East Prussian Websites

DURING FEEFHS

Dr. Roger Minert has been training a new generation of professional genealogists. I have heard three of them within the last year and am very impressed with their professionalism, knowledge base, and especially the fact that all of their handouts start out with websites as their Tier I research strategy.

Careen Barrett-Valentine, AG, presented a two hour session on the German Research Strategies and Sources for Eastern Provinces and kindly gave me permission to share her East Prussia websites with my readers in a slightly changed format. Many of you are already familiar with these, but I felt you might find them valuable. I have had experience with some of them. If readers contact me through the comment section of this blog, I could collect information on how these sites have helped you and share them in future posts.

www.ostpreussen.net/ostpreussen/orte.php Ostpreussen.net “Places” (Click on map to interact)

http://www.ahnen-gesucht.de/ostpreussen “On the Trail of your Ancestors”

o Left of page
→”Landkreise und Kirchspiele”
→Hover over a number to see Kreis name
→Click number to see parish map of Kreis
→Hover over parish to see alternate names and year of founding

http://wiki-de.genealogy.net/Ostpreußen/Kirchenbücher East Prussia Sources o You can find this by googling “ostpreussen kirchenbucher genealogy.net”
o Select a Kreis from alphabetical list left of map
→click on Kreis name
→For that Kreis, click on “Kirchenbuchbestände”
→select parish from alphabetical list left of map
→click on parish name

www.epaveldas.lt Lithuanian repository of digital information
o If there aren’t any surviving vital records for a town that is now in Lithuania, type in the name of the town on this website and go through everything you find. This stone is often left unturned.

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DURING FEEFHS: RESEARCH AND CONFERENCE

RESEARCH:

The EWZ research required a prior request for film stored at the Granite Mountain, a procedure that has recently disappeared in the age of digitization. By hiring a NARA II researcher near College Park, Maryland, I was able to compare that collection with the FHL collection. The photographs of the people are quite poignant. A volunteer at the FHL offered to photoshop several of the files saved in a .png or .tif format, certainly a lucky break for me!
I used my tablet to take images of each record and printed copies as well. Details will be the subject of a separate post.

FHL Films for Kybarti and Vistytis:
Locating a confirmation record and a marriage record of Emma Rabenstein and Johann Hutop was a great find, especially considering that that we had not known the exact relationship of Johann Hutop to our family until we received the records from NARA II just weeks earlier. Yeah! The confirmation record was a bonus! Good research techniques made this a speedy discovery. Another yeah!
A brief look at the film about a late 18th century Lithuanian congregation in Kreis Stalluponen convinced me that I did not have to spend a great deal of time on this. For only a few minutes, my curiosity overtook my logic to stick to my tasks at hand.
I was not able to complete the carefully laid out plan to continue my East Prussian research plan to re-examine Ber/Berz and Gudat/Guddat marriage records in Kreis Stalluponen. A future post will explain why this fell to the bottom of the list as other priorities came up.

BOOKS AND PERIDICALS:

I perused the two books on Lithuanians in Canada. I especially liked Lithuanian DPs Immigration to Canada after the Second Word War and have ordered it on Interlibrary Loan.

I also copied the remaining Landsmen and Alt Preussische articles for future posts.

PERSONAL CONNECTIONS:

The most incredible breakthrough ever will be detailed in a future post. It involved working with another researcher, newspaperarchives.com, and stunning results, too detailed not to be a separate post.

For the very first time, I met another Suwalki Province researcher at Feefhs, the first in 15 conferences. I also learned that Suwalki Province was not only divided between Lithuania and Poland but also a small part of Belarus, south of Lithuania. A researcher relayed his experience to me of getting help from two Polish men to gain access to his village in Belarus. I have to redraw my map!

PRESENTATIONS:

I was scheduled to make three one-hour presentations at the Feefhs conference–
• International Tracing Service Records

https://suwalkigermans.wordpress.com/2016/11/03/post-14-2012-2015-research-international-tracing-service/

https://suwalkigermans.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/2017-new-series-of-posts-holocaust-museum-post-4-part-i/

https://suwalkigermans.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/2017-new-series-of-posts-holocaust-museum-post-5-part-ii-adolf-spurgat/

• Germans in Lithuania: Migrations and History, the subject of recent, current, and future posts.

• Results of Creating an Ethnic and Geographical Genealogical Blog, this blog, including a live demonstration of posting the title, text, media, and a link to the July 15 blog, actually posted live during the conference on Friday afternoon, July 21. Dear Readers, you were part of this presentation along with some of your comments.

