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Forgotten Land: Journeys Among the Ghosts of East Prussia

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  84 ratings  ·  29 reviews
Until the end of World War II, East Prussia was the German empire's farthest eastern redoubt, a thriving and beautiful land on the southeastern coast of the Baltic Sea. Now it lives only in history and in myth. Since 1945, the territory has been divided between Poland and Russia, stretching from the border between Russia and Lithuania in the east and south, and through Pol ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published November 8th 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published June 1st 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 324)
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Stephen
This was a real curate's egg of a book. The broad sweep of the history was interesting and the author did a very good job of depicting the landscape, culture and feeling of the place. But, and it's a pretty big but, his insistence on reintroducing us to characters, families and places every other chapter was incredibly annoying and, even more annoying, was his habit of putting emotions and words into the mouths and minds of people he never met.

Still, I'd love to visit the place, even if it has g
...more
Greg Thiele
This book provides a view of East Prussia and the pain that accompanied its loss after World War II. The history of East Prussia is related episodically, with the author going into greater detail as this history intertwines with the lives of several of the people that he describes in the book. This led to a somewhat disjointed story, with people discussed and then dropped, only to be reengaged later on in the book. While I found it slightly distracting, this style fit with the author's attempts ...more
Jakey Gee
I’ve had this one on the pile for a year or so and got down to it while I was ill with flu (having a massive jones for something sentimental and ‘nostalgic’ and in a state incapable of dealing with fiction). Biographical note: some of my lot are originally from that neck of the woods, give or take the odd few hundred kilometres. The very words ‘Bernstein’ and ‘Bernsteinstrand’ for some reason send me into a bit of an ecstasy.

It’s a pretty likable, idiosyncratic piece, combining biography, histo
...more
Margaret Sankey
By now, I think I am a connoisseur of Lost Cause People--CSA or Jacobite or evicted and their various coping mechanisms from demagoguery to soppy nostalgia, so this is a nice addition to the collection. Egremont, a British writer, tracks down remnants of the Prussian diaspora from after 1918 and 1945, from bitter, die-hards who turned to anti-Communism, rare liberals who embraced West Germany's resurgence, the grandchildren who want statues and grave markers for the families killed by the Red Ar ...more
Adam
I am happy that I won this book for free through Goodreads First Reads contest!! I love history but don't know a lot about Prussia so I was hoping to learn a bit more about the geographic area, the people, and their history. I found myself opening up to the pain and plight of those affected by war and fully engaged with their circumstances. Loss is terrible but having to live through the worst of times and perhaps wondering how you will survive another day really hits at the heart of such suffer ...more
Dagezi
Read on a two day train trip home from Atlanta. This sort of hovers on the border between three and four stars. Four stars for me because I've been sort of obsessed with the idea of East Prussia since I figured out that Kaliningrad used to be Konigsberg once upon a time. Probably three stars for those without an existing interest in the material. Also, it has to be said, Egremont writes rather strangely, unlike anything else I've read. For one thing, the same terms are defined over and over and ...more
Mir
The title said it all. A history into the forgotten land of East Prussia. The land of Teutonic Knights, Imannual Kant and once the intellectual city of Europe. Reminiscences of memories of those longing for their homeland. The turbulence past, the insight details of chronology of events that lead to its present shaped indeed give you a better understanding of what is East Prussia.

A question arises will Germany make a claim against Kalinangrad Oblast which is isolated from the rest of the Russian
...more
Thomas
This is a beautifully written, if a bit disjointed, historical travelogue of East Prussia, until the end of the 2nd world war a part of Germany but now divided between Poland and Russia. It is a region which has lived through some interesting times, no more so than in the first half of the 20th century. It is the story of this period and its aftermath which the author tells through the personal histories of some of its natives. It does jump around a bit and I found myself quite often having to g ...more
Masha
I would have loved to have seen less of the author in the pages. Back story of why one is researching Prussia is fine, but to read about a long train trip you took with a German woman who was visiting Hungarian relatives is not what I wanted when I bought this book.

