The Illusion of Peace: The Fate of the Baltic Displaced Persons, 1945-1952 The DP Experience, 1946 -1949

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.

  1. Because so many DPs did not want to repatriate to their now Soviet-controlled countries, resettlement became the most viable option.
  2. The UNRRA, formed in 1943, was supported by the United States (72%), Britain, Canada, and Australia.
  3. All but 1.2 of the 8 million refugees had been repatriated by American and British occupational forces.
  4. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.”
  5. 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.
  6. However, the immigration policies of the United States delayed the resettlement of Baltic DPs until the Displaced Persons Act was passed in April 1948.
  7. 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.
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The Illusion of Peace: The Fate of the Baltic Displaced Persons 1945-1952 A Brief Look at the Three Baltic Nations Post 14

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.
1. The Germans in Estonia and Latvia are a distinct group from the Germans who settled in Lithuania.
2. There were German and Polish landowners in Lithuania during the Russian Period, 1815 to 1918.
3. Brutality experienced at the hands of the Russians encouraged many people of all ethnicities to immigrate to the United States.
4. During WWI the Baltics became a battleground between Germany and Russia, each claiming the land belong to them.
5. Lithuania was a land of large landholdings, many of which were confiscated during the First Period of Independence from 1918 to 1940. (This is most likely how the Dydwize manor on which Adolph Spurgat was born and worked came to be the social care facility that remains today.)
6. The loss of the support of Great Britain during the Great Depression undermined the economic stability that had allowed an independent Lithuania to succeed.
7. The Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Treaty signed on August 23, 1939, essentially divided Eastern Europe into “spheres of influence.” Hitler gave the eastern half of Poland and the Baltics to Stalin in exchange for Soviet non-interference in the war that would follow.
8. The First Period of Independence ended with the Soviet Invasion on June 17, 1940, remembered as a year of hardship and terror.
9. By 1944 hundreds of thousands of causalities (out of the 2, 879,070 Lithuanians) could be divided into the following categories: soldiers who died in battle; those executed by Germans or Russian occupiers; those deported to Siberia by the Soviets; those sent to Germany as forced laborers; or those who fled with the German army in 1944 in advance of the Soviet military.
10. The Yalta agreement in February 1945 signed by Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin stated that the Allied Nationals in occupied territories would be returned to their respective countries, i. e. repatriated. Once again, refugees did not want to return to a Soviet-dominated nation where their futures would be assessed by their supposed level of cooperation with the Nazis.
11. Their resistance forced the Allies to scrutinize their democratic ideals and develop policies that would not force Allied Nationals to return former residents to their now Soviet-controlled countries.

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The Illusion of Peace: The Fate of the Baltic Displaced Persons, 1945-1952 by Victoria Marite Helga Eastes Post 13

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.

Link to entire thesis

http://oaktrust.library.tamu.edu/bitstream/handle/1969.1/ETD-TAMU-3271/EASTES-THESIS.pdf;sequence=1

Description

http://oaktrust.library.tamu.edu/handle/1969.1/ETD-TAMU-3271

US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection Description

https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/bib215448

The following is excerpted from Eastes abstract:

  1. After WWII the Allies faced a refugee crisis in Europe. Their first goal was to return refugees to their pre war homes.
  2. Nearly 1 million from Eastern Europe refused to return to their now Soviet controlled homes.
  3. They were re-classified as Displaced Persons (DPs), placed in Allied-built holding camps, and wanted an opportunity to resettle elsewhere.
  4. The Baltic DPs made up a large portion of these DPs.
  5. Topics include life in the DP camps and reasons why they did not want to return home.
  6. The Allies had to change their goal from repatriation to resettlement in Australia, Britain, Canada, and the United States.
  7. Because of their high level of education, Baltic DPs were perceived as the most suitable for immigration.
  8. The Cold War may very well have begun with the decision to resettle rather than repatriate.

Eastes also credits her grandmother “for all she endured in leaving her home behind to make a better life for her children. With her sacrifice, none of this would have been possible.”

