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Please note also our Local heritage book Memelland
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Memel-Castle (Hartknoch 1684)
Marktstraße in Memel 2009
Memel, View from the Wall 1920/30
Memel, Friedrich-Wilhelm-Straße before 1918. Right the Tower of the Reformed Church, left on the other side the front of the Jakobus- or Country church; View from the Steintor.




Map County Memel 1938

Memel, County Memel, East Prussia

  • According to the placeregister Dietrich Lange[1]:
  • County town with a station
  • At the northern end of the Kurischen Haffs
  • 118 km north of Königsberg
  • Oldest city of East Prussia
  • founded in 1252 by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword (Schwertbrüderorden)

General Information

In 1905: County town in the Prussian region Königsberg, the most northern city of "Deutsches Reiches", on the mouth of the navigable Dange to the Memeler Tief, which connects the Kurische Haff with the Baltic Sea, junction of the railway lines Osterode-Memel and Memel-Bajohren, has got two Evangelical, an English and a Catholic church, a synagogue and (1905) together with the garrison (ein Bataillon Infanterie Nr.41) 20,687 inhabitants, among them 862 Catholics and 899 Jews.

Memel had a chemical factory, two shipyards, iron foundries, machine factories, a soap factory, production of cellulose, cigarettes, vinegar, candles, ropes, beer and distilleries. Trade was supported by the merchants, by 12 consulates from foreign countries and the "Reichsbank" (turnover 1904: 223.5 million Mark) and was important for the trade in wood, linseed, flax, hemp, coal, fertilizer and fish (especially herring) etc.. The shipping company counted in 1904 a large number of fishing-boats and 15 steamships with 8,168 register tons. In 1903, in the large harbour, protected with a light-house, they counted 570 ocean ships arriving (201,110 register tons) and 598 ships departing (207,550 register tons).

Memel had a district court, the main customs office, an examining board for pilots and boatmen, the pilot commander and a rescue station for shipwrecked persons. It had a Gymnasium (high school), a place of training for teachers for elementary schools (Präparandenanstalt), a school for navigation, an orphanage and a home for leprous people. The 4 courts of Heydekrug, Memel, Prökuls and Ruß belonged to the district court of Memel. Nearby you could find the large villages Bommelsvitte and Königlich Schmelz and the forester`s lodge Försterei with a seaside resort.[2]


Other Names and Spellings

Meaning of the Name

The city is in the Curonian landscape Pilsaten. The Lithuanian name today refers to the Curonian.

In Scandinavian sources of the 2nd century the place is called Aldajaborg . Aldeska was the schalauische= Skalvian name of the Memel (river). In the peace treaty of Melnosee (27/ Febr/ 1422) the alternative name was mentioned for the first time: Klaipeda: "et castrum Memel in Samogitico Cleupeda appellatum" (and the Memelcastle, in Samogitien called Cleupeda ).

Aldeska or Aldajaborg describes a harbour with a rampart.

  • old-Prussian- Skalvian "aldija" = ship, boat, canoe

Memel refers to the Haff and the lower reaches of the Memel-river.

  • Curonian "memelis, mimelis" = still, slowly, silent
  • Latvian "mēms" = dumb, silent (compare the Latvian river Mēmele)

Klaipėda/ Glaupeda/ Klawppedda/ Cleupeda describes the location of the place: flat, open area.

  • Curonian "klais" = flat, open, free
  • Latvian "klajš" = open
  • Curonian "ped" = foot, sole of the foot, also ground

but Lithuanian

  • "klaipikas" = shovel with your feet
  • "klaipyti" = crush, pull down, trample

[3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]

For today`s use of the name Memel see: Das memelländische Erbe, History of the Memelland.

Municipal Coat of Arms

The origin of the municipal coat of arms (gold on red background) goes back to the second half of the 13th century. It was taken by the city Klaipėda and shows in the middle, the tower of the Memel castle (protected by walls), on both sides wooden marker buoys (as in Bommelsvitte and "Galgenbake" in Schmelz). The massive rowing boat refers to the location of the castle near the Kurischen Haff and shows the ferry to the Kurischen Nehrung . The 4 stars refer to a time when boatmen had to navigate without a compass. Today`s Lithuanian city flag has the colours of the Memelland, in the middle the municipal coat of arms. [9]

Church Structure

Johanniskirche in Memel
seen from the Marktstraße

At the foundation of Memel in 1253 Bishop Heinrich von Kurland intended to built three churches: St. Marien as chapel for the castle, St. Johannis for the city and St. Nikolaus for the rural population. St. Marien disappeared with the castle.

Evangelical Churches

By clicking on some church names you can see the catalogue of church books:

Catholic Church

  • Catholic Church, for the city and surrounding area of Memel.
    In the years 1863-1865 a stone church was built in the Töpferstraße replacing the wooden chapel. Following the plans of Baurat Meyer, it was built in the Gothic style. The new church steeple was 50m high.

Cemetery in the City

You can find the cemetery of Memel Städtischer Friedhof von Memel on a special page.

Military Cemetery

You can find the Military Cemetery of Memel on a special page.

