Baltic* people in DP camps

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Baltic States* were formerly independent republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, sometimes including Finland. Their language was Indo-European** including Lettish, Lithuanian and the extinct Old Prussian. Baltic Sea is surrounded by Sweden, Finland, Russia, Poland and Germany. Sometimes teachers and historians forget that these people too suffered the ravages of World War II.

**Estonian and Finnish are Finno-Ugric languages and not Indo-European.
They are related to Sami, Livonian and Hungarian languages.
Please advise your public with correct information.
Sincerely, Kalli Paakspuu, PhD

*This should not be confused with the Balkan Peninsula nor the Balkan States of Yugoslavia, Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece and the European part of Turkey.

Quoted from World "In September 1939, Estonia was an independent country. However, later that month the Soviet Union demanded to be allowed to station troops in the country. Too weak to be able to stop the Red Army, the Estonians submitted. In December 1939, with the Soviet attack on Finland, 3,000 Estonians sailed across the Baltic and fought on Finland's side, with the majority remaining to form the Estonian Legion in Finland after the war ended in March 1940.

On the 16th June 1940, the Soviet Union made further demands of Estonia, which was basically a surrender ultimatum. Having no choice, Estonia acquiesced and the Red army moved in, followed by the NKVD with orders to destroy any potential the Estonians might have to resist. In all about 62,000 artists, writers, managers, scientists, teachers, politicians and clergy were arrested and either executed or transported to Siberia. In a further attempt to wipe out any resistance, the Soviets sent many skilled workers to factories in Russia and conscripted men of military age in to the Red Army.

On the 22nd June 1941, the Germans attacked the Soviet Union. As the Red Army and NKVD units in Estonia began to retreat back towards Russia in the middle of July, the Estonians saw their chance and with the help of 80 German trained Estonian patriots who had been parachuted in to the country, the populous broke out into open revolt. German forces liberated Tallinin on the 27th July to wild jubilation from the local population, although this quickly changed to anger and vengeance when the full extent of the NKVD's repression and murder of Estonians became known. After the German Army had passed through Estonia in its pursuit of the retreating Red Army, it was announced that a part-time militia (Kaitseliit) was to be established from which the German Army took control of a battalion of ...." more

"Stalin started with Estonia, the smallest state with a population of 1,130,000. On September 24th, the Soviets demanded the right to establish naval, military and air bases on Estonian territory. Foreign Minister Karl Selter was informed that Estonian neutrality constituted a danger to the Soviet Union, as the authorities had permitted a Polish submarine to escape from an Estonian port and sink a Soviet steamer near Leningrad (this was a fabrication). Estonia was thus forced to sign a 'Treaty of Mutual Assistance'. Either that or face invasion by the Red Army, estimated at that time to be 3,000,000 strong. The Soviet government stationed 25,000 Red Army troops in Estonia at this time. " Excerpt from 'Stalin attacks the Baltic States' Russian collaboration with Germans

ESTONIAN population losses since 1939

Valka Camp presented by the Estonian Philatelic Society in Sweden.

Australia accepts displaced persons from Europe - 843 Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians arrive. (1947)

Estonians in North America, 1945-1954

Subject: Estonian refugee Fri, 10 Oct 2003
Estonian refugee during World War II. You need Flash 5 or higher to view the site. Kindest regards Alar Pastarus / Sweden

Oct 12, 2013
Subject: Looking for my Mother
Dear Olga.
Your site has a wealth of information and I am hoping to find answers to my questions. My mother came to Australia in 1950 on board the Nelly out of Bremerhaven. National Archives of Australia have her listed as Imbi Scnuur travelling with Endel Scnuur. This is probably a transcription error as other documents I have list her name as Schnuur. However her real name was Imbi Haabjarv, born Tartu Estonia in 1933. I was born in 1951 and for a short while was called Maria Schnuur before being relinquished for adoption. Any formation would be appreciated. I am hoping, ultimately to make contact with her (is it possible to grieve for someone you have never met) or any other family members.

From the records I have found she arrived in September/October 1950. Might have been Bonegilla camp. She was living in Sydney when I was born. I don't believe Imbi or Endel were married although he was also possibly from Estonia. I do not know why I have his surname not hers. I am awaiting more information from child welfare (handled the adoption) and the hospital. I found a photo of her in 1938 Maret magazine with her name of Imbi Haabjarv. I have found I am grieving for the loss (ie no contact) of somebody I never knew.

All the records are located in Canberra. will be going in a couple of weeks as I work full time (librarian). So am hoping for much more information. This has been an incredible journey for me - although I studied history at university, the experiences of 'ordinary' people was superfically treated, with the exception of the Jewish Holocaust. The enslavement of non-Jewish peoples and Australian attitudes and treatment of DPs who came to Australia is a revelation.
Sincerely Kate Bender

Ilmars Bergmanis wrote: Truthfully, honestly, cheerfully, - I don't know what to tell you. I don't know any archives that would have something about the Latvian DP camps in Germany.

