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.
RUSSIAN RETREAT, GERMAN RESETTLEMENT: 1944
- 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.
- Lithuanians objected to a German “bridge” that could extend from East Prussia to Riga, Latvia.
- 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.”
- 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.
- By November 1942 16,768 German colonists had been settled in Lithuania. The average size of the 3,488 settled farms was 25 hectares.
- In the winter of 1942/43 1,000 Germans were settled in Kaunas, Siauliai, Panevezys, and Marijampole, the largest Lithuanian towns.
- By January 1944, 23,500 German “colonists” were settled in Lithuania.
- 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.”
- The ill feelings among the Poles and Lithuanians helped the Germans achieve exactly what they intended.
RUSSIAN RETURN: 1945-1990
- After the Germans were defeated in Byelorussia in July 1944, the Germans started to leave again—this time permanently.
- However, as early as June 5, 1945 some Germans were returned by Americans who delivered them to Soviet officials (according to the Yalta Treaty).
- 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.
- “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.