Jewish community in Memel

When the Memelland was given back to Germany ( Deutsches Reich) in Feb 1939, the Jews had to flee. Wealthy families tried to escape overseas. Many Jews believed they would be safe in Lithuania. The photo below shows Jewish families on the road to Garsden (lit. Gargzdai), behind the frontier. But they weren`t safe. After the German attack against the Soviet Union in June 1941, in that small Lithuanian town, the first mass extermination (shooting) of Jews occurred. Today there are several memorials in Garsden for the victims. (Photo in the middle). The old chapel (for the last blessings) in the Jewish cemetery in Memel doesn`t exist any more. Today there is a simple building as an assembly hall for Jews returning to Memel (Photo right).

Fleeing Jews on the road to Garsden, 1939
Memorial in Garsden
The Jewish parish rooms in Memel


  • The " Cultusbeamten" of the German synagogue were (in 1902):
    • Teacher and preacher P. Stadthagen, lived here in 1858: Bäckerstr. 11/12 (prayers`room for German Jews) , died in 1865,
    • Rabbi Dr. J. Rülf, from 1/12/1865 till 1/4/1898, for a long time editor of the "Memeler Dampfboot"- a newspaper, and author of several philosophical essays,
    • since then Rabbi Dr. Em. Carlebach.
The Jewish bath in Memel in the Schlächterstraße 4
  • Adressbook 1931

Synagogue Kehrwiederstraße, Abbot: W. Nafthal
Old synagogue, Synagogenstraße, Abbot: Leon Scheinhaus
Beth-hamidrasch, Baderstraße, Abbot: A. M. Kaplan

Parish of the synagogue Memel
Rabbi Dr. L. Lazarus,
Rabbi J. Rabinowitz,
Cantor and teacher: Joseph Kahn.

W. Nafthal, Bernhard Scheinhaus, Jacob Jawschitz, Dr. H. Jacobsohn, Joseph Schulmann
Leon Scheinhaus, Dr. Kallenbach, W. Ehmann, Isaak Jawschitz, Moses Friedmann, A. Hannemann, S. Maisels, H. Markuschewitz, A. Rosenthal, Ing. Rubin, S. Rudeitzky, A. Stoch, Jakob Werblowsky.

Jewish Cemetery

The first religious institution for the Jews in Memel was the cemetery .The first funeral took place in 1823.[12]

The cemetery is a place for remembrance for the whole of Europe. See: [1]


Jewish Cemetery in Memel (Click several times on the map for enlargement) on Messtischblatt
Jewish Cemetery in Memel on a citymap from M. Gelzinus, 1930


The chapel of the Jewish cemetery in Memel
with the words: "Bet Olam" (House of Eternity).
A photo from the pre-war period
In 1945 the chapel was destroyed by the Soviets.
The entrance to the Jewish Cemetery today 2009

More Photos from the Jewish Cemetery

More photos from the Jewish cemetery in Memel on a special page: Photos of the Jewish cemetery Memel

Civil Registration

The City hall in Memel
Deutsche Zeitung, a newspaper in Memel, erste Ausgabe, Nov. 1989

Adjacent Places

In 1907the following places belonged to the civil registration of Memel :


The registers of Memel are incomplete in Litauischen Historischen Staatsarchiv- Lithuanian Historic Archives in Wilna. The "Mormonen"- Mormons have some films.

  • Births 1875-1895, 1897-1902, 1904-1906, 1908-1909, 1911-1915
  • Marriages 1874, 1877-1889, 1892-1895, 1897-1898, 1900-1909, 1911-1914, 1916-1917, 1920-1939
  • Deaths 1874-1889, 1891-1906, 1909, 1911-1913, 1915

It is not clear if some years are complete or only in part !

The Register for Marriages 1920-1939 is not on film but should exist in Litauischen Historischen Staatsarchiv in Wilna .


Population of Memel
1782 1823 1837 1861 1890 1897 1905 1912 1925 1931
5.500 5.300 9.000 17.500 19.282 20.100 20.700 23.500 35.845 37.142
1938 1945 1950 1959 1967 1970 1978 1979 1985 1989
47.189 3.600 48.500 89.500 131.600 140.342 175.200 176.648 195.000 202.929
1992 1999 2001 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 -
207.100 203.300 192.954 187.316 185.936 184.657 183.433 182.752 177.823 [13]

The following families and persons lived in Memel or were connected to this place:


The streets in Memel are on a special page


Address books from Memel


You can find the schools of Memel Schulen in Memel on a special page.