I'll grant the juxtaposition of modern druggies in Kaliningrad vs the past splendor of Königsberg was an interesting chapter, but aside from that, unless you enjoy memoirs, I'd advise skimming the author's personal "asides".
Lisa
Stopped after five chapters, as I did not get on with the author's rambling, meandering style. One minute he's visiting an elderly East Prussian in modern Germany, the next he's on a tale about some facet of the history of East Prussia, with a smash cut to 1945 at some point. Also, the author can't quite make up his mind which names to use- the old, the modern, or the English- and consequently rarely names a place without giving a second name in parentheses. This would be fine upon a first menti ...more
Jon
A difficult book to enjoy, given the author's tendency to go back and forth in time and theme. That said, there were many very interesting vignettes here and I was able to harvest a few "new stories" to share with students next semester. The information about Käthe Kollwitz was particularly good.
Pedro Plassen
Before reading, I was with the expectation this would be more about the present generation, how it dealt with the memories and the reality of a land lost to war. In this case the book goes through the stories of those that gave name to the great households of East-Prussia but, also, dwells on the horrors inflicted on the common folk by the second world war and its aftermath. I was quite surprised to see, presently, these areas are not so remote and locked out, as one would expect (particularly K ...more
Riet
Een prachtig boek over een wat vergeten hoek van Europa, het oude Oost Pruisen.Dit land wordt door veel ex-bewoners geromantiseerd en ongetwijfeld is het een mooi land, maar Egremont laat de harde werkelijkheid van de jaren voor en tijdens de 2de wereldoorlog zien. Een zeer gevarieerde bevolking, gedomineerd door de "junkers", die op hun manier dit land tot bloei brachten. Dat is door alle grensverschuivingen echt verleden tijd. Het is nu aan Polen en Lithouwen om er iets van te maken. Het klein ...more
Tom Murray
A journey into a forgotten past of Junkers and philosophers, of beach holidays and of unspeakable war crimes.

I have never been to East Prussia, but have visited Silesia several times and the author does a fine job of capturing the temporal feel of the region, cynically awaiting the next transition of history.

Some of the recalled stories tend to blend into one another, but maybe that is how the author planned it. When the tangible artifacts of life are removed, perhaps the boundaries of life bec
...more
Joe
This doesn’t really fit neatly into any particular category and is part history, part biography and part travel writing. It traces the remnants and memories of a now lost country and society. In so doing it also overturns some stereotypes. East Prussia was the land of feudal Junker estates and the Tannenberg Memorial, but it was also home to Kant and Thomas Mann. Interesting to see that even in Kaliningrad, under the pressure of cultural tourism, the authorities and population are in part lookin ...more
Sharon
I read this book because I wanted to learn more about East Prussia. It was a book that was easy to put down....I think although it was informative, it seemed to bounce around a lot and not flow well.
Marin Popa
The book follows the lives of some of the last German inhabitants of a corner of Europe which became Russian in 1945 - a story which does not fit easily into the common narrative of WW2.
The stories are well told and moving but gave only a limited illustration of a vanished world. I would have liked more details - after reading the book I was left with the feeling that I learnt very little about a region and the struggles of its people ( not only some Junkers).
Frank Jacobs
This book turns the irreversible loss of East Prussia, for centuries the nucleus and outpost of the German East, into a paradox on the shores of the Baltic: a fertile wasteland, on which grow memories both fond and bitter, beautifully rendered in this travel guide to a distinctly German version of Memory Lane - half sugarcoated nostalgia, half bombed-out horror story.
Ray
This is a mixed up book.

I bought it as a history of East Prussia but it is more like a travelogue with some bits of history thrown in. I liked the descriptions of the lost towns and castles, but not so much the conversations with octogenarian prussians about escapes across the snow in early '45.
Michael
This was a very interesting travellog in the land that used to be East Prussia.
There are some very moving pieces in the book to do with the coming of the Russians in 1945 and the death marches from the camps.
Occasionally a bit meandering but still an enjoyable read.
April Yedinak
I thought this book covered an interesting topic and I learned some things I did not know. However, about midway I began to get a little bored with it. I will admit that it might just be me, because it is not my usual genre choice.
John
Meandering, with too many unrelated asides; back and forth with characters and historical periods, hard to get into. Made an interesting place into somewhere utterly plain sounding. Abandoned on page 213. A missed opportunity.
Rita
What a vast land Egremont describes, one that I am not geographically aware of. I especially liked the narrative describing Käthe Kollwitz' roots in East Prussia alongside her sorrow about war as portrayed in her art.
Emily Boivin
i won this book on goodreads. it is an good look at the history of the lives of those in prussa during ww2 and after. if you are a hustory buff this book is for you, as it contains much detail.
Agnès
A very interesting history of East Prussia, based on facts, short biographies of political and cultural figures, comments and variations between past and presents.
Helen Smith
This was very interesting, particuarly on Kaliningrad, now an abandoned chunk of Russia
Brad
A sad tale of total devastation brought by the twentieth century.
Corey Olomon
An interesting look at a forgotten part of history.
Toby
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