The most pertinent chapters for the readers of this blog are included in the next four posts:

  • Introduction: Repatriation versus Resettlement
  • A Brief Look at the Latvia, Lithuanian, and Estonia
  • The DP Experience 1946-1949
  • America and the Baltics, 1945-1952

Chapters on the policies of other Allied governments and the Conclusion are not included here but can be accessed at http://oaktrust.library.tamu.edu/bitstream/handle/1969.1/ETD-TAMU-3271/EASTES-THESIS.pdf;sequence=1

Introduction: Repatriation versus Resettlement

  1. The Yalta agreement in February 1945 signed by Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin did not reinstate independence for the three Baltic states and other eastern European nations.
  2. Instead, Yalta gave the Baltic nations to the Soviet Union in exchange for Stalin’s assistance in taking Berlin and future aid to defeat Japan.
  3. After the war 8 million wartime refugees flooded Europe.
  4. The Soviet Union demanded the return of all people who were part of the Soviet Union, including the people of the Baltics.
  5. The UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) had been formed to assist voluntary and forced repatriation to be administered by the United Nation and the Allies.
  6. Some refugees returned but many refused and became known as DPs, Displaced Persons.
  7. In the post war years the various nations set up their criteria for the resettlement of thousands of Europeans.
  8. Baltic DPs were some of the most sought after refugees because of their educational level, ethnicity, negative attitude towards communism, youth, and the belief that they would assimilate most easily into productive citizenship.
  9. Thousands of DP camps in Germany, Austria, and Italy, operated from 1945 to 1952.
  10. The post war period of the DPs has been most overlooked but many believe that it was the beginning of the Cold War.

 

 

 

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The Resettlements of Germans from Lithuania during World War II By Piotr Lossowski Post 12

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

Part II

RUSSIAN RETREAT, GERMAN RESETTLEMENT: 1944

  1. Western Lithuania was to become a special area of resettlement for Germans within the next 20 to 25 years. Colonists would be returned to their own farms (and then some) and be resettled in an area that would include Vilkaviskis and Marijampole. It would continue on to Kaunas, Roseiniai, Tauragai, Siauliai, Panevezys, and Birzai.
  2. Lithuanians objected to a German “bridge” that could extend from East Prussia to Riga, Latvia.
  3. The first Germans returned to Lithuania in mid-June 1942 in small groups. Returnees were expected to “represent the Great Reich as a German and a farmer,” but “to be  good to their Lithuanian neighbors.”
  4. Poles and Lithuanians alike came to realize that the western part of Lithuania would be “colonized” by Germans and that western Lithuanian could easily be annexed by the Third Reich.
  5. By November 1942 16,768 German colonists had been settled in Lithuania. The average size of the 3,488 settled farms was 25 hectares.
  6. In the winter of 1942/43 1,000 Germans were settled in Kaunas, Siauliai, Panevezys, and Marijampole, the largest Lithuanian towns.
  7. By January 1944, 23,500 German “colonists” were settled in Lithuania.
  8. Resentment grew as Germans were treated much better than their Lithuanian      neighbors. Some Germans became arrogant; those who worked to get along with their neighbors came to be regarded by the German officials as “unfit to fulfill the mission of colonization in the East.”
  9. The ill feelings among the Poles and Lithuanians helped the Germans achieve exactly what they intended.

 RUSSIAN RETURN: 1945-1990

  1. After the Germans were defeated in Byelorussia in July 1944, the Germans started to leave again—this time permanently.
  2. However, as early as June 5, 1945 some Germans were returned by Americans who delivered them to Soviet officials (according to the Yalta Treaty).

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE:

  1. Lithuanian Germans were the first to be transported to the west (still eastern Europe for the most part) and then back to the East (Lithuania) again.
  2. “This was the end of the age-long presence of the Germans in Lithuania. They        disappeared from their social and political life of that country.”

The escape in the summer of 1944 was a symbol of the failure of the Nazi plans to           establish German domination in Central-Eastern Europe created by way of attempts         colonization and building bridges of settlements leading eastwards.

