The Teutonic Order’s last Grand Master, Albrecht von Hohenzollern, strategically resigned his title in 1525. With the invention of the printing press, the increase in literacy, as well as the growing unrest under corrupt practices within the Roman Catholic Church, mutiny occurred, splitting Christendom. Within the Protestant Reformation, Albrecht shrewdly professed allegiance to the incoming Lutheran faith, swearing fealty to Poland under his grandfather, the King, who was also the Grand Duke of Lithuania. With the Teutonic State removed, the area was renamed as the Duchy of Prussia. Albrecht retained his status as Albert I, Duke of Prussia.
Königsberg blossomed into an intellectual cultural center. Unlike the orthodoxy prescribed under the knights, religious variety co-existed within the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth which encompassed Orthodox Slavs, Roman Catholic Polish, persecuted Jews, and Muslim Tartars. Absorbing this lenient philosophy, Königsberg offered sanctuary for persecuted religious group; the Swiss Mennonites, the French Huguenots, in addition to Jews, who flourished during the early 1900s.
Albert I founded a Lutheran university in 1544 focused on sciences, mathematics, and philosophy. Later institutions for learning included a vocational school for construction engineering, a Physical Education teachers’ institute, an establishment for midwives, an upper girl’s department, a commercial college, a painting and a music academy.
Preserving their borders against incursions from their neighbors, the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth continued battles against the Ukrainian Cossacks in the south, the Muscovite Russians to the east, as well as the Swedes from the north. The deposed Teutonic knights and their families evolved into their own social class, the Junker. They retained ownership of large farming estates passed onto their elder sons. The younger sons saturated the political military leadership in the principality.
A subsequent Duke, assessing his options when Sweden attacked the Commonwealth, sided with the Swedish king. A year later, after the Commonwealth had again gathered strength, the Duke negotiated with the Poles for Prussia’s independence. Then together, the Commonwealth and the Duchy routed the Swedes.
The first king, Frederick I, crowned himself at the Schloss in 1701. Later, when the bubonic plague depredated Königsberg’s population during his reign, he extended an invitation for replenishment through emigration; receiving Polish, Lithuanian, Dutch, English, and Scottish immigrants.
After gaining their emancipation, East Prussian kings found themselves overruled twice: first with Tsarist Russians from 1758-1763, secondly through Napoleon’s France from 1807-1813.
William I, continuing the Hohenzollern dynasty, incorporated Prussia into the German Empire in 1871. When World War I ended, Emperor William fled to the Netherlands to live in exile with his family. The Treaty of Versailles gave Poland a port city, the Free City of Danzig, via the Polish Corridor, splitting East Prussia from the motherland of Germany.
In 1939, Königsberg embraced a population of 350,000 people within its 9½ mile perimeter. However, as another era glimmered on the horizon, Jews began migrating, leaving the progroms and bloody cataclysms of the Soviet Union and moving west this time rather than east, searching again for another safe port in the vast ocean of discrimination and persecution.