prussians in 1720, and remained under Prussian rule until 1945.1

The Baltic shipping industry of Szczecin (Stettin to the Prussian Germans) in contemporary Poland, borders contemporary Germany with the river Odra running through the town. The surviving architecture dates to the 14th c. where architect Henrich Brunsberg is the responsible for the finest brickwork in the Baltic lands, including the Cathedral of St. James. During the 19th c., one of the greatest ballad composers and singers, Carl Lowew, was the music director of the Cathedral. The town houses a medieval monestary, a second Gothic church and Gothic town hall, a castle of the Pomeranian princes, and a Baroque palace for Pomeranian parliament. In all, Stettin exhibits Teutonic, Prussian, Swedish, Slavic and Polish heritages. Stettin is also the birthplace of Sophie von Anhalt-Zerbst, in 1729 she was born a princes of "minor" aristorcratic German heritage, who became better known as Empress Catherine the Great of Russia (who was later responsible for attempting to "wipe Poland off the map").1


A fishing, naval and frontier post, for exchange in Denmark, Sweden and Germany, Swinoujscie (Swindemunde to the Prussian Germans) lies on the Pomeranian Gulf in Contemporary Poland.1



The region formerly known as Cölln/Berlin was chartered in the 12th century after a Slavic Kingdom's Dynasty died out. The region became a series of independent nomadic inhabitants and settlers who lived with relative freedom and vulnerability. The name Berlin is a Slavic work for "swampy area", but the Slavic word sounds like the German word for bear. Hence the the Germanic people adopted the Bear emblem for their misnamed city, claiming it a German place. By the 16th century Electors were sent to claim rights over the relatively free Berliners residing in the area known as Brandenburg. This began the Hohenzollern dynasty lasting until the fall of Germany after WWI. The area settled was the Brandenburg Marches named after the conquered Slavic area of similar name. At first the dynasty was welcome for protection, but soon after the Electors needed to gain power, and capitol, and began relinquishing freedoms, including the independence of Cölln creating the single town of Berlin. Struggles between the elected Burgermeisters and coucilors with the Hohenzollern dynasty would always tetor between citizens freedoms and military crackdowns.

"The clearest case of the development of absolutism and the enhanced powers of the ruler in an increasingly bureaucratised state -- and the most significant case for the subsequent course of German history -- was that of Brandenburg-Prussia. Starting from rather unpromising beginnings beginnings -- with its capital, Berlin, located in infertile soil of what was known as the 'sand-box of Europe' -- this state rose within a few generations to become one of the major European powers."

During the 30 Years War (1618-1648), Sweden occupied all of lower Pomerania and much of the coast of upper Pomerania. With the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, Szczecin (Stettin) became part of Sweden. After the 30 year war, and the plague, between 1640 and 1786 the Hohenzollern dynasty built up land and a military almost uninterupted until the French Revolution, including far eastern territories of East Prussia, disconnected to western Prussia and Brandenburg. Brandenburg-Prussia included wealthy Rheinish area business trades in the west, and impovished non-industrial cities in the east, it was becomming more like a composite of states rather than a nation, at times not even linked geographically. Frederich Wilhelm I despised the "courtly manner" full of poets, jesters and musicians, the boroque made so popular in the 17th century court of his father. Frederich I, The Soldier King instead built a huge army, literally an army of "giant men." This was a further joke because during this peacetime 80% of the monarchy revenue was spent on a military without enemies. In the 1720's, the Brandenburg-Prussians ousted the Swedes, and united upper and lower Pomerania under Brandenburg-Prussia. Though Brandenburg was still culturally backwards, it's 1740 invasion of Silesia (an Austrian province of Poland) and later Pommerania (Poland) connected some of the disjointed territories as German (at least in rule) and placed backwoods German militarily in competition with Austria and the great Hapsburg Empire.

"The Hohenzollern dynasty originated in Swabia, and have by a series of haphazard processes and skillful marriage diplomacy over the centuries acquired a diverse set of territories. Its main centre by the 17th c. was Brandenburg, which gave the rulers the title of 'Elector' of the Holy Roman Empire. The Hohenzollerns also ruled over the old colonial territory of the Teutonic Knights in East Prussia, outside the Holy Roman Empire... (these) Slavic subjects neither spoke German, nor shared German Christian and Roman cultural traditions."

