Short History of Pomerania: Content
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Pomeranian_Griffin: Worldwide Group of Pomeranian History, Culture and Genealogy

7. Pomerania as a Prussian Province (1815 -1945)

The establishment of Pomerania as a Province of the Kingdom of Prussia dragged on into 1818. All of Pomerania had now become a part of a modern, rational, strict and economically administered, differentiated unitary State, in which up to the middle of the century a renewed enlightened absolutism was restored, by very capable and responsible officials. The historical area of Pomerania was extended to include the district of Dramburg and Schivelbein, which had previously belonged to the Neumark, and now covered an area of more than 30 000 square kilometers. The province had more then 680 000 inhabitants. Pomerania was divided into three government districts: Stettin, Koeslin and Stralsund.

In 1818 rural and urban counties (Landkreise and Stadtkreise) were established, for which a general ordinance was issued in 1825. Initially there were 2688 rural communities, but this number rose to 3405 in 1850 and to 4473 in 1910. The Rural County Ordinance of 1856 was replaced and reformed by new regulations in 1891, and again in 1928. The population of Pomerania grew to about 1 300 000 by 1855.

The governmental district of Stralsund was by far the smallest of the three districts; it covered the area of New Hither Pomerania (Neuvorpommern). Due to a contractual agreement with Sweden, this area was granted an exceptional position within Prussia. As a result, the conditions here were only slowly aligned with general Prussian ones. For instance, the general Prussian Common Law of 1794 and the Municipal Act of 1808 did not apply here. When (initially class-based) provincial parliaments were established in the Prussian provinces in 1823, two of them were established in Pomerania: one communal parliament for the governmental districts of Stettin and Koeslin and a separate communal parliament for the governmental district of Stralsund, New Hither Pomerania (until 1881). They were only replaced by a single elected provincial parliament in 1875. These self-governing institutions were responsible for road construction, poor and welfare systems and certain insurances (fire). Their authority was extended substantially by the reforms of the 1870s.

At the head of the province stood the representative of the Crown, the Provincial President, who resided in the palace in Stettin and until 1882 also functioned as the governmental president for the district of Stettin. The most significant of these presidents was Johann August Sack from Kleve, who held this office from 1816 to 1831 and ranks among the Prussian Reformers.

New Hither Pomerania retained its higher Appeals Court in Greifswald, with four subordinate County Courts and a number of independent City Courts (until 1849). In 1837 the "Provincial Law for the Duchy of New Hither Pomerania and the Principality of Ruegen was recorded and remained in force until the introduction of the Civil Law Book in 1900. In contrast there was a provincial High Court in each of Stettin and Koeslin for the old Prussian areas. Below these there were 45 City, Palace, Court and Castle Courts. In 1879 (after the new German empire was established) the legal system was rearranged according to the appropriate Imperial laws. Pomerania received a Higher Regional Court in Stettin. On the appeals level, five Regional Courts were established (Greifswald, Stettin, Stargard, Koeslin, Stolp), below which there were 59 District Courts of the first instance. Each county capital had at least one district court (1912).

The Protestant State Church of Pomerania was initially headed by the General Superintendents in Stettin and Greifswald and the Consistory in Stettin, whose Bishop (or Praeses) was the higher president. In 1828 after the death of the last General Superintendent for Swedish Hither Pomerania in 1824, this part of the province came under the authority of the General Superintendent in Stettin. As in all of Prussia, a Union of the Lutheran and Reformed churches was introduced in Pomerania (thereby creating a new united Protestant church). A new Agenda (order of service) with a Pomeranian addendum was issued in 1822, and was introduced in 1829 in all congregations despite the opposition of some Lutherans. The Pietist revival movement started spreading across Pomerania from about the same time. This movement found its spiritual center at the Trieglaff conference organised by Adolf Ferdinand von Thadden at Trieglaff. From about 1835 to 1850 many Lutheran believers separated from the united church and started independent Old Lutheran congregations; a few thousand Lutherans also emigrated to America for religious reasons. There were 55 parishes in the united Church (1911) - each headed up by a superintendent - with more than 800 pastoral posts. The Prussian Parish Order was introduced in 1860, and District Synods were established in 1862.

