The Illusion of Peace: The Fate of the Baltic Displaced Persons, 1945-1952 America and the Baltics Post 16

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 articles detail the history of the Baltics: these points center on what happened to the Germans who settled in Lithuania.

1.      Americans were fearful about accepting DPS because of nativist politicians, veteran’s groups fearful of competition for jobs of returning veterans, and a suspicious and European war-weary American public.

2.       Restrictive legislation of the 1920s and 1930s, reinforced by memories of the Great Depression, were additional reasons for the delay in passing legislation.

3.       Among the 8 million refugees were almost one million “diehards”, those fearful and unwilling to return to their now Soviet controlled homelands.

4.       Appalled by the experiences of those being repatriated, General Dwight D. Eisenhower ended the practice in the American Zone in September 1945.

5.       The Displaced Persons Act of June 1948 granted the admission of 250,000 DPs over 2 years, far short of the nearly 1 million who sought admission.

6.       Up to 30 different documents from 6 government agencies were required to be granted a visa.

7.       Farmers, laborers, physicians, dentists, nurses, household domestics, clothing or garment workers, and aliens “possessing educational, scientific, or technical qualifications” received first priority. Next in line were aliens with blood relatives in the US.

8.       Sponsors need to sign an affidavit procured by an individual, an agency (like the Lutheran Church), or an employer (used in frequently).

9.       The International Red Cross, the National Refugee Service, and the International Rescue and Relief Committee became the most important links for DPs. The database of the Red Cross included a tracing service with a central database to help them find American relatives.

10.   Hard cases, i. e. mothers with young children, the elderly, and the handicapped were assessed by charitable organizations.

11.   Exaggerations abounded on both sides: DPs thought of life in American as they had seen in Hollywood movies; American films showed DPs as if they were peasants from the 19th century.

12.   Starting in October 1948 700 DPs, a large percentage of Balts, arrived to begin life in the Midwest and the South.

13.   Some professional s resumed their professional work. Others with less desirable jobs took language and political science classes to adapt to life in America as a way to improve their social and occupational status.

14.   The children of DPs became Americans through their experience in public education and their expectation to “pay back” their parents for their sacrifices.

15.   By 1952 the DP camps had closed, the 1948 DP Act had been amended to remove any trace of discrimination, and over 70% of admitted DPs came from countries in the Soviet Union.

16.   308 ships and 284 flights brought 337,244 DPs to New York, New Orleans, and Boston.

17.   Because of their previous experience with the Russians, the Baltic DPs did not intend to return home and so easily became assimilated into American culture and education for their children.

18.   Cultural communities in the larger cities provided emotional support to affirm their decision to stay.

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About suwalkigermans

I started family research in 1993. My first two books focused on my maternal grandparents. Both families came from Kreis Rosenberg, West Prussia, to Big Rapids, Michigan. I left the Spurgats from Wylkowiszki in the Russian Empire as the third book because of the difficult and challenging research it required. After I published the book in 2010, I wondered what to do next. I thought I might try to share some of my research with others and maybe at the same time, by going digital, someone would find me. When you read the comments, you will see that happened. The best part of all this is helping others.
This entry was posted in East Prussia, Ethnicities, Germany, history, Lithuania, Thesis and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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