What do a knight of the Teutonic Order, the Song of the Nibelungs and Hermann the Cheruscan have in common? They were all intended to legitimize the founding of the German Empire in 1871, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. This was a "unification from above" for which Prussia waged three "wars of unification". The ostensibly common cultural heritage of "Germanness" in the Middle Ages was one of the elements that was supposed to make it easier for citizens from, say, Bavaria, Hesse, Prussia and Saxony to become "Germans". Another element was the national demarcation of the Empire from its neighbors, especially France, which had been defeated in 1813/15 and 1871.
Monument engineers, composers and writers were tasked with inventing an honorable tradition for the Empire. The results included the Hermann Monument in the Teutoburg Forest, the Germania statue in Niederwald and Richard Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" – which in reality criticized rule and violence. Romanticism had already rediscovered the Middle Ages and chivalry and painted them in the most beautiful colors.

The new cabinet exhibition of the East Prussian State Museum embarks on an associative search for traces of this era, based on some examples of East Prussian literature, which strongly influenced the zeitgeist. From the poet of the wars of liberation, Max von Schenkendorff, to the romanticist E.T.A. Hoffmann and Johann Gottfried Herder, powerful authors were at work – their literature providing later authors with inspiration for a more "national" tone.

Examples of this are writers in 
East Prussia
deu. Ostpreußen, pol. Prusy Wschodnie, lit. Rytų Prūsija, rus. Восто́чная Пру́ссия, rus. Vostóchnaia Prússiia

East Prussia is the name of the former most eastern Prussian province, which existed until 1945 and whose extent (regardless of historically slightly changing border courses) roughly corresponds to the historical landscape of Prussia. The name was first used in the second half of the 18th century, when, in addition to the Duchy of Prussia with its capital Königsberg, which had been promoted to a kingdom in 1701, other previously Polish territories in the west (for example, the so-called Prussia Royal Share with Warmia and Pomerania) were added to Brandenburg-Prussia and formed the new province of West Prussia.
Nowadays, the territory of the former Prussian province belongs mainly to Russia (Kaliningrad Oblast) and Poland (Warmia-Masuria Voivodeship). The former so-called Memelland (also Memelgebiet, lit. Klaipėdos kraštas) first became part of Lithuania in 1920 and again from 1945.

 such as Ernst Wichert (1831-1902) or Felix Dahn ("A Struggle for Rome"), who held up the Prussian Order State as the model of martial German unification and praised the millennia-old self-sacrifice of the 'brave Teutons'. When he was appointed to the Albertus University in 
deu. Königsberg, rus. Калинингра́д

Kaliningrad is a city in today's Russia. It is located in the Kaliningrad oblast, a Russian exclave between Lithuania and Poland. Kaliningrad, formerly Königsberg, belonged to Prussia for several centuries and was the northeasternmost major city.

, Felix Dahn apparently saw himself as a kind of knight of the Teutonic Order. He wanted to teach "German law in the farthest reaches of East Markland" and, as an admirer of Richard Wagner, still sensed a "Walkürenhauch" (a breath of Valkyrie) on the Baltic Sea.

The exhibition shows the context of the founding of the Reich, important sources from Romantic literature, Dahn and Wichert as literary figures in Königsberg and in the Reich, the monumentalizing invention of a supposedly great national past, as well as its reception and consequences.

The accompanying program has been adapted to suit the current pandemic conditions. The plan moving forward includes lectures on the position of East Prussia in the German Reich and guided tours of the exhibition. Please check for announcements on the museum's website.