Saturday, February 14, 2009

German Navy Marches into Memel

Sailors of the German Navy are seen marching into into Memel, Lithuania on March 23, 1939. Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop of Nazi Germany delivered an ultimatum to the Lithuanian Foreign Minister on March 20, 1939, demanding the surrender of the Memel region to German control. The British Consul in Danzig, Mr.Shepherd, reported to Viscount Halifax that "it was generally anticipated that on 25th March the Memel Landtag would vote for the immediate return of Memelland to Germany." Ribbentrop is also claimed to have stated that Memel “will be taken by other means if necessary." Lithuania, however, submitted to the ultimatum and, in exchange for the right to use the new harbour facilities as a Free Port, ceded the disputed region to Germany in the late evening of March 22, 1939. Adolf Hitler had awaited this result on a battleship, sailed into the harbour in the morning hours and made a speech from a theatre balcony. This was Hitler's last territorial acquisition prior to World War II.

Memel is now known as Klaipėda, a city in Lithuania situated at the mouth of the Curonian Lagoon where it flows into the Baltic Sea. As Lithuania's only seaport, it has ferry terminal connections to Sweden and Germany.

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