This eastern territory, outside the Holy Roman Empire allowed Brandenburg to politcally become it's own kingdom. After the unification of Pommeranian territories creating Brandenburg-Prussia, the Electors could still not claim to be Kings within the Holy Roman Empire (Brandenburg), they could however be King in their Prussian regions. Therefore breaking with the Empire, the Hohenzollern dynasty knighted themselves as Kings in Prussia (later King of Prussia), with the large Royal Prussia and Berlin as it's capital. The people of this state included "Calvinist rulers recongnising an established Lutheran church, while there were Catholic populations in the west" and other minorities including exiled French Huguenots, Polish, Lithuanian and other Slavic languages predominated in the east. Jewish people persecuted in territories East and South of Prussia found refuge in the relatively open laws of Berlin. Jewish and other ethnic groups acquired full civil rights in Prussia by the 18th c making Berlin an anomoly for European refuge for a variety of persecuted religous groups.

The son of the Soldier King, Friedrick II, or Friedrick the Great prefered pomp to military. He lead Berlin into the era of the Enlightenment which would build a world class opera, a cathedral for the cities Catholics, the Gendarmenmarkt and the Brandenburg Gate. Mendelssohn and Nickolai arose from this era placing Berlin in a cultural and intellectual position of power nearer to Paris and other grand European cities. The military became so weak during the rule of Fredrick the Great, that by the time his predesessor Friedrich Wilhelm III took reign, Napolean and his French army were able to walk through Berlins new Brandenburg Gate claiming it as their own on their way to Russia in 1806.

In 1813, the Prussian army defeats Napoleon at Leipzig (southwest of Berlin)3, and in 1815 Napolean is finally defeated at Waterloo.

The Congress of Vienna with Prince Metternich of Austria is soon organized to divide and balance Europe between the major powers. This was intended to avoid future tolitarian invasions such as Napoleans. Like the 30 years war, they believed a united Germany could defeat foreign invasions. The major powers were the Hapsburgs (the Austrian system with small controls over ethnic German cities and control over many eastern slavic, polish and other ethnic non-German cities); the Hohenzollern of Brandenburg-Prussia; and the Magyers, (the Hungarian dynasty with territories in the eastern Slavic regions). There were also independent city states in southern German. With Germany so chopped up the question which power should be the core of the united Germany? Germany could become part of the Hapsburgs in the south; but the Brandenburg-Prussians didn't want to rule over non-German territories; and the Hapsburgs weren't willing to give up their eastern colonies. From the Rhine to the Baltic would become Prussia in the North, while the free German cities in the south could become Germany, coined "small Germany" (as opposed to Prussia being a large Germany). This too was disappointing for those who hoped for a United Germany. With much indecisiveness, the Congress of Vienna created the 39 independent states of the German Confederation. Prussia remained Prussia, but had to give up its' eastern provinces of East Pommerania (or East Prussia) in order to balance what they were gaining in the western regions including the Rhineland and Westfalia.

The psychological damage of the Napolean invasion on defenseless Berliners cannot be understated. The newly enlightened city cracked down with a climate of intense oppression toward foreigners and minorities, fermenting patriotism and generating a fenatisicsm for a physically fit self reliant citizenship, especially youth. Fredrich Wilhelm III would also reigned over the invention of the steam engine, suburban sprawl, countless factories, including the Borsig, and tenement housing. The industrial revolution had begun. Bringing revolutionary questions of economic freedom and the posibility of democratic rule, a growing population was now tied to mass communication. By the 1840's the accession of Friedrich Wilhelm IV was completely ill-prepared to bring Berlin into it's necessary modern world.

Prior to the early 19th c. lifting of tariff barriers, wholesellers were obliged to pay a tax when traveling merchandise through every German state. The taxes were lifted in order to encourage prosperity throughout the railroad districts and in the emerging industrialized Europe (especially the more competitive England and France). In the early century, Britain was leading the pioneers in manufacturing (steel and iron), with Germany usually needing training from abroad to pioneer new industries. Germany was highly insecure of their "backwoods" reputations often caught in "anglophelia". However, Alfred Krupp of Essen, emerged as a German entreupreneur with one of the largest manufacturing businesses in the world. Krupp manufactured armaments without assistance from abroad. Krupps family history in ironsmithing/manufacturing and his own expertise in the new process of metalsmithing steel was no doubt a model for ordinary Germans, especially metalsmith artisans and factory workers aspiring to rise above their social status as a potentially wealthy industrial capatilist. 5