The example of Lithuania is very instructive in his [sic this] respect. Berlin treated         Lithuanian Germans instrumentally, moved them to and fro, in the house of disaster        leaving them to their fate.

 

 

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New Series of Posts The Resettlements of Germans from Lithuania during World War II Post 11 By Piotr Lossowski

The following post contains significant information quoted and paraphrased from resources at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Library and Archives. It focuses on the history of Germans in Lithuania and is shared here for the scholarly and historical perspective which may help provide a political and social history to the family history we all seek.
Part I INTRODUCTION
1. The Lithuanian Germans are separate from the Estonian and Latvian Germans.
2. The Germans were never dominant in Lithuania, but they influenced the economy more than the politics of the nation.
Part III GERMAN SETTLEMENTS UNDER PRUSSIA, FRANCE, AND RUSSIA: 1795 to 1918
3. Germans started to appear at the end of the 18th century, and their migration continued throughout the 19th century.
4. They settled mainly near the border of East Prussia. Sakiai with 4.2%, and Taurage with 3.4%. Specifically mentioned is Vilkaviskis with 12.5% of the population. This small agglomeration was a part of Lithuanian villages.
5. The land was fertile and communication network more advanced.
6. These Germans generally bought small or mid size farms, but did not develop whole villages. Craftsmen settled in the towns.
Part IV LITHUANIAN INDEPENDENCE: 1918 to 1940
7. In 1923 there were 23, 231 Germans in Lithuania not counting those Germans in the Memel (today Klaipedia) region.
8. Their religious and social life centered around the evangelische parishes. In 1923 there were only 16 pastors in Lithuania but their school system (centered around their churches) was substantial.
9. The Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Treaty on August 23, 1939, led to the evacuation of
Germans in Estonia and Latvia, but the Lithuanian Germans were not affected by this pact.
10. The small strip of land in the southwestern part of Lithuania (the part of Suwalki Province near the East Prussia border) mostly populated by Germans remained a center of Nazi interest. Vilkaviskis is specifically named. One third of Lithuania’s Germans lived in this exact area.
Part V GERMANIZED EAST: RUSSIAN CONTROL
11. German officials planned no political or social changes until the spring of 1940. The Lithuanian-German border remained undetermined so the removal of Germans in Lithuanian was not critical.
12. Meanwhile, the Kulturverband established numbers and lists of the Germans.
13. In June 1940 the German officials began specific plans to remove the German population from Lithuania, much to Russia’s delight.
14. The exchange of Germans, Poles, and Lithuanians began, but Lithuanians in the Memel and Suwalki regions were expected to come to Lithuania.
15. In July Himmler, “as the Commissioner of the Reich for the establishment of the German character” gave instructions on how to resettle the Germans from Lithuania through the Volksdeutsch Mittelstelle (VoMi) before the end of winter in 1940-41.
16. Very exact terms were determined by VoMI to insure that holding German evacuees was fairly evaluated.
17. Between February 2 and March 23, 1941, over 50,000 “Germans” were evacuated from Lithuania. Lithuanians became part of this evacuation because of the fear of Soviet repercussions. False documents or “family relationships” bolstered these numbers. German officials pretended not to notice the excessive number of “Germans” evacuating and Soviet officials could not prevent it.
18. Germans were sent to transit camps: 10,000 to Mecklenburg; 11,500 to Pomerania; 4,500 to Eastern Prussia, and 23,300 to Wartheland for their political and racial usefulness. Their several month stay provided an opportunity for Nazis to determine their political and racial usefulness.
19. The Third Reich in the East would ultimately determine the fate of the Germans from Lithuania.

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New Series of Posts Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after WWII by R.M. Douglas Post 10

The following 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 and may help provide a political and social history to the family history we all seek.

