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Throughout the history of the Deutschritter the German genius is very evident, romantic idealism implemented with utter ruthlessness.The Deutsche Orden (Latin, Ordo domus Sanctæ Mariæ Theutonicorum Hierosolymitanorum (OT) or the "Order of the House of St. Mary of the Germans in Jerusalem") is a Roman Catholic religious order, more commonly known as "The Teutonic Knights." Traditionally founded c. 1190 A.D. by merchants from Bremen and Lübeck in Acre as a hospital service for Germans in the Holy Land, by 1198 it imitated the older crusading orders, the Hospitallers and Templars, in acquiring knightly brothers whose original mission was to protect pilgrims, but who soon expanded their activities to include military actions against Muslim enemies of the Crusading states. Like the Templars, whose rule they substantially adopted, they wore as their habit a white mantle with a cross, but a black rather than a red one. (It would be some time before the form was standardized into the „Tatzenkreuz‟ or "Cross patée" version borne today;) After the decline of the Crusader States in the early thirteenth century, they sought other fields of operation. Under the most important of the early Grand Masters („Hochmeister‟, literally "High Master"), Hermann von Salza (1209-1239), a Thuringian knight who was a favorite of both Pope Gregory IX and of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, the Order expanded first into the so-called „Burzenland‟ of Transylvania, and then, after their expulsion therefrom by the King of Hungary, into the Baltic area at the request of Conrad, Duke of Masovia, to crusade against the heathen Pruzzi (a people speaking a now-extinct language related to Lithuanian and Latvian) — after Hermann had carefully made sure that all lands conquered by the Order were to be administered by it. This was the foundation of the so-called „Ordensstaat‟ (or "Order-state"). After the fall of Acre in 1291, the Grand Masters moved their residence first to Venice, and then in 1309 to the Marienburg (now Malbork in Poland). The Livonian Brothers of the Sword were an originally unrelated crusading group, but were eventually absorbed into the Teutonic Knights as the Livonian Order. Consequently this article (like many others) tends to lump them in together, but an important distinction is that the Livonian Order ruled the northern territory of Latvia-Estonia, whereas the Teutonic Knights controlled East and West Prussia — conquering Lithuania would have united the two. The Pope turned the Knights' attention to fighting not just the pagan Lithuanians, but also the Russian "schismatics" (hence their appearance as stand-ins for the Nazis in Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky). As the various Prussian tribes were conquered, the Order settled the land with German colonists, developing a powerful and sophisticated civilization outside the borders of the Holy Roman Empire (though at least at first under nominal suzerainty of the Emperor), which was controlled wholly by the representative of the Order in each particular territory — the „Landmeister‟) and gradually integrating the natives into it. After the conquest of Prussia had been completed, the Order expanded eastward, throughout the 14th and 15th centuries — or at least tried to. The very success of the Order brought about its downfall. Having substantially converted the heathen populace of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, they came into jurisdictional conflict with the now converted natives, particularly after 1386, when Jogaila, the leader of the Lithuanians, was baptized and became the Christian King Władysław Jagiello of Poland. Recriminations and open warfare between the Order and the Poles were the result, with the latter gradually gaining the upper hand. The defeat in the battle of Grunwald (German name: Tannenberg, 15 July, 1410) and a rebellion by the local nobility and cities aided by a Polish intervention (1455-1466) resulted in the Order sustaining large territorial losses and having to accept Polish suzerainty over the part of East Prussia they retained. Due to the loss of Marienburg, the Order had to move its residence to Königsberg (modern Kaliningrad). The worst challenge to the Order, however, came with the Protestant Reformation. In 1525, the Grand Master, Albert of Brandenburg, having converted to Lutheranism, repudiated his vows and seized upon the lands of the Order, doing homage for them to his uncle, King Sigismund I of Poland, and making himself the first Duke of Prussia. Many of the knightly brethren followed suit, while others remained faithful to Catholicism. The Grand Mastership thereafter reverted to the Landmaster within the Kingdom of Germany, who became known as the „Hoch- und Deutschmeister‟ thenceforth. Outside Germany, the Kingdom of Prussia is often seen as a direct successor of the Order State, which overlooks that after Reformation the the Duchy became an unremarkable principality, that the nucleus of what became the Kingdom of Prussia lay in Brandenburg (the kingdom was named "Prussia", because it was inherited by the rulers of Brandenburg in the 17th century and lay outside the borders of the Holy Roman Empire, which allowed the Margrave of Brandenburg to declare himself "King in Prussia"). "Prussian militarism" also only came about as a consequence of the devastation of the country during the Thirty Years' War; up until then Brandenburg and Prussia had actually been less militaristic than some of its neighbors, most notably Sweden and Bavaria. From the time of the Reformation to the end of World War I, the Teutonic Order was largely a preserve of the Habsburg monarchy. Notable (and generally temporary) Grand Masters would include the Archduke Maximilian III of Austria, Archduke Maximilian Francis of Austria, and Archduke Charles of Austria-Teschen. After the abdication of the last Holy Roman Emperor, many of the holdings of the Order in Germany were seized by Napoleon and his allies, though some were regained after his fall in 1815, particularly in lands ruled by the Habsburgs. After the fall of the Austrian monarchy, Archduke Eugene of Austria-Teschen, in order to preserve the Order, resigned his position as the last secular „Hoch- und Deutschmeister‟ and reconstituted it as a purely religious body, rededicating it to its original purpose of hospital work. In this form, the Teutonic Order has survived up to the present day, though its crusading days are long over. The Teutonic Knights, who were actually an organization dedicated to conversion rather than colonization (even if they did mix the two together), were later appropriated by the most radical of German nationalists as representatives of the fabled „Drang nach Osten‟ ("Drive to the East"). (Note that in some older works, this is actually viewed as a positive characterization.) This has led to the real Teutonic Knights, nasty people as they may have been, like most mediæval warriors, being subjected to a Historical Villain Upgrade or worse, as an example showing that All Germans Are Nazis.
—Desmond Seward, The Monks of War
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