And I don't know what there is to tell about the DP camps. There was very little to eat, a little better in the American Zone than in English and French because Americans were more generous distributing the army surplus. We were poorly clothed. We were longing to go back home to Latvia but one very positive thing about the DP camps was that we lived in those camps like in a small Latvia.

We had our own schools, our own church service, fraternal life was flourishing, nobody had to learn German, because we didn't have to go outside the gates and there was no need to wander outside. We didn't need them and they didn't need us. Everybody basically was happy in the camps with empty stomachs and nobody had to worry about diet and exercises. And nobody wanted to go back to Latvia either. So - we were just sitting 5 years and waiting till America, Australia, England and Canada will start calling and by 1949 they started calling: Australia wanted to take whole families no matter how many people in the family and what condition. England took only single males who can work in coal mines; Canada basically wanted only young and middle aged women who could work in households and America wanted only families who could work right away and who could get world church organizations affidevits. And United States only took 200,000 Balts, special legislature signed in Congress.

So - that's basically it about the DP camps. Really, not much to tell. Life was very simple, there were no worries, there were no mortgage or car payments. There were plenty of doctors in camps, good doctors, not much medicine and bandges, not much school supplies but we kids were all happy. American army later started to draft some of our men into their service, helping driving trucks, guard services in warehouses, etc. They considered Balts were very trustworthy people and honest.

So, there you are. If you can find any person who would say that I didn't tell the truth and whole truth in 25 sentences, let me know, o.k.
Ilmars Bergmanis,

9/10/07 Hello Olga.
On your page, there is a letter from Ilmars Bergmanis. It included an email address, but it no longer works. I was wondering if perhaps you may have an updated one for him.

My name is Robin Archer and I am researching my wife’s grandmother, Olga Martinovkis. She taught English to the students at Camp Ohmstede in the late 40’s. Her husband, Otto, ran the kitchens there.

I am trying to reach other people who lived in this camp to see if I can link up old names. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Many Thanks,
Robin Archer, Brampton, Ontario

US government NARA declassified records on Latvia:

BOX 76
Declassified NND 911081 File No. ZF011653 File Name Latvian Central Committee, 1949-1950
Declassified NND 911081 File No. ZF011654 File Name Nazi Party Membership Records - Latvia
Declassified NND 911081 File No. ZF011655 File Name Latvian Legion, 1946-1950

A letter from a Latvian asking for immigration to the United States

See Bamberg page

Latvian genealogy research University of Minnesota and Latvian on Line

Latvian Immigration History Research Center

Latvia Waffen SS

Latvian and Jewish DPs

Soviet occupation scatters Latvians to the winds:
The idea of the independent statehood of Latvia in the period of refugee camps (1944 -1949):

Latvian Books G'Day Olga,
I have two books in my possession which may be of interest to others:

Latvia and Latvians. 1978 Central Board "Daugavas Vanagi"
72 Queensborough Terrace London W2 3SP Great Britain. Printed by Nida Press London. This book contains 50 pages including front and back cover.

Latvia, a Picture Album 1947, Authorised by UNRRA, Publisher: Janis Liepinch. Germany
This book contains 37 pages. It was given by my father to my sister prior to my fathers death. The book is in delicate condition.
Kind regards Hans Simons / Australia I am the project leader for an online archive of Latvian DP photographs, "DP Album". Our site, invites former Latvian DP camp inhabitants to upload their own photos and stories to the archive. The site is currently only in Latvian. Many thanks,
Yours sincerely, Marianna Auliciema / Latvia

Frank Passic and Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture provided much of the information below:

In an effort to get more aid to the Baltic DP refugees, Baltic Refugees and Displaced Persons, was published 1947 by Boreas Publishing Co. Here are excerps:
According to UNRRA official figures there are 199,000 Baltic displaced persons and refugees. This did not include those living privately in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Italy. A later report said the total number of Balts in DP camps in the British zone only is 83,111, among them 13,059 Estonians, 45, 497 Latvians and 23,555 Lithuanians.

All Baltic refugees and displaced persons live with a single hope: to return to their native countries as soon as possible. Nevertheless, while the Baltic States remain under Soviet coccupation and the principles enunciated by the United Ntions Charter are openly flouted; while the deportation of Balts to the eastern areas of the Soviet Union continues, and while simultaneously those countries are being colonized by imported Soviet citizens, it is idle to expect that efforts to repatriate Baltic refugees will meet with any success, the more so seeing that repatriation would involve physical and moral destruction for the majority.