Chapter 2: The Volksdeutsche in Wartime

Page 40: In the spring of 1939 Germany browbeat neighboring Lithuania into ceding the largely German Memelland to the Reich though 10s of thousands of Volksdeutsche were left in the areas remaining under Lithuanian control. (Note: This would be the area the Spurgats were from in Suwalki Province and extensively described in Himmler’s Auxiliaries.)

Page 41: The Soviets received a sphere of influence over (some other areas), but the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania would remain a German concern (up to a point when Stalin decided that the narrow strip of land where most of the Lithuanian Germans lived would not be allocated to the Germans and they made plans to evacuate and resettle them in East and West Prussia.) See Himmler’s Auxiliaries.

…There were centuries-old German speaking communities in the Baltics. (Note: Yes, 1300s in Latvia and Estonia; more like late 18th century Germans in East Prussia who ended up in the Russian Empire.)

Page 46: Note: Very similar to Himmler’s Auxiliaries on page 158. In 1939 a week after the USSR’s attack on Poland, Stalin notified Hitler that he intended to claim Latvia and Estonia (and the plan of the evacuation of Germans for those two countries was put in place. See Himmler’s Auxiliaries page 158.)

A “Back to the Reich” program, “Heim ins Reich”, was initiated on October 6, 1939.

Another agreement on September 28, 1939, transferred Lithuania with its substantial German minority to the Soviet sphere in exchange for the addition to the German portion of the districts of Lublin and eastern Warsaw.

Page 51: Summer of 1940: In June the USSR “absorbed” the three Baltic states resulting in the hasty exodus of 12,000 Germans in Estonia and Latvia and 48,000 more from Lithuania. (Note: this is the second evacuation of remaining Germans in Estonia and Latvia and the 1st and only evacuation of Germans from Lithuania discussed in Himmler’s Auxiliaries on page 168-169.)

Chapter 3: The Scheme

Page 68: WWI was a dress rehearsal for the gross displacements of populations that would take place later in the century (post WWII).

The Kaiser’s forces deported elements of the … Lithuanian population for strategic reasons, clearing the territories for use as specially prepared killing zones that Allied troops would be compelled to cross. (Note: the rest of the paragraph talks about WWI so this sentence and the term “Kaiser” probably refers to WWI).

Bibliography:

Page 381: A most valuable source of information came from Orderly and Humane: a reference to the Lassowski article “The Resettlements of Germans from Lithuanian during World War II.”  See the next two posts.

 

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IGGP: International Germanic Genealogy Partnership Conference

IGGP

International Germanic Genealogy Partnership Conference

From its inception at the end of May 2015 to the end of July 2017, the former American Germanic Genealogy Partnership quickly became the International Germanic Genealogy Partnership conference. Much credit must be given to the efforts of Kent Cutcomp and Kim Ashford of the Germanic Genealogy Society and Dirk Weisslader of the Deutsch Arbeitsgemeinschaft genealogischer Verbände e. V. (DAVG) of Germany.

https://suwalkigermans.wordpress.com/2015/06/29/german-american-genealogical-partnership/

Almost 700 German researchers from four continents, several Canadian provinces, and 41 states met for three days in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for over 70 presentations on a variety of topics, selecting one session from four or five topics six times a day.

https://ggsmn.org/cpage.php?pt=83

I was privileged to be accepted as a speaker for Genealogical Research in West Prussia, East Prussia, and Lithuania. My topic centered around the interconnected relationships of Political, Social, and Family History though artifacts, examples, experience, and records. Between 60 and 70 researchers attended my presentation early Saturday morning. More than 50% came to learn about West Prussia, about 25% East Prussia, and 15% Lithuania. Many hands went up when I asked about both East and West Prussia. As researchers in Lithuania, we know we represent a smaller number.

The conference subtitle was Connections: International, Cultural, and Personal so I organized this post around those topics.

INTERNATIONAL CONNECTIONS:

Dirk Weisslader’s inspirational opening remarks made us all realize the significance of this first ever event. His goal of connecting American and German researchers had moved from possibility to reality. For example, in May 2015, he gave me the e-mail of a German researcher who helped me with my Suwalki Province ancestors who lived in Essen, Germany, for five years before they immigrated to America. In July 2017, when I reminded Dirk of this connection, he asked to take my picture so that he could relay my satisfaction to his friend in Germany.

