MEMEL, a town of Germany, in the kingdom of Prussia, the most northerly town of the German empire, 91 m. by rail N.E. of Konigsberg, at the mouth of the Dange, and on the bank of a sound, called the Memeler Tief, which connects the Kurische Haff with the Baltic. Pop. (1905), 20,687. On the side next the sea the town is defended by a citadel and other fortifications, and the entrance to the harbour is protected by a lighthouse. Memel has been largely rebuilt since a destructive fire in 1854. It possesses iron-foundries, shipbuilding yards, breweries, distilleries, and manufactories of chemicals, soap and amber wares. By far the most important interest of the town, however, is its transit trade in timber and the grain and other agricultural products of Lithuania, and also herrings and other kinds of fish. The timber is brought by river from the forests of Russia, and is prepared for export in numerous saw-mills. The annual value of timber exported is above 1,000,000. A Prussian national memorial was unveiled here in the presence of the emperor William II. in September 1907.
Memel was founded in 1252 by Poppo von Osterna, grand master of the Teutonic order, and was at first called New Dortmund and afterwards Memelburg. It soon acquired a considerable trade, and joined the Hanseatic League. During the 13th, 14th and 1sth centuries it was repeatedly burned by its hostile neighbours, the Lithuanians and Poles, and in the 17th century it remained for some time in the possession of Sweden. In 1757, and again in 1813, it was occupied by Russian troops. After the battle of Jena, King Frederick William III. retired to Memel; and here, in 1807, a treaty was concluded between England and Prussia. The poet Simon Dach was a native of Memel.
See J. Sembritzki, Geschichte der koniglich preussischen See- und Handelsstadt Memel (Memel, 1900); and Memel in 19 Jahrhundert (Memel, 1902).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)