During a single year of occupation a total of 60,973 Estonians, 34,250 Latvians and 34,450 Lithuanians were killed, arrested or deported to Siberia. Documentary evidence has since been found showing tht it was further intended to deport about two million more Balts.

Soviet Union claimed Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians to be Soviet citizens, Soviet liaison officers were allowed to visit DP assembly centres to persuade the Baltic refugees to return to their native countries. Not quite one percent repatriated and those were ex-prisoners of war who became weak from their long confinement and who had wives and children left in the Baltic territories.

The widely recognized reputation of the Balts as an industrious people has been won by their achievements during the period of their independence in repairing the ravages of the first World War.

At first displaced persons were forbidden to work in the Geman economy and later, when permission was officially granted, it was for all practical purposes rendered nugatory by the regulation that all DPs must be accommodated in camps and those electing to stay outside or leave the camps to work in German economy must forfeit their DP status. For want of any other more suitable occupation many Baltic refugees, among them university graduates, lawyers, economists, etc., have taken advantage of this opportunity and are now working as unskilled labourers in German forests and sawmills established by the North German Timber Control. The supply of clothing and footwear is inadequate. Wages are low (90-104 marks a month compared to a 20 marks a month for cigarettes). Yet in spite of all the drawbacks, the number of forestry workers exceeds 3,500.

The DPs are anxious to get work and according to official UNRRA information, 58 percent of all employable Balts in the British zone are already employed. A large number of refugees are also working with British military units or are doing work in the interests of the British occupation forces.

Education and retraining
Most of the schools and other eductional undertakings were founded before UNRRA started its activities and subsequent eductional problems have been solved independently by the refugees themselves. For example, among the 13,000 Estonians in the British zone, there are 28 elementary schools with 736 pupils and 8 secondary schools with 501 students; among 46,500 Latvians 51 elementary schools with 3,200 pupils ad 22 secondary schools with about 1,300 students; among 23,500 Lithuanians, 48 primary schools with 1,934 pupils ad 14 secondary schools with 1,214 students. All these schools employ 250 Estonian, 420 Latvia and 415 Lithuanian teachers.

Numerous technical and vocational courses, agricultural, forestry, trade and domestic science schools and a naval school are run. The number of Baltic students in all trade schools is about 1,200 and in various vocational training courses it exceeds 2,000.

Living accommodations
The rooms are overcrowed, and life in these camps does not greatly differ from that of the former German slave labour camps. It is the bitter irony of fate that the victims of the Nazi regime should be compelled to move from Nazi private billets and to live again in huts built for Hitler's slave labourers. Dwelling-space for the German inhabitants is fixed at 7.5 square metres per person, but the maximum space for displaced persons is only 5.7 square metres. The presence of several families or of families and unmarried people together in the same room is a common phenomenon which tends to corrupt morals and to promote vice.

Fuel supply should be provided and also materials for camp repairs should be made accessible.

Being homeless strangers in Germany, destitute of supplies and funds, Baltic refugees find themselves in a catastrophic situation and as a result thousands of families and especially small children face the danger of physical collapse. Since April last year the rations in the British zone have been cut twice.

Since August last year products have been received from German sources which very often deliver stale or underdone bread and rotten vegetables of slight nutritive value instead of fresh vegetables and beef which, on account of the proportion of bones frequently falls short of the quantity supposedly fixed by 20-30 per cent. So the refugees get less food, both in quantity and quality, than the presumed norm. The difference in quantity, for example, between the UNRRA scales as allotted and the actual rations is sometimes as high as 25 per cent.

The refugees do not get any fruit nor are they allowed to buy it for themselves from Germans. It must be remembered tht the Baltic refugees have been receiving reduced rations since 1940 under the Russians and German occupations.

In the American zone the rations for a normal DP consumer are fixed at 2,000 calories a day and in the French zone at 1,700-1,900 calories, whilst the rations for Germans are the same as in the British zone (1,550 calories).

There has never been a regular supply of clothing and footwear. The distributed supply of clothing has consisted of used articles which German Nazi families had to deliver. At Flensburg until the end of 1946: For 512 men over 16 years of age, 1 pair of boots, 1 hat, 63 pairs of socks, 62 pairs of garters, 21 used handkerchiefs, 21 used neckties, 17 work aprons, 7 pants, 1 shirt. No coats. For 471 women, 9 pairs of shoes, 1 chemise, 68 blouses, 56 handkerchiefs, 72 pairs of knickers, etc.

The Baltic Refugees in Sweden - A successful Experiment by Prof. N. Kaasik, Stockholm 1947: "The Sovietisation of the Baltic began with the destruction of their democratic institutions and the introduction of a dictatorial collectivist system foreign and unacceptable to the Baltic peoples; this process was carried out by brute force, although outwardly it was made to appear quasi-legal.