19th century Prussian politics was divided between Nationalists and Liberalism. Nationalists looked outward toward a larger, stronger united Germany that could defeat its' enemies. Originally nationalists were motivated by the shock of the French invasion. Nationalists learned of great cultural time periods in German history, a revival of German songs, a look toward the Teutonic origins, red gold and black colors became the nationalist insignia colors. While many Nationalists were also Liberals there were many distinctions between them. Nationalists were typically middle class, property owners, merchants and burgers, people who had financial and social standing in the community (whom Marx called bourgeoisie or property owners). Liberalism was a movement that looked inward to the social class structure of Germany. Liberalism was inspired by revolutions such as the American and French Revolutions, where people revolted because of economic exploitation. In the minds of many poor and lower class Germans the fixed class structure was directly linked to their unbreakable cycle of poverty. With the new 19th c. population expansion came famine, horrible living and work conditions, recessions, periods of mass unemployment, constant limited access to health care including the poorest families having only one out two children surviving into adulthood. While many Germans were what historians now call National Liberalists. National Liberalism covers the large blanket of ideas that were motivating the desire for a German constitution. Not having a firm definition of what that a true Germans Constitution would mean for the diversity of German ideas and needs is often attributed to the failure of the 1848 revolutions. While German aristocracy, on the other hand was in a third category. From the Hohenzollerns to the Junkers (German aristrocracy), German nobles while in favor of Nationalist unity and enlarging their own power, they were extremely fearful of middle classes gaining political and financial power, such as the disastrous dethroning and beheading of the other revolutions. The weak Prussian King often aligned himself with the liberalism of the poor, granting concessions that appeared generous while not offering a voice to his subjects running local governments. All of these conditions, followed by the effects of new industries, such as the faster delivery of communication and the news of the revolutions in France all attributed to the outbreak, as well as the outcome of the Berlin 1848 revolution.

In the end, the 1848 Revolutions of Berlin were a complete failure for the people. Restrictions on Berliners were worse than ever before. Freedom of the press was rebuked, manditory military duty was issued, identity cards were required at all times, as well as restrictions on where one lived, enforced travel records, even when citizens were traveling locally they had obtain government permits. Perminent questions of identity and permenance not only for Berliners but issues of what is it to be German in a modern world, and what is Germany. Since the monarchy held control, questions of independence and identity would be put into the sole hands of the intollerant King. Rather than holding an election, the King appointed his own Otto von Bismark. Bismark's claimed that 'Germany will not be united by revolutions that was the mistake of 1848, but by blood and iron.' The unpopular militant Bismark gained the faith of the people when he 'accidently' united Germany through military conquests in 1871. Bismark became the first Chancellor of the Second German Empire. Prussia was no longer necessary. Until then, the 1860's brought relatively good economic conditions under heavy conservative restrictions. Tens of thousands who didn't like this system emmigrated.

Between 1848 and 1860 both America and Germany experienced the largest massive migration of Germans to America. Most Germans were farmers and left from the port of Hamburg arriving in New York only to seek land in the mid-west, with the largest number of Pomeranians landing in Wisconsin to become farmers. Many Germans had already arrived in America mostly landing in Pennsylvania the century before (many were motivated by religious persecution). Therefore, Germans were in better financial shape than their Irish counterparts, because the German immigrants typically had contacts when they arrived.



COUNTRY  1800-1850  1850-1900
 United Kingdom  2.37 million  9.5 million
 Prussia Germany  1.13 million  5 million

During the 19th c. European population grew from 190 million to 423 million.2


In 1862 Otto von Bismark (1815-1898) becomes Prime Minister of Prussia.4 By 1866 Prussia he defeats the Austrians as Bismark sets up a North German Confederation the following year.4 By 1871 his military conquests in the south have united Germany into a second Empire, making the term Prussia obsolete.







1. "Poland: The Rough Guide" by Mark Salter and Gordon McLachlan, Penguin Books Limited, London, 1996.

2. "The Times Atlas of World History, Edited by Geoffrey Barraclough, Times Books Limited, London, 1979.

3. "A Concise History of Germany" by Mary Fulbrook, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK, 1990.Including Black and White German engravings made in early 19th century, typifying their pre-industrial occupations.

4. "A Czech and Slovak Republic" by John King and R. Nebesky, Lonely Planet Books, 1995.

5. "The Arms of Krupp"
The Krupp family would eventually bankroll the rise of Adolf Hitler and build the concentration camps of WWII based on their successful factories of the 19th century, the most efficient in the world.

6. "Frankfurt(Oder) is Better" literature from the Kulturbüro of Frankfurt(Oder), 1998.