The first and third presentations had good attendance, with the second one having a very limited audience—a young woman who does Armenian research and a young Lithuanian woman, a professional genealogist in Salt Lake. It was a topic I wanted to do and do not regret the time I spent organizing it. The posts I am making now on the end of the German era in Lithuania enabled me to tell the complete story. As readers of this blog, you have the opportunity to learn the story yourselves.

 

 

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Feefhs Preparation

The next five posts include a break from the series of posts about the resources in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Library and Archives on the Fifth Floor, specifically describing the best resources for understanding the end of the German population in Lithuania in July 1944.

Instead I will focus on my preparation for the Feefhs conference in Salt Lake July 17 – 20, the actual conference, and the follow up. The fifth post will describe the International, Cultural, and Personal connections I made at the first International Germanic Genealogy Partnership Conference (IGGP) in Minneapolis July 27-30. Both conferences were exhilarating experiences for difference reasons. All of this information will be directed to East Prussia and Suwalki Province as much as possible.

First, Feefhs prep:

  1. For many years I had wanted to investigate the EWZ records the Nazis created to record the details of Germans in Eastern Europe. Details about these records will be the subject of future posts in late 2017 and 2018. Suffice it to say, I hired a researcher at NARA II in Salt Lake to obtain the Control Numbers for the individuals I was seeking so that when I went to Salt Lake, I would be able to pull the records fairly easily.

Part of this prep would lead to an understanding of what many of you already knew: many, many films have and are being digitized so I could do some of the EWZ research ahead of time at my local Family History Center and the recent information that all film orders have to be placed by August 31, 2017. Starting September 1, 2017, no more films can be ordered as Family Search moves to digitization of all films by 2020. Some are and will be available on your home computer, some only at Family History Centers depending on the contract made with the archives, parish, or municipality, etc. but especially German and Swiss films.

I also wanted to continue my research in East Prussia for the maternal families – great and great grandparents to see if I could find a name in neighboring East Prussian kreise even though I did not have a specific place to look: Spurgats but also Ber/Bersz, Gudat, Keller, Kuczynska, Walat, and Wellert.

This search would also include the Hutop ancestors– Cering/Zering, Simoneit, and Stein.

I also spent a great deal of time looking at the possibility of additional records for Kybarti, Virbalis (aka Wirballen, Wierzbolowo, and Verzhbolov), and Vistytis (aka Wischtiten, and Vyshtynets) to aid in the Hutop research.

I also wanted to update my findings in the most recent Landsmen articles of interest to my blog followers, and to copy a few more articles from Altpreussische Geschlechterkunde that might include translatable material for my readers and my own research.

I also wanted to check and recheck a few books.

Because the International Tracing Service records about Emil Hutop had led us to consider both Belgium and Canada as possible destinations, I wanted to peruse two books on Lithuanians in Canada, especially one on DPs to Canada post WWII.

All of the above resulted in the reorganization of computer files and notebooks so that I could pinpoint exactly what I had to prepare in order to complete what I wanted to do.

Much of my research time in 2017 had been devoted to three presentations I would make during the Feehfs conference.

If I had time, I would like to use some of the many databases available only at the Family History Library.

If it sounds like I had enough to do, you are right!

 

 

 

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Himmler’s Auxiliaries: The Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle and the German National Minorities of Europe, by Valdis O. Lumans 1933 – 1945

This post contains significant information quoted and paraphrased from resources at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Library and Archives. They focus on the topic: the history of Germans in Lithuania. They are shared here for their scholarly and historical perspective.

Part II: Chapters 6, 8, and 9

Chapter 6: VoMi and the Minorities, II The Baltic, the Southeast, the West, and the Soviet Union

Page 101: Some of the Volksdeutsche may have wanted to reunify with the Reich but that was not part of Hitler’s plan.

Chapter 8: The Resettlement, I Italy, the Baltic States, and Poland

Page 158: The Baltic Germans (Estonians and Latvians) were descendants of crusading knights, associated with the romantic Drang nach Osten of the medieval past and evoked volkish emotions. (Page 170 refers to the Baltic Germans of Latvia and Estonia “their forefathers seven centuries earlier” = 1300s.)

Plans for the evacuation of Estonia’s and Latvia’s Germans were well underway by the fall of 1939.

