Saturday, 15 March 2008

Displaced Persons "God's Little Birds"

Boarding a train to Bremehaven 1947, then onto Australia.

World War Two for many in eastern and central Europe brought radical changes. For the Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia) their independence of 22 years was quashed by Soviet Russians, during the months of June and July 1940. As the war progressed, the German Army replaced the Russians in the Baltic States. By 1944, the reverse happened, the Germans were replaced once again by the Russians. It was at this time that many people left, with Lithuanians making their way west and many ending up in Germany.

The total number of Lithuanians who left, was in the vicinity of 60,000. The refugees became known as Displaced Person’s, or D.P’s. Lithuanians called themselves Dievo Pauksteliai or
God’s little birds.
The Displaced Persons camps which were usually old German Prisoner of War camps, became the refugees’ home for anywhere from a few weeks to a few years. The camps generally came under the auspices of the International Relief Organisation (I.R.O).
Life in the camps was hard, housing was overcrowded, food and clothing was minimal. Narkeliunaite, a displaced writer wrote of the camps “We are condensed and pressed like herrings in a barrel, we have to live in our barracks as mice in the luggage having no opportunity to unpack”.
To some extent the camps became a world in itself, with churches and schools built and cultural groups being formed. The D.P’s worked in the camp’s administration, hospitals, kitchens and even in their own fire and police stations.
The displacement of Lithuanians was believed to be temporary, they believed that communism would be expelled from Lithuania and they would return home. When the D.P’s realised that their return would not be in the near future they considered immigration.

To learn more about the DP camps there is a great website "DP Camps"

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