Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
The Lithuanian Museum Review
Following World War II, the process of rebuilding Western Europe began, while Eastern Europe was placed under the cruel emblem of the hammer and sickle. War and its aftermath had uprooted thousands of people from their homes and countries. Many found themselves as refugees. The care of refugees in Europe was handled by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) until 1947, when responsibility was transferred to the International Refugee Organization (IRO), also a function of the UN. Refugees were placed in encampments known as Displaced Persons camps, and persons living in them became known as DPs.
By the end of World War II, roughly 70,000 Lithuanians had made their way to the West in Germany and Austria. A large percentage of Lithuanian DPs were professionals: physicians, engineers, jurists, teachers, artists, public officials, and others who would have been targeted by the Soviet occupational regime had they stayed in or returned to Soviet-occupied Lithuania. While in DP camps, members tried to resume their former occupations, or worked at other jobs, and tried establish a sense of normalcy in what were very abnormal conditions. Gradually, western nations accepted the reality of the situation and opened their doors to immigrants from DP camps. Many Lithuanian DPs made their way to new lives in the United States, Canada, and Australia.
The DP camp era was a transitional time that some refugees wanted to forget about as they moved on with their new lives in America. Many of the adult Lithuanian DP camp residents have now passed away, and their children and grandchildren are wondering about the lives of their ancestors in what was a very difficult period of Lithuanian history. There is a rather unique source of information at the Balzekas Museum that our readers should know about.
The Balzekas Museum currently has periodical files containing newsletters and other materials from the following DP camps: Augsburg, Baden Wurttenburg, Detmold, Dillingen, Eichstadt, Essingen, Flensburg-Mutzelburg, Fulda, Greven, Hamburg, Hannau, Kassel, Kempten, Lubeck, Meerbeck, Memmingen, Munich, Niederofen, Neurtingen, Oldenburg, Rebsdorf, Salzburg (Austria), Scheinfeld, Seligenstadt, Wehnen, Wiesbaden, and Wuerzburg.
These DP camp publications come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some contain news simply typed up and mimeographed on low-quality paper. Others were professionally type-set and contain artwork and photographs. Some of the titles include: “Laisves Varpas (Freedom Bell),” Lubeck; “Mintis (Opinion),” Memmingen; “Buitis (Life Conditions)” Oldenburg; and “Dypukas (a DP),” Kempten.
For a person researching the life of the Lithuanian Displaced Person, the periodical section at the Balzekas Museum can reveal a bonanza of information. The day-to-day news found in these DP Camp publications included world news, which kept the DP informed about what was happening both in the free world and in the east as Stalin tightened his grip on eastern Europe. Various regulations and schedules of all types are published in these newsletters. The DPs had to contend with not only the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), but also with national governments as well as they formulated policies regarding the stay and the immigration of Displaced Persons. Even sports scores of competitions between the athletes of the various DP camps were published in these newsletters.
While browsing through several of these publications, this writer came across one of special interest to genealogists. In the Detmold, Germany Lithuanian DP camp publication “Lietuviu Sajunga” (Lithuanian Union) dated January 2, 1946 (No. 34), one page is devoted to finding lost relatives and friends. The page is entitled “Padekime Susirasti Artimuosius,” meaning, “Let’s Help Find these People.” As an example of what is contained in this section, the second entry on this page translates, “Zemaitis, Andrius, living at Bayreuth, Wendelshoffen, Camp “Marck,” is looking for student Julia Paskevicius and veterinarian Norvaisis from Zemelis village.”
Lietuviu Sajunga Paieskojimai 1946
In addition to DP camp publications, the Balzekas Museum also has several ship publications, printed onboard as DPs were transported over the Atlantic Ocean to their new land of freedom. These were printed in a variety of languages, and cover a fascinating aspect of DP history often overlooked. The Museum has shipboard to the United States newsletters from the following ships in the following languages: Howze, 1949, Lithuanian and German languages; Heinzelman, 1949, multi-languages; Hersey, 1949, English and German; W.C. Langfitt, 1950, English, German and Lithuanian; General LeRoy Eltige, 1949, German and Lithuanian; General Stewart, Lithuanian and German.
There is a new web site devoted to Displaced Persons camps: www.dpcamps.org. Lithuanian camps are being posted and former residents are encouraged to post messages on this site (or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) for memories about their own particular camp and experiences. The Balzekas Museum welcomes donations of DP camp publications and related materials for its periodical section, library, and archives. This will help insure the proper portrayal of this unusual aspect of Lithuanian history and make the material available to future researchers. Contact the Museum genealogy department at: email@example.com for an appointment to see specific Lithuanian DP camp publications.
All text copyright, 2021 © all rights reserved Frank Passic