Stalin intended to include Lithuania in these plans, but since it lay within the German “sphere of interest” he wanted to exchange it for the Lublin and Warsaw districts in Poland. Germany (Ribbentrop) agreed with one condition: that Germany would keep a strip of southwestern Lithuania bordering East Prussia where the majority of Lithuania’s Germany lived.

Thus, there was no urgent need to resettle Lithuania’s Volksdeuteche along with those of Latvia and Estonia.

Page 165: By the end of 1939 more than 60,000 Baltic Germans from Latvia and Estonia had been resettled. By June 1940 those who had ignored the Fuhrer’s summons for resettlement, were in trouble. Many people became “German” overnight, hoping for German protection from the Soviets and resettlement in the Reich.

Page 166: It was now apparent that the Lithuanian Germans also needed to be evacuated and resettled. Since most lived in the small strip assigned to Germany, the Reich expected to acquire them through annexation. As for those living in the interior, the Reich had adopted a wait and see attitude. However, the Soviets seized the strip where the Volksdeutsche lived.

Lithuanians soon equated the Russians with the Germans and the Volksdeutsche and plans for evacuation and resettlement were approved by Ribbentrop and Himmler. No documents verify Hitler’s role other than the assumption that he was consulted.

Page 167: VoMi decided to relocate entire villages in Lithuania to East Prussia and Danzig, West Prussia. VoMi would register the resettlers, transport them to the Reich, and build camps in East Prussia. Himmler suggested meetings with local Nazi officials, called Gaulieters.

In a July 11 meeting German officials made it clear that Germans living in the disputed border strip , now occupied by the Soviets, would not be affected by the resettlement. This would help the Reich’s claim to this land as part of the Reich sphere of interest.

Two days later Stalin announced that the Soviets would keep this land. He also suggested that the Germans living there could be relocated along with the rest of Lithuania’s Germans.

On August 7 the Soviets decided to negotiate a treaty for the resettlement of Lithuanian Germans. Although not mentioned in the Soviet offer, the strip of territory would also be discussed.

Page 168: On January 10, 1941, a treaty was signed about the Lithuanian settlement. Another agreement transferred the strip of disputed Lithuanian land to the Soviets. The fate of 50,000 Volksdeutsche was at stake during these negotiations which also included a second resettlement of remaining Latvian and Estonian Germans, and economic agreements of the value of German property in the Baltic.

Contrary to the evacuation of Latvian and Estonia Germans, which had relied on local manpower, the Lithuanian German evacuation was carried out by trained teams from the SS barracks at Stahnsdorf.

These teams registered the resettlers and their property and assembled them for evacuation.

Page 169: Both Germans and Soviet officials had to approve each resettler. Many non-Germans were among the 50, 904 people from Lithuania approved and departed by March 1942.

(The second wave of Estonians and Latvians were declared refugees which would not entitle them to property compensation and other privileges.)

Chapter 9 The Resettlement, II The Southeast, the West, and the Soviet Union

Page 171: The primary reason for resettling the Volksdeutsch of …the Baltic states… was Hitler’s concern that they could create difficulties with his allies, Stalin and Mussolini, and would thereby disrupt his foreign policy plans.

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Himmler’s Auxiliaries: The Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle and the German National Minorities of Europe, 1933 – 1945 by Valdis O. Lumans

The following post contains significant information quoted and paraphrased from resources at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Library and Archives. They focus on the history of Germans in Lithuania. They are shared here for their scholarly and historical perspective and to help provide a political and social history to the family history we all seek.

Image (30)

If you would like to see some maps of these areas, here is a link to Himmler’s Auxiliaries at Google Books.

Part I:  Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 5

Chapter 1: Himmler and the Volksdeutsche

Page 22: 10 million Volksdeutsche after WWI

100,000 in Memelland, Lithuania

80,000 Latvia and Estonia

Page 23: Volksgruppe came to refer to a minority of Germans residing within a state.

4 distinct groups

Group 1: Germans in territories separated from the Reich as a result of WWI settlement. One group of these was the Memelland in Lithuania.

Group 3: Germans who had never belonged to the German Empire or the Hapsburg crown: the Lithuanian Germans.

Chapter 3: Presettlement VoMi

Page 58: The Berlin Headquarters: divide the Reich geographically—Osten-Nordosten included Poland, the Baltic States, and Memelland.

