Nitschmann was born in a city on the eastern peripheries of the Prussian state (from 1871 a part of the German Empire). These were the lands seized by Prussia after the partitions of Poland. National conflicts escalated in the region especially in the second half of the nineteenth century, when German nationalism—so condemned by Nitschmann—became a major political and cultural force. Four years before Nitschmann’s birth, in 1822, Mickiewicz published his famous Ballads and Romances. This event is considered a beginning of the Polish Romanticism. When Nitschmann was a young child, Elbląg with enthusiasm greeted the Polish November insurgents of 1830. Later, when Nitschmann served in the military, Europe was shaken by the series of insurrections and revolutions known as the Springtime of Nations. The nineteenth century was a period of intense industrialization and emancipation of the bourgeoisie. Nitschmann enjoyed privileges of his birth and comforts offered by technical developments, especially railways and other transport means. Nitschmann was fascinated by urbanism, especially as he witnessed it in Berlin, but the world of nature did not cease to have for him magnetic allure. When the January Insurrection broke out, Nitschmann was staying in his estate in Pożary near Działdowo. According to his biographer A. Bławat, Nitschmann was offering sanctuary to the insurgents. Soon after, in 1871 Germany unified into the German Empire and had entered the colonial race.
Illustrations (from top):
1. Otto von Bismarck and Napoleon III, the most influential European politicians of the second half of the nineteenth century, hold a conversation after the Battle of Sedan in 1870. The painting is by the Prussian painter W. Campenhausen (from K. Krotoski, Dzieje powszechne dla seminaryów nauczycielskich, vol. 2., Lviv 1915).
2. The project of a steam-powered road roller. As more and more people became interested in technical innovations, the market of journals and magazines boomed with dozens of new titles aimed at engineers and builders. Many of these can be found in the collections of the Library of Elbląg. Zeitschrift für Bauwesen, Jg. XIX, h. 1-3, Berlin 1869.