Bank der Ostpr. Landschaft
Credit- und Spar-Verein
Deutsche Bank A.-G.
Dresdner Bank
Landesbank der Provinz Ostpreußen
Sparkasse der Stadt Memel
Volksbank Memel


Genealogical Bibliography

  • BLODE, Kurt u. Walter (Bearbeiter): Geschichte des Luisen-Gymnasiums Memel, 1978. (96 S. + Anhang. Mit Lehrer- und Schülerlisten)- a history of the Luisengymnasium, with lists of teachers and pupils
  • JAHN/SCHREIBER (Herausgeber): Die Selbstverwaltung der Kaufmannschaft in Memel: Von ihren Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart, Memel 1929. (144 S. / Nachdruck vom VFFOW, Hamburg 1970; Mit Namenslisten der Mitglieder)- a history of the merchants in Memel with a list of members

Historic Bibliography

  • SEMBRITZKI, Johannes: Geschichte der Königlich Preussischen See- und Handelsstadt Memel, Memel 1926². (381 S.) - a history of Memel
  • SEMBRITZKI, Johannes: Memel im neunzehnten Jahrhundert - Festschrift zum 600jährigen Jubiläum der Stadt Memel; Verlag F.W. Siebert, 1902 - about Memel in the 19th century Digitalisation of Google books (7BYFAAAAYAAJ)




Postcard around 1900
City orchestra of Memel around um 1900


Ännchen-von-Tharau-Monument in front of the theatre in Memel 2008. With Simon-Dach-Medallion
.Simon Dach wrote the poem about Ännchen von Tharau in the middle of the 17th century.


Memel Football Team 1937


On 25/2/1908 the fishermen Joh. Lorenz, Heinr. Lorenz, Karl Lorenz, Rob. Gewildis and the building site manager Liesch, from Memel and Süderspitze, caught a white whale in the Memeler Tief. It was 4.12m long, 2.80m wide and weighed approx. 20 hundredweight.


Drawing from around 1650 about the division of the "Althofarea" . Visible: citadel, Stadtkirche (Citychurch) and Lithuanian rural church, Börsenbrücke (bridge near stock exchange) with drawn up gate, watermill Janischken, scales, old place of execution with gallows and wheel in Schmelz .
City map of Memel from 1768

Chance Discoveries

Often people, who were not born locally in the area, are found mentioned in church books or other archive source material of a place. These findings are chance discoveries. Such findings are sometimes the only opportunity to break through the Brick Wall in research. On the following page you can add chance discoveries related to this place or even find one for yourself.

Private Sources of Information and Offers of Help with Research

On the following page, private (noncommercial !) genealogists conducting research on this place, and/or those willing to share genealogical information, perform searches or provide scans/copies etc. regarding this place, can add their contact details. All inquiries should be made directly to the listed researcher!

Data from the Genealogical Place Database (GOV)

  • Klaipėda (lit)
  • Memel Source Stadt 21.1 (deu)
  • town
postal code
  • LT-5800 (2004)
  • 66111
external id
  • geonames:598098
web page

TK25: 0292

Superordinate objects

Memel (Hlste. Dreifaltigkeit), Klaipėda, Memel (1907) ( parish ) Source S.152/153

Memel Stadt, Memel/St. Johannis (1907) ( parish ) Source S.152/153

Memel/Jakobus (1907) ( parish ) Source S.152/153

Klaipėdos miestas, Memel, Klaipėdos miesto savivaldybė ( Stadt urban county Stadt ) Source

Subordinate objects
name type GOV-Id Timespan
Hlste. Dreifaltigkeit church object_292809
Ref. Memel church object_164526
Memel, Memel Land church object_169354
Memel/Jakobus church object_169352
St. Johannis, Memel/St. Johannis church object_169360


  1. 1.0 1.1 Dietrich Lange: Geographisches Ortsregister Ostpreußen einschließlich des Memelgebietes, des Soldauer Gebietes und des Reg.-Bez. Westpreußen (1919-1939), a geographical register of places in East Prussia
  2. Meyer Großes Konversation-Lexikon 1906, Bd.13., S.585-586.
  3. Bojate, A., Pizova, F: Latviešu-Franču Vārdnīca, Riga 1970
  4. Kurschat, Alexander: Litauisch-Deutsches Wörterbuch, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1968,a Lithuanian-German Dictionary
  5. Kwauka, Paul, Pietsch, Richard: Kurisches Wörterbuch, Verlag Ulrich Camen Berlin, 1977,a Curonian Dictionary
  6. Matulaitis, K.A.: Die Schalauer des Altertums, Tauto praeitis II, 2, 1965, in Tolkemita Texte 52, Dieburg 1997,The Skalvians in Ancient Times
  7. Prußischer Wortschatz, Privatsammlung Szillis-Kappelhoff, Old-Prussian Expressions,Private property
  8. Peteraitis, Vilius: Mažosios Lietuvos ir Tvankstos Vietovardžiai, Ju kilme ir reikšme, Vilnius 1997, S. 188ff
  9. Kurschat, Heinrich A.: Das Buch vom Memelland, Siebert Oldenburg 1968, a general book about the Memelland
  10. Heling, Reinhold: Die evangelischen Kirchengemeinden in Ostpreußen und Westpreußen in den Pfarr-Almanachen von 1912 und 1913. Sonderschrift des Vereins für Familienforschung in Ost- und Westpreußen e.V., Nr. 59, Hamburg 2000, [darin: Diözese Memel, Kreis Memel, Seite 24-26], about Evangelical parishes in East- and Westprussia
  11. Seuberlich, Erich: Die Reformierten Prediger in Memel. Altpreußische Geschlechterkunde 1936, S. 4-8, about reformed priests in Memel
  13. Numerals from Lithuanian Vikipedija
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