Pomerania was the most protestant province in Prussia. The percentage of Roman Catholics rose from only 1% in the year 1843 to about 3% in 1910. In 1843 the Jewish population was counted at 7 800. - The Church and the Consistory contributed significantly to the elevation of education and culture in Pomerania. A provincial school board was established in 1825, which was responsible for higher public education and was separated from the Consistory in 1845. In the same year, compulsory education was also introduced in New Hither Pomerania. A "Society for Pomeranian History and Archeology" was already established in 1824 at the initiative of Johann August Sack who was the Provincial president of Pomerania at the time.

The University of Greifswald had stood in the shadows of Uppsala und Lund in the past and had frequently been on the verge of being shut down. In 1811 it had only 70 students and 11 professors, but it was now the oldest university on Prussian soil and started on a more positive development. In the 19th and 20th century Pomerania offered exemplary theological and teacher training courses that were among the best in all of Prussia and Germany. The medical faculty in Greifswald and its hospitals were nearly at par with those in Berlin. At times prominent, first class philologists and philosophers taught at the Philosophical Faculty and Scandinavian studies were a strong focus (Scandinavian Institute since 1918). Despite or because of its good reputation the Greifswald university remained a springboard to Berlin for many scholars. - In 1857 an Art Gallery was established in Stettin, a predecessor to the museum on the Hakenterrasse. In 1858 the Provincial Museum for New Hither Pomerania and Ruegen in Stralsund followed. There were theaters in Stettin (Playhouse since 1849), Greifswald, Stralsund (since 1776), Koeslin and Stargard. Support for cultural and artistic life came from numerous merchants, and from many a noble estate out in the countryside, such as Plathe castle - owned by the von Osten family - which had an enormous private library and a number of notable collections.

Over the centuries Pomerania had become a land of large estates as consequence of a continuous enclosure movement, whereby estate-owners forced small farmers off the land and enserfed the peasant population. As a result the large estate owners owned nearly 60% of the usable farm and forest land; in New Hither Pomerania the value was closer to 70%. The large estates were mostly in the hands of the noble class, which constituted about 1% of the population. At the beginning of the 19th century 16% of the population lived in cities und 82 % in the countryside, but this ratio changed to 26,3% to 71,7% by 1846, and 49,1% to 50,9% by 1933.

Pomerania was the most important and significant agricultural province of Prussia, even of the whole German Empire. In the course of the early 19th century the three-field rotation system was replaced by the logging and meadow farming methods and the Brandenburgian pastoral system (Further Pomerania). Around 1900, 50% of Pomeranians depended on farming and forestry, in 1939 it was still a third. The first steam plow was used in 1862 and the first mechanised mower in 1868. The percentage of land used to grow potatoes in Pomerania rose from 2% in 1815 to 20% in 1939. Three quarters of the seed potatoes in Germany came from Pomerania. Besides that, fishing played an ever increasing role, particularly of herring. Around 1900, no less then 20-25 million kilogram of fish were caught annually, which constituted about half of the entire catch in Germany. This was the work of medium, small or micro operations. In 1932 there were 7 000 professional fishermen in Pomerania.

Despite its agricultural focus, Pomerania profited ever more from being part of Prussia, which was the prime power of the German Customs Union of 1834. A stock exchange was built in Stettin in 1836. Since 1843 there was a railway line from Berlin to Stettin, on top of the daily postal service to Berlin established in 1829. In 1863 Stralsund was also connected to Berlin by rail. Stettin later obtained direct rail connections to Danzig, Posen (in 1848) and Breslau (1856, via Posen). By 1908 Pomerania had around 2 000 km of railway lines, supplemented by 1300 km of narrow-gauge railway lines. A rail ferry started up between Sassnitz and Trelleborg in 1909, thereby connecting Berlin with Stockholm. A large canal for ocean-going ships was dug between Stettin and Berlin and was completed in 1914. The port in Stettin (population 225 000 in 1905) together with the subsidiary port in Swinemuende experienced an enormous upswing, especially after the abolition of the Sound Customs Duty in 1857. The ports profited from the growth of the Upper Silesian industrial region. Already in 1836 the Stettin Shipping Company was considered the largest in all German ports. Stettin became a free port in 1898 and had become the third largest port in Germany after Hamburg and Bremen by the beginning of the 20th century. A notable industrial development occurred around Stettin, which boasted the most modern shunting-yard in Europe in 1900. As a further example, the "Vulkan" works for ship and locomotive building were established in Stettin in 1856 (with a workforce of 6 500 in 1906). Other additions were factories for sugar, bricks and tiles, cement, paper, soaps and perfumes; distilleries and mills, as well as manufacturers of bicycles and sewing machines. Tourism became an important economic factor during the course of the 19th and especially during the 20th century. Pomerania possessed no less than 465 km of coast line, sections of which offered wide sandy beaches. After the development of a spa at the upcountry Bad Polzin, the Pomeranian Baltic baths of Ruegenwaldermuende, Putbus, Heringsdorf, and Swinemuende followed between 1814 and 1824. After that Kolberg, Ahlbeck, Misdroy, Bansin, Zinnowitz, Dievenow, Binz, Goehren etc. followed, just to name a few.

