Malbork


About fifty kilometres southeast of Gdansk lies Malbork (german Marienburg) and its castle. The castle was built by German Teutonic knights in 1274 and was completed in the early 1300s. The castle measures about 52 hectares and is said to be the largest brick building built by hand. It served as a stronghold for the Knights and their commanders from where they ruled and conquered the surroundings. At most, about 3,000 men lived in the castle and its barracks.

In the mid-1400s, war broke out between the German order and an alliance between Prussian confederation and Poland that ended with the victory of the latter in 1466. With the exception of short periods of Swedish occupation, the castle came to Poland’s first partition in 1772 to serve as a dwelling place for the Polish kings during their annual stay in Pomerania. The castle was then under Prussian rule and then German rule until 1945 when it again became polish.

Due to the castle’s German history, it became an important place for Nazism that organized pilgrimages to the castle for, among other things, nazi youth organizations. The castle also became a form of model for the Nazis’ own so-called order schools that they established to educate and educate the future Nazi leaders. At first, the idea was that the castle would also become a school for ordenskola, but this was abandoned. Between 1939 and 1944, the city was spared by the war. As the Soviet Red Army approached Malbork, the city was declared a fortress and was to be defended to the last man. In early January 1945 and until early March 1945, bitter battles were fought between german defenders and soviet troops, resulting in the castle being partially destroyed.

Current status: Preserved with museum (2012).

Location: 54°02'24.90"N 19°01'43.22"E

Get there: Car.

My comment:
After the war, the castle was repaired with great effort and the repairs can be well distinguished by the color of new and old bricks. The museum’s focus is on the Teutonic knights and the middle ages, and the second world war is really mentioned no more than that the castle was badly damaged during the fighting over the city. In 1997, the castle was awarded the title UNESCO world heritage. The castle’s proximity to Gdansk makes it well suited for a day trip.

Follow up in books: Kershaw, Ian: Hitler – A Biography (2008).