Growing up in the latter half of the 20th Century, depending on where you happened to be in the world, it was often neither popular nor PC if you were saddled with a niggling identity that included the historically taboo epithet “Prussian”.
The first time I heard the term “Prussian” was from my father who, as a liberal Jew fled from his birthplace of Königsberg to the Netherlands in 1933 and thence to South Africa in 1936. He then served in Her Majesty’s South African Forces in WWII in North Africa, Italy and Palestine. He was at pains (for obvious reasons) to de-emphasise his “German-ness” and officially removed the second “n” from Bergmann. “Bergman” is comfortably Dutch or Swedish.
While his English was near-native in its correctness, Dad always retained a German accent. He never went into any detail, but related how, while moving between Prisoners of War after Montgomery’s occupation of Tobruk, he encountered Afrika Korps men who had been at school or college with him. Predictably, during the war and thereafter, comrades and friends had asked him how he felt about “a German fighting against the Germans”. He had a standard answer that might sound glib, but while apologists might dismiss the semantics of it, it was uttered with profound conviction and had a deep impact on my own feeling of identity: “I was never a German fighting the Germans. I was only ever Prussian fighting the nazis”. And then if anyone pointed out: “A Prussian Jew,” he would be quick to retort: “I prefer to consider myself a Jewish Prussian.”
Especially after the war, while the fact that the nazis (probably just like the Afrika Korps, occasionally represented by men who were at school or college with him) had herded his mother and father (who carried the rank of Colonel and held the Iron Cross 1st Class) and countless uncles, aunts and cousins into the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Majdanek, Trebinka, Sobibor etc. as “Jews” understandably prompted him to reject any vestige of a “German” identity, down to the point of never teaching or speaking the language to me. Somehow, though, he seemed to have felt no less “Prussian”. As a child of the 1960s, the distinction was to lie in ambush until after I’d fought my own war in Africa.
It was about two hours, fifteen minutes and 24 seconds into my compulsory military service in South Africa that I realised the benefit of having a Prussian father with several generations of hussars in the family tree. I used to joke as a teenager: “My father’s not my father, he’s my Sergeant Major.” Suffice to say that he’d taught me to temper my rebellious nature, taught me to say Yes Sir! convincingly so I took to military life a fish to water.
During WWI, the similarity between the British White Ensign and the German War Ensign caused so many "friendly fire" incidents in the poor light of the English Channel and the North Sea that Royal Navy ships took to flying the Red (Merchant) Ensign.
When they return from the diaspora of the 20th Century (don’t expect them to come back in droves, at least not initially), most will still “look Prussian”, but it would be naïve to ignore that East Prussians cast far and wide will certainly have resulted in some who might have an Asian, African or other ethnic “look”, while still nurturing a sincere and zealous East Prussian loyalty and/or identity.
1) Whoever would go to the barricades for democratic freedom of self-determination for what Moscow calls the “Oblast of Kaliningrad” is a Prussian.
2) Whoever would step forward to govern (or just to contribute) once the occupation of Moscow is lifted (or if necessarily overthrown), that is a Prussian!
3) In the spirit of Frederik the Great, we will keep our gloves clean to extend the hand of friendship to all who will take it, but we will keep our swords sharp to defend ourselves against those who will not.