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.

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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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2017 New Series of Posts Holocaust Museum POST 6 The Fifth Floor Library and Archives

My preparation had included a brief look at the 5th floor Library and Archives

https://www.ushmm.org/research/research-in-collections/research-visit

but because I did not plan on working there, I only perused it. I highly recommend studying the details of doing research on the fifth floor while planning a research trip.

The final day of research at the Holocaust Memorial Museum will be the subject of the next several posts.

The volunteer at the Survivors and Victims Resource Center thought I should explore the academic and scholarly aspect as well as the genealogical perspective of my investigation: information about the Germans in Lithuania who did not immigrate. So he wove his way with me in tow to the Fifth Floor Library and Archives where the scholarly and academic research was done.

He suggested I use the term Volksdeutsch which our 2013 guide had told me meant the German people. In 2014 I learned that this was a specific term related to the German peoples in WWII, not widely used 75 years later.

The archivist assured me that they had material that would adequately cover my search. Himmler’s Auxiliaries came to his mind first, so I planned to start with that book.

So I mined the website with the search term Volksdeutsche and similar terms in the online catalogue.

 By the end of the day I had

  • pertinent pages of 4 books scanned, attached, and sent to my e-mail.
  • 1 article from “an obscure Polish Journal” which I received as an e-mail attachment through my own public library and Interlibrary loan within a week of my return.
  • 1 thesis on my thumb drive on the subject of five different policies various governments developed related to refugee status post WWII

The following posts will provide quotations, paraphrases, and summaries that apply to those researching in Suwalki Province with possible origins in East Prussia.

Post 7 Germans, Poles, and Jews

Post 8  Himmler’s Auxiliaries Part 1

 Post 9 Himmler’s Auxiliaries Part 2

Post 10 Orderly and Humane                     

Post 11 “The Resettlements of Germans from Lithuania during World War II” by Piotr Lossowski from Acta Poloniae HIstorica article Part 1

Post 12  “The Resettlements of Germans from Lithuania during World War II” by Piotr Lossowski from Acta Poloniae HIstorica article Part 2                   

Post 13 Thesis: The Illusion of Peace: The Fate of the Baltic Displaced Persons, 1945-1952. By Victoria Marite Helga Eastes Introduction and Abstract

Post 14 History of the Three Baltics

Post 15 DP Camp Experience

Post 16 America and the Baltics

I thought I had pretty well covered the topic of what happened between 1941 and 1950 to Germans who lived in Lithuania. This effort might help me determine what happened to Anna Spurgatis and Emil Hutop and provide a direction for future research, the subject of a future post.

Conclusion

 The research trip to the Holocaust Museum was a life-changing event. It just shows that you never know what discovery might be around the corner. I expected to find Spurgats. I did not. I found Hutops instead. I was able to get two of my three questions answered in ways I did not expect: extraordinary volunteers and an opportunity to work in a world-renown library and archives to discover more information. What more could anyone ask for in three days?

The success of this this research was more easily accomplished by my being able to stay with a close relative and easily get to the museum via the metro. The opportunity to see my 99 year old Spurgat aunt was a dual but equally important purpose.  It was fortuitous as she died only 12 days later, the last of a generation.

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Fifth Anniversary

I interrupt this series to write the Fifth Anniversary blog! It is hard to believe that this blog has been running on a fairly regular basis for five years. The last post was Number 200! So it seems appropriate that this Fifth Anniversary Post must be the beginning of a new three digit number.

Let’s do the checklist first: Did I do what I said I would do?