Timo Kracke of genealogy.net, the largest open access database for German speaking records, includes city directories, a genealogical wiki, the GOV, user-contributed GEDCOM files, heritage books, and the meta search at http://compgen.de/. A separate presentation concentrated on GOV, the 1 million plus gazetteer of Europe and beyond. I have used this website many times.

CULTURAL CONNECTIONS:

A biergarten Thursday evening at the German-American Institute in St. Paul provided German beer and wine, sausage, and music.

More than one visit to the vendor area, although enticing, did not add to my German genealogical library.

 PERSONAL CONNECTIONS:

The Germanic Genealogy Journal published a special issue for all conference attendees: Stories of Connections between America and Europe. I was pleased to see my submission “Discovering Our Hutop Cousins” as one of several articles. It was an abbreviated form of the e-mails Benjamin Hutop and I exchanged from August to November 2014 as we discovered our relationship after contracting our Family History Tour Guide who found fifteen connecting records in the Lithuanian State Historical Archives.

I introduced myself to Shirley Reimer, author of The German Research Companion, who received an IGGP Lifetime Achievement Award and Ernest Thode, author of Address Book for German Genealogy and reintroduced myself to Dr. Roger Meinert, author of German Census Records.

On Friday afternoon I attended “Cyrillic Parish Records: A Guide to Documents by Sigrid Pohl Perry, Ph.D.“ in the same amphitheatre I would give my own presentation the next morning. As many times as I have attended sessions on this topic, this one inspired me to try harder. After the conference Sigrid translated a few words in three documents for me and is now following this blog!

https://suwalkigermans.wordpress.com/2014/10/26/sggee-org/

Her work with the SGGEE Lublin project became the subject of a luncheon speech for which I had registered that focused on her search to find her family “tribe” by researching people who immigrated together by careful examination of ships’ manifests, census records, witnesses on documents, etc. Examples were from Lublin, Poland, in the southern part of the Kingdom of Poland.

Nathan Machula spoke on a similar topic that I did: Researching Former German Provinces in the East. My conversation with him afterwards centered on DNAs from this area and the -is suffix of his name.

Three books he recommended may become topics of future blogs: The Polish -German Borderlands:  An Annotated Bibliography; Potatoes and Psalms; and The Heritage.

The introduction to the presentation “48er Democratic Revolutionaries and the German Mass Migration to the Midwest” by Yogi Reppmann brought another personal connection. Reppmann mentioned how Karl Mays’s books about the American West influenced him as a young reader in Germany. I knew he was talking about Winetou, the majestic “Indian” chief. I have a treasured photograph of Leo and Helga Spurgat’s re-creation of this scene in their body contortionist act. Although I did not get an opportunity to tell him this personally, I attached the image to an e-mail after the conference.

https://suwalkigermans.wordpress.com/2016/10/19/reseatch-2012-2015-post-13-my-heritage-com/

His reply was “GREAT mail – vielen DANK, liebe Cynthia. YOU made my day.“ He kindly attached a pdf of two of his latest books, but his gracious response resulted in my ordering them both—Crossing the Ocean: German American Friendships and The Holocaust Boxcar: A Powerful Admonition against Anti-Semitism. I have read both books and have a better understanding of the German view of the National Socialism response in the 1930s. This is no way lessens the sacrifice and the vital role the United States played in World War II and our country’s commitment to democratic principles which we treasure above all else.

ALL OF THE ABOVE:

The first ever IGGP conference was successful in many ways for many reasons. It meant an opportunity to hear nationally known speakers and to attend sessions of those who are not professional genealogists but who are dedicated family researchers. Sessions on the borderlands, Luxembourg in the west and East Prussia/Lithuania on the east were well-received. The dream of connecting researchers with  German Genealogical  Societies and American-German Genealogical Societies has been met.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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