The beginning of displacement

Various roads led Lithuanians to postwar DP camps in Germany. Some of those Lithuanians were taken during the Second World War for forced labor, or as prisoners of state, others were taken to the German army, evacuated or came to Germany with the repatriating persons in 1941. However, the biggest number of persons left the country during July – October of 1944. Lithuanian citizens left with the front, escaping from the threat of Soviet terror. Witnesses of the events say it looked like the defection to the West was a mass phenomenon. According to them the motion of civilians was no less than of retreating soldiers in the summer of 1944. People tried to break away from the front in all possible ways – by trains, cars or even by foot, hoping that this was just a temporal retreat. Unfortunately, not everyone was lucky enough to reach Germany's DP camps – for many of them soviet tanks got in the way. Those who tried to reach Sweden with fishing boats were attacked by naval bombs. A lot of countrymen unwillingly got caught in the crossfire and died in East Prussia, especially in Gdansk (Danzig) which was surrounded by the Soviets. Those, who were located in East Europe countries or East Germany, when the war got to the end, were repatriated to Lithuania and faced a sad ending.

One of the most important gathering locations during the war time was Berlin, which became a peculiar headquarters for Lithuanian refugees in the Reich. Here in the fall of 1944 the only one during that time Lithuanian newspaper „Lietuviai“ (Lithuanians) was published. Other major Lithuanian gathering spots in the war time were Dresden, Munich and Vienna. In the latter Lithuanian colony even the „Čiurlionis“ ensemble was re-established. However, with refugees moving to the West, former Lithuanian centers vanished. After the German capitulation UNRRA organization was appointed to take care of the mass number of refugees. UNRRA with the help of allies started to accommodate these departed people into foreign camps.

According to the scientists, who researched this historical period, only every third refugee from Lithuania survived and found a shelter in the DP camps. According to different sources the number of those Lithuanians varies from 60 to 70 thousand.