cover image German Blood, Slavic Soil: How Nazi Königsberg Became Soviet Kaliningrad

German Blood, Slavic Soil: How Nazi Königsberg Became Soviet Kaliningrad

Nicole Eaton. Cornell Univ, $35.95 (330p) ISBN 978-1-5017-6736-4

Boston College history professor Eaton debuts with a detailed study of “the only city to have been ruled by both Hitler and Stalin as their own domain.” Founded by Teutonic knights in the 13th century, Königsberg was part of East Prussia until 1946, when the Soviet Union took over and renamed the city Kaliningrad. Eaton describes how a “peculiarly local variant of Nazism” developed in East Prussia, which was isolated from the rest of Germany. “Precisely because East Prussia was trapped behind the Polish Corridor, because it had long lagged in industrial development, because its agriculture suffered and its population had stagnated from outmigration,” local Nazi leaders argued that the region “would become the foremost site for the great Nazi experiment in full societal transformation.” Instead, East Prussia took the brunt of the Red Army’s offensive in the spring of 1945. Relying on eyewitness accounts, Eaton details atrocities committed by advancing Soviet soldiers and retreating Nazis. With Königsberg destroyed and millions of survivors facing starvation, Moscow mostly neglected East Prussia while local administrators sought to expel the province’s German population and pursued a program of rapid collectivization. Comprehensive and fine-grained, this is a meticulous study of a city torn between two “radically transformative and violent revolutionary regimes.” (Apr.)