Lettow was a by-name in XIV c. given to a few Pomeranian nobles from Vorbe(c)k Ur Adel family who went to assist Olgierd (Lit. Algirdas) and Witold /Witowt (Lit.Vytautas) - the Gr. Dukes of Lithuania. Apparently 'Lettow' meant "Lithuania" in Saxon (see "Canterbury tails" by Chaucer). With a few variants like Lettau, Lettaw, Litav, Littauer or Littawer it was also adopted by some other Vorbeks in Pomerania. In Lithuania later on it was used as Lettowt/Letowt. In XX c. Lithuanian surname policy changed it to Letautas... Today most of them live in Germany and USA, some in Holland as van Lettow, a few in Austria, Canada, UK, South Africa, South America, Latvia, probably in Russia or even in China.
Chronologically it can refer to:
- Ulryk Vorbek (c.1215–1301) landlord of Wittow in Gr. Duchy of Rugen/Rugia, Drawhen/Drzewiany, Pritsig/Przytocko in central Pomerania, Lublew/Lublewo south of Łeba Lake and Altdorf/Stara Wieś near Lemburg/Lębork. With his first wife Sabina Segebadin he had 3 sons: Adrian, Reimar and Achacy. From his second wife Adelgunda Warninin was son Eryk, the ancestor of all below mentioned:
- Maciej Vorbek-Lettow (1593–1668) born in Vilnius (Lithuania), dr med. from University of Padowa, major of Vilnius, for 19 years military medicus in Livonia for hetman (fieldmarshal) of Lithuania - prince Krystofer Radziwiłł. After that he became the personal physician, secretary and treasury courtier of Vladislav IV - king of Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Ruthenia, Prussia, Sweden, Courland, Semigalia and Livonia. His memoirs "Skarbnica pamięci" (Treasury of memories). One of his sons:
- Krzysztof-Zbigniew-Wiktoryn Lettow-Vorbek (1621–96), Nobility Marshal of Starodub district, Field Guard of Lithuania, king's secretary & treasury courtier for Lithuania, Colonel of Horse Cav.(with own Cossacks and Tatars Regiments), MP from Starodub, land judge + other functions & honors. His 2 sons:
- (1) Henryk L-V gen. baron in Berlin; (2) gen. Krystyn-Lucjan de Lettow - Commander of Polish Royal Guards Horse Regiment, his son gen. Ludwik-Henryk L-V in Berlin + 2 daughters married Horse Royal Guards generals, where Zofia-Maria L-V was mother of gen. Jan Henryk Dąbrowski (1755–1818) - Founder/Chief Commander of Polish Legions in Italy under Napoleon, Senator-Voivode and Chief of the Army of Polish Kingdom; after him goes the Polish National Anthem - "Mazurek Dąbrowskiego".
- Oskar von Lettow-Vorbeck (1839–1904) professor, general - a distinguished Prussian military scholar/writer on tactics in Berlin Military Academy.
- Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck (1870–1964), son of gen. Paul Karl v.L-V of Wangeritz (Wegorzyce near Stettin in West Pomerania), the Prussian WWI general, called "The Lion of Africa" - see literature & films. His grand daughter Helene Duchess von Oldenburg (d. of Graff Christian zu Rantzau & Heloise v.L-V).
- Hans Albert von Lettow-Vorbeck (1901–1942), a World War II general, Commander of the 27th SS Volunteer Division Langemarck, nephew of Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck.
- Witold Letowt-Vorbek (1895–1973) colonel, med. dr in Polish Air Force, RAF Sq. Leader (during the Battle of Britain WW2) before also a sport pilot and member of 7-men Polish rowing crew for Berlin Olympics.