Olsztynek


Between 1925 and 1927, the Germans established a memorial memorial commemorating the battle of Tannenberg. This was a battle that took place in August 1914 outside the city of Hohenstein in what was then East Prussia (now Olsztynek about twenty kilometres south of Olsztyn). A battle in which the German imperial army thoroughly defeated its Russian counterpart. But the fact that the battle was called the Battle of Tannenberg is actually directly incorrect because Tannenberg (polish Stebark) is located about a mile west of Hohenstein. But the reason the Germans chose to call it the battle of Tannenberg lies in history.

In 1410, a great battle took place in Tannenberg (Stebark) where a coalition of Poles, Lithuanians and tartars defeated the Teutonic knights in a decisive battle. A battle that has been given a place in the Pangermanic movement and which has created a mythical legend around. Therefore, it was important for the Germans, just over 500 years later, to benefit from this myth and show that they had taken a terrible revenge for the defeat of 1410.

The monument (or memorial) consisted of eight towers bound together by a wall and would symbolize the heroism of the German soldiers during the first world war. To reinforce this heroism, twenty unidentified German soldiers killed in the battle were buried at the monument (1914). In August 1934 when ”hero” of Tannenberg president Hindenburg died, he came to be buried with his wife (Gertrud, dead 1921) in a crypt at the monument, although against his will. The funeral was held during a grand ceremony with Hitler present.

During the Nazi regime, the monument underwent minor changes and it came to be one of the most worshiped Nazi national shrines. Several spectacular ceremonies, often with religious undertones and with death as a theme, took place and not infrequently the potentates of the Third Reich were present. When the Soviet Red army approached Olsztynek in January 1945, the remains of the president and his wife were transported westward and by detours the remains ended up in Thüringia. There they were found at the end of the war by the Americans and in august 1946 they were taken to a final rest in a cemetery in Marbug. On January 21 and 22, 1945, the Germans destroyed parts of the monument.

Current status: Demolished with information board (2012).

Location: 53°34'53.10" N 20°15'39.06" E

Get there: Car.

My comment:

After the war, the monument was dismantled/destroyed and materials from the monument were used for other construction projects, including the ghetto monument in Warsaw and the communist party headquarters in Warsaw. Today, the entire area is more or less overgrown, but it is still possible to find large and small ruin remains a bit everywhere. The only thing that is actually preserved is a lion statue that stood on an about 8 meter high pillar just outside the memorial. The lion now stands on the square in Olsztynek. On the 500th anniversary of the battle a monument was unveiled in Krakow. When Geramany occupied Poland in 1939 they tornde it downed. After the war, parts of the monument were found and can now be seen at the museum in Stebark.

Right next to the monument, the Germans established a prisoner-of-war camp called Stalag 1-B Hohenstein where about 55,000 prisoners of war died during its existence. Of the camp itself, there is nothing left because major road construction was carried out (2012) in the former camp area. However, there is a cemetery about 500 meters from the monument where the victims from the camp are buried.

Follow up in books: Von Der Goltz, Anna: Hindenburg – Power, Myth and the Rise of the Nazis (2010).