Why did the northeastern part of the German Empire have such few people?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
18,039
SoCal
#1
When I look at this map of the population density in the German Empire in 1900, I am utterly struck by the fact that just how few people the northeastern part of the German Empire had back then (with the exceptions of the Berlin area, Danzig, and Konigsberg, that is):



What's interesting is that even after the expulsion of Germans from a lot of this territory and their replacement with Poles, this area is still sparsely populated even today. Indeed, take a look at how little people the areas surrounding Berlin had in 2011:



My question is this--why exactly was this territory sparsely populated? Also, why does this territory have so little people even today?
 
Dec 2017
275
Regnum Teutonicum
#2
The main reason why the population density was so much lower is, that the region was not as fertile. Brandenburg has so much sandy soil, that it was called "the Sandbox of the Empire". East Prussia was essentially a giant swamp, were special agricultural methods had to be developed. Then of course the glaciers covered this area during the ice age. The glaciers grinded the area and took most of the soil away. Add to that, that during the ice age, at a lot of the other areas on the first map, loess was deposited and you get an even more stark contrast, because loess is one of the most fertile soils on the planet.
Here a map, in yellow is the loess



 
Likes: Futurist

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,118
#3
As Otto states, land fertility is a factor. A lady I knew from East Prussia told me often about her life on the farm that they owned. There were 3 men and four women. The men worked in the fields every day and the women prepared the food, walked to where the men worked to give them the food, walked back and then prepared the next meal. They'd do this 5 times per day. The land was that so difficult to work, the men could not afford to waste time by leaving their work to return back to the farm. It was such a hard lifestyle that it was everyone's ambition to leave the farm.

This is also in keeping with reports I read of Hitler's resettlement of german peoples who had been living in parts of Russia since the 18th century. They were removed from their old farms which were in 'frontier territory' and vulnerable and given new land in the occupied territories in an attempt to consolidate them. They complained bitterly about the infertile soils, pointing out that they now had to work twice as hard to produce the same amount as they did before.
 
Likes: Futurist
Jun 2017
2,814
Connecticut
#4
When I look at this map of the population density in the German Empire in 1900, I am utterly struck by the fact that just how few people the northeastern part of the German Empire had back then (with the exceptions of the Berlin area, Danzig, and Konigsberg, that is):



What's interesting is that even after the expulsion of Germans from a lot of this territory and their replacement with Poles, this area is still sparsely populated even today. Indeed, take a look at how little people the areas surrounding Berlin had in 2011:



My question is this--why exactly was this territory sparsely populated? Also, why does this territory have so little people even today?
It was where the Prussian aristocrats had their estates and Prussia proper hadn't had any huge cities before getting Berlin so while most places built up their capital, Prussia built up Berlin and Prussia itself remained rural(not sure if the Prussians ever had actual productive farms per previous claim land wasn't fertile).

But yeah unless you're establishing a new city don't really think there's a formula for turning a spread out agrarian society into a diverse urban one without large centers existing beforehand. Remember Germany was decentralized for most of history leading to a diverse mix of big cities and larger towns. Prussia didn't have these and they ain't going to start popping out of nowhere especially given the circumstances. .