This year marks 70 years since thousands of citizens from the Baltic countries began their journey as refugees. A large number of them left their birthplaces forever.
Many of the refugees of 1944 found their were later called DP Camps (displaced persons camps). According to historical research, it is calculated that approximately 40,000 Estonians, 171,000 Latvians, and 60,000 to 70,000 Lithuanians came to Germany.
To introduce the public to evidence, processes, and activities of this dramatic period, the following archival institutions of Baltic Countries have developed a virtual exhibit, Refugees from the Baltic Countries in German Camps 1944-1955. These institutions are the Estonian National Archives, the Latvian National Archives, the Martynas Mazvydas National Library of Lithuania, and the Baltic Heritage Network. The creators of the exhibit offer a look into the period of the refugee camps, beginning with their formation, daily activities, holidays, and closing.
The camps were not only homes where people lived temporarily, but also in their own way, represented each Baltic country’s traditions and way of life. Schools, publications, books, theatre groups, orchestras, ballet troops, and choruses were organized in the camps. Art exhibits, song festivals, concerts, and various sports’ competitions took place in the camps. Various trade workshops such as sewing, shoe repair, metalworking, and others were popular. A great deal of attention was paid to activities that maintained national self-assurance such as the celebration of founders’ days and national holidays of countries.
Those interested in this virtual exhibit can become acquainted with documents, photographs, and a small collection of movie fragments from camps. These offerings can be of interest to specialists of history, as well as to those studying Baltic history concurrent with that of Germany from 1944 to 1951.
The opening of the virtual exhibit was on October 9, 2014 in Riga and specialists from various memory institutions, as well from the Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia and Latvians from Germany, Great Britain and U.S.A. took part.
Visit the virtual exhibit here: http://www. archiv.org.lv/baltijas_dp_vacija/
Guntis Svitins, The National Archives of Latvia, Project manager