Understanding Experience: Notes from Hermann´s "Lithuanian Germans During WWII"

The publication Annaberger Annalen has published another gem that shines a light onto the experience of my own ancestors living in Lithuania during WWII. Notable historian Arthur Hermann’s paper entitled Lithuanian Germans During the Second World War (Litauendeutsche Während des Sweiten Weltkriegs) (1995, Annaberger AnnalenI) gives the reader a more specific experience of those Lithuanian Germans who resettled to the Reich during the war—and more interestingly, how they felt about it.

Mr. Hermann’s paper is written in German though I have written some takeaways that those researching this point in history for their own genealogical benefit may find interesting:

  • Mention of the dissertation The Resettlement of Germans from Lithuania During World War Two (Die Umsiedlungen der Deutschen aus Lituaen während des Zweiten Weltkrieges) by Harry Stossun (Marburg, Herder Institut, 1993) I have not read this but it is now on my list of things to-do.

  • Germans in Lithuania were unsure how they felt about the new Lithuanian Republic which formed in 1918-1920

  • During the Wiemar years, most Lithuanian Germans regarded Lithuania as both their homeland [heimat] and their fatherland [Vaterland.]

  • The rise and popularity of the Nazi party and its influence on the Kulturverband der Deutschen Litauens changed their attitudes towards Lithuania over time—especially among younger generations who began to harbor support of the Nazi party—thanks in part to Hitler’s Nazi Youth program.

  • However, this ideology didn’t seem to be as strong among the Lithuanian German farmers [perhaps this applies to my Salecker ancestors?] in the countryside who were a mostly a conservative peasant class

  • In 1941, Germany insisted that all Protestants were considered German.

  • Women and children resettled by train to the Reich while men made the journey on foot

  • Even by 1944, 6,911 Lithuanian Germans were still in resettlement camps. There were few employment options except for those experienced in farm labour.

  • Investigations by the EWZ personnel to divide Lithuanian Germans into A-cases [to be settled in the Altreich] and O-cases [to be resettled in the East] depended mostly on “fate” according to Hermann. Individuals who were the product of mixed-marriages [i.e. Ethnic Germans intermarrying Lithuanians and Poles] and those who couldn’t speak German, were investigated harshly. This group were about 30% of the German Lithuanian population.

  • Those classified as A-cases felt they were being discriminated against. The O-cases felt advantaged.

  • 28,247 were classified as O-cases; 21,804 A-cases. 60% of those A-cases were classified as such because of mix-marriages

  • A-cases gave harsh resistance to this classification

  • O-cases remained in relocation camps the longest

  • By fall of 1941 a large population (3,508 people) were settled in southeaster Prussia. Most returned to Lithuania [I was not aware that some of those resettled could be allowed to go back to Lithuania]

  • In September 1941 Himmler announced Lithuanian Germans still in camps would need to become colonists in Lithuania [doesn’t apply to my Saleckers who by this time were already relocated to Soldau]

  • Hitler initially did not support Lithuanian Germans being allowed to go back to Lithuania, because he feared they were not buying into the Nazi ideology [good for them!] But in May of 1942, it was ultimately allowed

  • Jews in Lithuania by this time were outcasts; Poles were expropriated and sent to Germany as forced labour. Farms in Lithuania were cleared out and prepared for those coming back to resettle from the camps. Native Lithuanians were allowed to stay with no restrictions—at first.

  • Initially, the native Lithuanians were happy to see their neighbors return but this didn’t last long.

  • Most German Lithuanians desired to return to the Suwalki area of Lithuania [one of the largest places of German Lithuanian people for many years]

  • Those resettling back in Lithuania did so around June of 1942

  • Returning German Lithuanians had no desire for conflict with their native Lithuanian neighbors

  • Those returning to their “heimat” preferred to completely strip their mission as German colonization

  • Those who did resettle back to Lithuania ultimately had to flee with the Soviets invaded Lithuania. As did the O-cases in Prussia. Therefore, A-cases in the Alt Reich were better off

Hermann’s paper will provide interesting context to this moment in the German Lithuanian’s (who I think more accurately should be referred to as Prussian-Lithuanians) history.