Chapter 5: VoMi and the Minorities’s I The Southern and Eastern Borderlands

Pages 90-93: Lithuania seized Memelland from Germany shortly after the end of WWI (1924). Estimated 60,000 living there had been Prussians and were quite distinct from the 30,000 to 40,000 Volksdeutsche who inhabited the rest of Lithuania and who were former subjects of the  Russian czar. Although some of the latter were urban folks, the majority farmed the countryside south west of Kaunas, near the East Prussian border where their ancestors had settled several generations earlier.

Neither the Memellanders nor the Volksdeutsche in the interior were Baltic Germans, a term exclusively reserved for the Volksdeutsche of Estonia and Latvia.

The Reich’s relations with the two Volksdeutsche constituting the German minority in Lithuania differed greatly not only because of its special interest as Memellanders and former Reich subjects but also because of the differences Lithuanians allowed the two groups with Germany.

On the basis of the 1924 Memelland statue, which made Memel an autonomous region of Lithuania, the Lithuanians recognized the Memel Germans as a distinct group with special status and guaranteed them unlimited access with the Reich.

As for the Germans of the interior, their access to the Reich was restricted. During the early years the Lithuanians treated the Germans of the interior well. As simple peasants owning moderate amounts of land, they entertained no lofty aspirations for special status and no notions of cultural superiority. They posed no threat to Lithuania.

Relations between the Germans of the interior and the Lithuanians worsened in 1926 when a new government came to power:

Lithuanization of family names

In 1935 dissolved their main political organ

Curtailed activities of their major cultural organization.

Page 91: Memellanders were also restricted but not as much because of their autonomy.

Surge in German Nationalism (Nazism)

Memellanders were discouraged from leaving disputed Reich lands as it would reduce the German population and weaken the Reich’s claim to these lands.

Memellanders sought re-annexation.

Lithuanians tried to appease.

Page 92: “Ein Volk, Ein Reuich, Ein Fuhrer” was heard throughout Memel.

Hitler said that “the issue of Memel would be shortly resolved.” Memel was peacefully re-annexed to the Reich on March 23, 1939.

Lithuania lost a seaport and valuable shoreline to Germany. Lithuania was glad to be done with Memel and the fact that Hitler asked for no more. (This was contrary to what had happened in Czechoslovakia and what would happen in Poland.)

My Note: A case could be made that Memel’s desire for re-annexation was one of the events that led to the Molotov-Rippentrop agreement on August 31, 1939.)

Page 93: The rest of Lithuania’s Volksdeutsche remained a national minority. VoMi retained an interest in the Germans living in the interior. They kept them quiet and prevented them from disturbing the Reich’s plans for the future plans with Lithuania for neutrality.

In 1940 VoMi became involved with the Germans in Lithuania over their resettlement.

 

 

 

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The July 15 post will be public on July 21.

 

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Germans, Poles, and Jews: the Nationality Conflict in the Prussian East, 1772-1914

By William W. Hagen

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 with possible East Prussian origins. They are shared here for their scholarly and historical perspective and help provide a political and social history to the family history we all seek. Although this particular publication does not focus on the 1930s and 1940s, it provides background information.

Page 9: Prussia (which later became East Prussia) was largely a land of serfs and noble estates.

Page 18: The Germans on the 18th Century Frontier: The Germans who lived there remained staunchly loyal to the Polish king as long as their privileges and local autonomy were respected.

Page 65: The Germans and Jews in South and New East Prussia: The Prussia government regarded the many Germans in south Prussia and the few in New East Prussia as valuable subjects but it did not take any systematic strains to strengthen them against the Poles or the Jews.

Page 81: There were two groups of peasants. About 40% of the serfs worked for their lord by being compensated by land, money or other services and fell in this category. The others worked for their lord at will and could be evicted. (This may need to be revised.)

Page 120-122: Conclusion:  Prussian rule in partitioned Poland sought to Germanize the Polish church, prevent the peasants from buying farmland, drive the laborers westward, and drive the Polish language from public life.

Page 120: The 20th century ramifications of this suggest that (1) Hitler continued the Prussian national policy and (2) Himmler filled the land with German colonists.

Page 121: It was not the “German colonists” whom the people hated, but the Prussian government’s attempts to “Germanize” the conquered lands in the Partitions of Poland.

Page 122: The continuation of the Prussian “mission in the east” did not work. “It ended under Hitler’s command, in the destructiveness of the Jews, the devastation of Poland, and a crushing defeat, stripping the German nation of its eastern outposts.”

 

 

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