During the 1st World War all sectors of the Pomeranian economy were affected negatively. The German Empire and its allies lost the war and the German emperor and king of Prussia, Wilhelm II, fled to the Netherlands on November 9, 1918. The German empire and Prussia became a republic with a parliamentary democracy. The new German government had to accept the terms of the treaty of Versailles dictated to it by the victors of the world war. Pomerania suddenly became a border territory after the Corridor for the newly revived Poland was established and East Prussia found itself separated from the rest of Germany.The Pomeranian province and its capital lost a large section of their original trading partners, but Stettin managed to maintain its position as the third biggest German port. Despite some revolutionary unrest in several Pomeranian towns, the conservatives - organized in the "Deutschnationale Volkspartei" (or German National People's Party) - remained the strongest political force after 1918, as they had been during the whole of the 19th century. In 1930 they were surpassed by the National Socialists or Nazis. Their Fuehrer (or leader) Hitler came to power on January 30, 1933, and the National Socialists also attained the majority in the Pomeranian provincial parliament in March of 1933. As a result of Prussian administrative reforms in 1932, the small government district of Stralsund was dissolved and included in the Stettin district. From 1938 to 1945 there was a new governmental district with headquarters in Schneidemuehl, consisting of five counties of the previous Prussian province "Grenzmark Posen - West Prussia" (which had been established in 1922 from what remained of the old provinces of Posen and West Prussia), the former Brandenburgian counties Arnswalde and Friedeberg as well as the older Pomeranian counties Neustettin and Dramburg. Pomerania now covered an area of 39 409 square kilometers and had just less than three million inhabitants in 1939. The Municipal Ordinance of 1935 eliminated the urban self-government in Pomerania as well as elsewhere.

Pomerania, with its beaches and Baltic resort towns, became even more popular as a vacation destination in the 1930s. In 1936 the 60-odd Pomeranian Baltic resort towns accommodated 4.6 million overnight visitors, making Pomerania the third most popular destination after Bavaria and Silesia. By 1939 the number of overnight stays reached 8 million, which meant that Pomerania had overtaken its two competitors to become the most visited and probably most popular German vacation area.

In Pomerania sporadic resistance arose against the National Socialists. During 1936 a general convent of the "Professing Church" (Bekennende Kirche) established itself (in opposition to the politisized State church). This convent was lead by Friedrich Onnasch amongst others and held a conference in the town of Trieglaff at the invitation of Reinhold von Thadden. Dietrich Bonhoeffer headed up the preaching seminary of this church in Finkenwalde near Stettin from 1935 until it was closed by the National Socialists in 1937. He continued with this activity illegally until 1940. In 1945 both he and Ewald von Kleist, a member of the resistance circle around Carl Goerdeler, were executed by the Nazis.

The Red Army of the Soviet Union conquered Stettin in 1945 and occupied Hither Pomerania and Ruegen (May 5, 1945). For the rest of the (Greater) German Empire, nothing remained but the unconditional surrendered to the three main conquerors, and Germany was divided, first into three and then into four zones. The area east of the Oder-Neisse was placed under Polish, the northern East Prussia under Soviet administration.

Next Chapter: 8. Pomerania after 1945