MEETING GOALS FOR YEAR 5

  1. Another long series of posts, based on my research, is continuing. Now you know what I was doing when I wasn’t writing posts.  Hope they help you.
  2. You may expect to be interrupted by other subjects as they arise after a topical break in a series.
  3. This blog is for researchers, not to post information about my family unless its intent is to illustrate a point.
  4. Categories and tags are completed through 2016.Â
  5. By far the most gratifying part has to be the researchers whom I’ve helped.
  • 2017 began on January 1 with two comments from researchers, one from a new follower, but whom I could connect to two existing researchers. Yeah!
  • The other was from a seasoned researcher who reported this:  Another…family discovered me through your website since you had linked to my website. Their 15 year old son was doing…ancestry research for his 80 year old grandmother. I knew about this family, but I thought I had lost their trail because their Johann…had two daughters whose names changed through marriage. One of these is this grandmother. I had a very nice phone conversation with her today. She was astonished by my findings and had not realized how large and vast our…tribe was. She is my second cousin on my paternal grandmother’s side and my fourth cousin on my… side. It doesn’t get much better than that!
  • A comment in February resulted in another family connection for me. Now I have another young man, this one in Germany, with whom I am corresponding. Yeah!
  1. The very best part is when the researchers keep me in the loop and the allow me to write up “our” mutual research.
  2. Connecting families: The comments researchers have made are so generous. Thank you. They keep me going! I am thrilled that you read my blog and tell me your stories.
  3. I have added more links and media.

GOALS FOR YEAR 6

  1. The ever elusive map is an ongoing project meant to inspire others to do likewise.
  2. Report on two conferences Feefhs in Salt Lake, UT the week of July 16 to 21 and the new International German Genealogical Partnership July 28-30 in Minneapolis, MN, with special attention to East Prussia.
  3. The most gratifying goal would be to work with more researchers to help them to tell other researchers about our mutual research.
  4. An update on the Autosomal DNA I have become involved in.
  5. Continued research with the Lithuanian Historical Archives in Vilnius (which from January to July 2017 is not accessible because of a move to another location).
  6. Updates on my research as goals are completed, one of which will be a look at EWZ records.

Thank you, East Prussian/Suwalki Researchers!

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2017 New Series of Posts Holocaust Museum POST 5 Part II Adolf Spurgat

May 2016: Day 1 Research  

 One of my burning questions was, “What was the source of the 1944 death record of Adolf Spurgat in Essen?

When I could not find very many other Spurgats, I asked about the source of the Adolf Spurgat (who died in Essen in 1944) record. My point was, “If he was in the ITS databases, why weren’t there records for any other Spurgats from Essen?“ On my first day the volunteer told me to ask the men the next day. Steve helped me in the morning, and Bill refined the answer in the afternoon.

May 2016: Day 2 Research

I found three more records related to this Adolf Spurgat: (1) a typed copy of the  Sterbeurkunde, death certificate from the City of Essen Archives, which I suspected was the source of the above ITS record as the information was similar.  An earlier copy of the death record from the Essen Archives through the efforts of a German researcher was handwritten with much the same information.

However, with the astute eye of my “young German cousin” 3 pieces of information were noted: (a) Bauhilfsarbeiter (unskilled worker in construction) was different than “the brewery worker” definition I had been given earlier. (b) the word “vestorben” (deceased) had been crossed out and replaced with tot aufgefunden” (found dead) (c) Stinneshafen was the port of a mine along the Rhein-Herne-Kanal (canal/channel) in the northern part of Essen.

The second record included the information: “Verz.(eichnis) d. Reichskriminalpolizeiamtes Berlin über Todesfälle von erkennungsdienstlich behandelten Personen, sogen. “Berliner Listen”, Gruppe P. P.” which translates as, “Register of the Criminal Investigation Department of Berlin about fatalities of persons submitted to criminal identification, so called “Berliner Listen”, group “P.P.”

My “young German researcher” also commented:

  • I have no knowledge of these Berlin lists and the group PP.
  • …The prefix ‘Reich’, probably… has a negative connotation in English, but it was very common for a lot of national government authorities and should not be seen as a [WWII] Germany term. Nowadays, ‘Bundes’ (Federal) is used instead of ‘Reich’; Bundespolizei, Bundesbank, etc.

The final record was the most interesting and finally answered my question. The first page is shown below.

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The title translates as “Register of persons who died in May 1944 and of whom the Criminal Investigation Department has fingerprints.”