Simultaneously, the national elements were persecuted and destroyed, their personal rights and liberties suppressed, terror and arbitrary police rule introduced, entire families arrested, deported and killed. In the course of the first year of this regime of violence, in 1940/41, the Soviet authorities executed, imprisoned and deported 150,000 Baltic nationals. The Red terror was so formidable that at the impending reoccupation of the Baltic area by the Red Army in the autumn of 1944, masses of Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians were forced to escape westwards in order to save their life, their liberty, their freedom of thought and their civilised traditions, which were incompatible with the suffocating atmosphere of ignorance and mental as well as physical terror inseparably associated with the Soviet regime.

"The stream of Baltic fugitives in the summer and autumn of 1944 turned in all directions that offered a chance of ecape. There was no choice. Only a part of them succeeded in evading the advancing Red steam-roller. In the absence of a better refuge, the majority had to go to Germany, where there are about 250,000 Balts. A minority, about 30,000, managed to escape to Sweden, only smaller groups reaching other countries. Those who fled to Germany, eventually, like the other refugees and DP's, came under the care of the Allied occupation authorities and UNRRA, now replaced by IRO, and still remain in their DP camps. The situation in Sweden, a neutral country which had given refuge to numerous fugitives during the war, was quite different. Here the readiness of the Swedish people to support the victims of misfortune as well as the profoundly democratic nature of the political regime, made it possible to solve the problem of these uninvited guests in a manner which in its humanity and reasonableness might well serve as an example to the rest of the world."

"70% of the Baltic refugees are integrated in the national labour system. This percentage is higher than anywhere else in Europe or overseas, and even higher than it normally used to be in the Baltic countries themselves. This is largely because the refugees, having lost all they possessed at home, are now tenaciously trying to consolidate thier economic basis and to attain a living standard comparable to that which they enjoyed in their own home countries.

"Distribution of the Balts according to occupational categories:
textitle and clothing industry, 4,500;
metallurgy, 4,500;
forestry and timber industry 1,200;
leather and rubber industry 1,200'other industries 1,500;
agriculture 1,500;
shipping 1,200;
office workers, 1,000;
domestic workers, 700;
commerce 700; and miscellaneous occupations "The most difficult of all is the situation of the intellectuals. Part of the Baltic university graduates were enabled by the Swedish authorities to do so-called archive work, which is an accepted Swedish form of relief work for unemployed people with academic qualifications. After three years, most of these people have done into the open labour market, finding normal jobs for themselves, especially after the Goverment had organized for them voluntary courses for learning new occupations. Work has been found for all technical workers, veterinary surgeons, agricultural and forestry experts and dentists, as well as for many physicians. 40 scholarships have been created in order to enable them to carry on specialised research."

Church of World Service was very influenctial in providing homes and job opportunities to displaced persons. They did much to promote the good qualities of displaced persons and necessity of helping them. Here's a quote from one of their brochures: You Wanted to Know...Some Questions and Answers about the Resettlement of Displaced Persons: "Thousands were brought to this country under the President's Directive of 1945, and are self-supporting. Many of them have started business, giving added employment to others. They are carefully screened by the Army as to their loyalties. They must meet health requirements before leaving Europe and before landing on our shores. Displaced persons are people belonging to the same social and economic groups as in America. Their skills and professions cover all fields - intellectual groups, farmers, skilled and unskilled trades, etc."

"As a layman in the church or citizen in the community, where and how can I help?

1. You can canvass your neighborhood and community for job and housing opportunities.
2. You can cooperated with your church committee, Councils of Churches, and Governor's Commission in their plans.
3. You can send a contriution to CWS designated for the Displaced Persons Program here and abroad. If you are a church member, send your gift, designated for Displaced Persons to your denominational headquartes.
4. You can pray that the people of this country will really want to share with Displaced Persons the blessings that this land affords.
5. You can help to educate your community by securing from the CWS and showing one of their slide films: "Delayed Pilgrims" "Children Can Help," "Joyful Giving" or their motion picture sound films, "This Road We Walk" and "Daybreak " which can be hand on loan by writing to CWS." Three principal national welfare organizations serving in the field of immigration, resettlement, adjustment and Amricanziation of refugees and displaced persons in the Uniteds were working in a hamonious maner: National Catholic Resettlemnt Council, Church World Service Committe on Displaced persons and United Service for New Americans.

Church World Service, Inc., (214 E. 21st St., New York, NY) was constituted by churches worldwide: Baptist, Brethren, Episcopal, Evangelical, Lutheran, Methodist, Missions, Orthodox, Presbyterian, Reformed, Seventh Day Baptist, Synods and others.

MCHE's Resource Center Jewish Federal of Kansas

Cyndi's List:The Baltic States ~ Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania

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