Annexation of Klaipeda
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseThe Lithuanian port city of Klaipeda had been a part of the Prussian and German empires before the signing of the Versailles Treaty in 1919; during that time, it was known under the German name of Memel, and the region around it Memelland. The city had a very large ethnic German population, although the surrounding countryside was predominantly Lithuanian. Between 1919 and 1923, Klaipeda and the surrounding area had been governed by an autonomous Landtag government, under supervision of a French High Commissioner and representatives of the League of Nations. In 1923, Lithuanian troops occupied the region, and Lithuanian sovereignty over the region was recognized internationally. In Mar 1938, relationship between Lithuania and Poland deteriorated, and Germany, who had wished to takeover the region, mobilized for a forceful occupation should a war start between Lithuania and Poland, but to Adolf Hitler's disappointment the two countries de-escalated diplomatically. Unable to find an excuse or create an incident, German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop simply demanded it on 20 Mar 1939, citing the ethnic German population in the city (and failing to make note of the Lithuanian majority outside the city) as the reason for its unification with Germany. The German Navy steamed toward Klaipeda, with Adolf Hitler aboard the pocket battleship Deutschland, to back up Ribbentrop's demands with force. After failing to secure support from other European powers, President Antanas Smetona submitted to German demands in the early hours of 23 Mar. Later on the same day, Hitler gave a passionate speech from a theater balcony, announcing the bloodless reconquest of the city. It was to be the last of such bloodless conquests for Germany.
Isabel Denny, The Fall of Hitler's Fortress City
William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
Last Major Update: May 2007
Annexation of Klaipeda Timeline
|20 Mar 1939Â||German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop demanded Memel from Lithuania.|
|21 Mar 1939Â||German heavy cruiser Deutschland set sail for Memel, Lithuania. Meanwhile, Germany demanded Lithuania to sent representatives to the warship on the following day to sign Memel over to Germany.|
|22 Mar 1939Â||Lithuanian representatives boarded German heavy cruiser Deutschland to negotiate for Memel as Germany demanded, but they resisted signing away the territory.|
|23 Mar 1939Â||The Lithuanian representatives aboard German heavy cruiser Deutschland gave in to German demands, signing the city of Klaipeda, Lithuania, known as Memel in German, to Germany in the early hours of the day. In the afternoon, Adolf Hitler visited the newly gained territory.|
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