On the second page was the name of Adolf Spurgat!

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This information was sent to Wiesbaden (where The German Federal Criminal Investigation Department still has a lot of offices today) and then to Berlin.

The two volunteers explained that this was a list of foreigners who were registered with the National Securities (spies) and that these people were considered a “threat recognition source.” The list includes people in Essen who died between 1939 and 1945 and forward.

Another way of stating this is that Adolf Spurgat was a “person of interest” because he was born outside of Germany (Russia) and he was not a laborer (he was disabled according to the archivist at the Essen Archives). If he had not been born in Russia and died, he would not have been on this list. So that finally explained why this one “miracle” ITS record helped me in ways I never expected.

 Conclusion

The afternoon volunteer gave me a two page handout he had prepared just for researchers who might need further information from German archives. That list could keep me busy for a very long time as the sources are mostly German archives, but some are online.

It cannot be said enough times: The most important question in genealogical research is, “How do you know this? What is the source of the record?”

ITS opened up avenues I would never have explored without FEEFHS, Dr. Afoumado, Benjamin Hutop, and Ina Nanazelskis.

The volunteers’ explanation of the source led to my understanding that I had exhausted the possibilities of the ITS databases, and Bill recommended that I research scholarly articles and books in the 5th floor library

 End of Day 2 and 3

Late the afternoon of the second day, Bill took me up to the Fifth Floor Library and Archives. The reference librarian helped me to acclimate myself for the following day, and I researched in the library and archives on my last day, which will be the subject of the next several posts.

I did find 4 books, 1 article, and 1 thesis on the subject of what happened between 1941 and 1950 to Germans who lived in Lithuania and gave me a much needed understanding of the two German settlements in Lithuania.

 

 

 

 

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2017 New Series of Posts Holocaust Museum Post 4 Part I

The Importance of Another Adolf Spurgat in Essen

 Summer 2014

At the Foundation of Eastern European Family History Societies (FEEFHS) conference in August 2014 in Salt Lake City, Utah, I had the honor of an hour long one-to-one meeting with Dr. Diane Afoumado, Chief of the ITS Research Branch, to discuss the possibility of searching for the Spurgat name in their many databases.

https://suwalkigermans.wordpress.com/2014/10/03/experiences-at-the-feefhs-conference/

A brief analysis of the holdings of the ITS suggests that at the time of WWII most of the people named Spurgat from the former Suwalki Province may have ended up in Soviet camps. If so, the International Tracing Service will not be able to supply any information about them. However, there were multiple entries for the Spurgat name from Wylkowiszki and the nearby area.

Because Dr. Alfoumado and the author started at the beginning of the alphabet with first names, one matching Spurgat data card was especially surprising. It read: Adolf Spurgat, born in Wilkowischen, Lithuania, son of Johann Spurgat! This Adolf Spurgat was born 1894 and died in 1944 in Essen, Germany. The location was also surprising! Eventually, the author was able to connect this Johann Spurgat and Adolf Spurgat with the Johann and Adolph Spurgat family.

https://suwalkigermans.wordpress.com/2016/08/29/research-2012-2015-post-10-essen-archives-part-ii/

https://suwalkigermans.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/2012-2015-research-essen-archives-part-iii/

Death Record of Adolf Spurgat from the International Tracing Service

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 Summer 2015

In August 2015 in Salt Lake at the FEEFHS conference Dr. Diane Afoumado had Ina Nanazelskis, Program Coordinator, Oral History, interview me about how one Spurgat record Dr. Afoumado had given me in August 2014 led to research I never expected to do. Basically, I was able to tie Adolf Spurgat who died in Essen in 1944 to my Spurgat family. From Benjamin Hutop’s research with the city of Essen Archives I learned there were more Spurgats in Essen than anyone ever knew: Adolph’s older brother Johann, wife Maria, son Adolf born in Russia, and four more children born in Essen at the same time the Adolf Spurgat family was there.

This singular record also led me to https://suwalkigermans.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/research-2012-2015-essen-archives-part-iv/

 

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