The following post contains significant information quoted and paraphrased from resources at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Library and Archives and focuses on the history of Germans in Lithuania. It is shared here for its scholarly and historical perspective and may help provide a political and social history to the family history we all seek.
Many books and article detail the history of the Baltics: these points center on what happened to the Germans who settled in Lithuania.
- Because so many DPs did not want to repatriate to their now Soviet-controlled countries, resettlement became the most viable option.
- The UNRRA, formed in 1943, was supported by the United States (72%), Britain, Canada, and Australia.
- All but 1.2 of the 8 million refugees had been repatriated by American and British occupational forces.
- The UNRRA “assembly centers” (DP camps) classified DPs most often housed in former Prisoner of War camps. There were 443 “assembly centers” in the US Zone.
Classification included: SS personnel, Nazi Party affiliates, CIC wanted lists, criminals, collaborators, and imposters imposing a security threat to the camp system.
Eligibility included: former prisoners of war; victims of enemy prosecution, based on race, religion, or other factors; stateless persons, and internally displaced women and children.
The purpose of the categories was to ensure that only those displaced by events or actions out of their control received aid and support.
There were 885,000 DPs from Central and Eastern Europe.
- Technically, the Baltic DPs did not qualify for UNRRA assistance because the Soviets stated that the Yalta Treaty considered them as foreign nationals and demanded their return to Soviet controlled territory. They refused to acknowledge that they were now part of the Soviet Union and refused to return.
Because the charter of the UNRRA allowed action on a “humanitarian basis without political bias,” 54,000 Lithuanians claimed DP status by the end of 1945.
- In August 1945 a US government report brought attention to the fact that the UNRRA was focused more on quick repatriation rather than on long term care and resettlement.
- The people from the Baltics were adamant in their desire to die rather than return to the same people who took everything away from them in 1940 and 1941.
- The US and Britain finally agreed to reinterpret the Yalta agreement according to the following statement: “Unless those persons from countries gained by the Soviet Union after September 1936 claimed Soviet citizenship, the Allies would treat them as DPs and not Soviet citizens.”
- On February 12, 1946, the UN Assemble passed a resolution stating that no DP who expressed “valid objections” to repatriation would be compelled to return to their country of origin.”
- The International Refugee Organization (IRO) was formally approved by the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union on December 15, 1946, and operated under the premise that the occupational forces should resettle unrepatriable DPs as quickly as possible.
- However, the immigration policies of the United States delayed the resettlement of Baltic DPs until the Displaced Persons Act was passed in April 1948.
- While DPs from the three Baltic countries placed their hopes in the Allies to restore their countries to independence, they waited in the DP camps which had been generally organized to place Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians in the same camps.