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zieds1mazs.gif (257 bytes) Trip of a war refugee to Germany and back

7 Names:Eglītis (Eglīte), Eichenbaums, Grube, Hake, Izaks, Liedeskalniņš, Millers


This is the diary of a war refugee who left the region of Latvia in September 1944 and was returned back at the beginning of 1946 from the part of Germany that later became German Democratic Republic.

The diary was written down in the Yearbook of transport technique 1944, that I have bought in a shop. The yearbook actually was a kind of calendar (in Latvian) with rather many blank pages where one could write what seemed important. Unfortunately, no information was found in the diary about its former owner. As I have also bought in the same shop at the same time a family album and the documents of Kārlis Eglītis, that support the information from the diary, I do not doubt that in the reality he was the writer of the diary.

He was born February 28, 1892 in Jaunadlienas pag. Kalviši farm, and his father was Pēteris Eglīte and the mother Karlīne b. Eichenbaums. At the end of the 1920s he studied in Latvia University and evidently graduated at the beginning of the 1930s. During the 1930s he worked in the contract department of Latvia railway in various positions. I also possess a document (Ausweis) that certify that he worked in the railroad system of Ostland in 1943 and was the chief of the contract department (Vertragsabteilung). More photos and some information about the family will be published later.

There was not so many place in the booklet for writing diaries, and the writer did not think about the career of an author, therefore only bare facts were registered in the text without many comments and impressions.

In spite of that, I think that the diary together with the attached documents gives insight, though very short, in the real life of the war refugees in Germany and it is a rather rare document that was written at that time on the spot. There are some information sources published later about the life of displaced persons in the camps of West Germany, but I have never heard of testimonies of a war refugee who was sent back to Latvia from the Soviet zone of occupation in Germany.

Full text of the diary in Latvian is available in another Page of the Site.

Now the text of the diary in my translation.


We left Riga on September 26, 1944. We were placed in railway carriages, spent there one night and next morning in the hurry went to the ship.

Comments: Eglītis family (Kārlis, his wife Natālija b. Gaidaļenko and 4 children) lived in Riga, so they quite easily could spend this last night in their apartment. It seems rather strange to get the ship passengers first in the railway carriages.
On September 26, 1944 the Soviet Army forces were some 70 km from Riga in Līgatne and Limbaži.

September 27, 12 a.m. the steamship “Donau” cast off with us on board. We landed in Danzig September 29 about 1 a.m. in the night. The same day afternoon we took train for Gottenshaven (Gdin). In the morning Sept. 30 we reached Gottenhaven. We, carrying the hand luggage, left the train, the main luggage was left in the luggage car. Then for a while we were placed in the camp “Durchgangs lager”. We were to go to a bathhouse for desinsection. As soon as we returned from the bathhouse, we had to go again to a train for the trip to Stettin, that is about 300 km from Gottenshaven. October 1 we were in Stettin and in the afternoon the same day we went back in the direction of Gottenshaven to Altdamm that is situated 10 km from Stettin. In Altdamm we were placed in the camp Gemeinschaftslager “Ploene” in a barrack. The sleeping places were on straw on the floor.

Comments: Danzig now is Gdansk. Stettin – Szczecin. Both now are Polish cities. The name Altdamm is changed to Dabie. Durchgangs lager, as far as I understand, should be a temporary camp. Gemeinschaftslager means a community camp. I think that the main luggage was not handed to the owners in Gdansk. They evidently got them in Szczecin.

The sea-trips were dangerous at that time because the ships with refugees could be sunk. The Soviet troops sometimes are accused of sinking them purposely, but I do not know was it the real tactics or it is a political exaggeration.

Now we are in an another room and now we have beds with straw mattresses (the beds are bunk beds).

On October 17 I began to work in GBf Gueter Abfertigung in Stettin together with Viktors. We are going from Altdamm to the working place by train. The work is organized in two shifts - 1st shift from 6 a.m. till 2.30 p.m., the second shift from 2.30 p.m. till 12 p.m. In reality we began the work on October 20. Our chief is O.K., we usually leave the working place earlier, before the working hours are finished. Together with us the Latvians Liedeskalniņš Jun. and Mrs. Hake are working.

Comments: GBf stands for Guterbahnhof  that means Freight railway station and Gueter Abfertigung means the preparation of freight to transportation.
Viktors was a son of Kārlis Eglītis.
On Dec. 21, 1944 6 p.m. the first concert-ballet of Latvian artists took place in Stettin in the Gemeinschaftslager Finowweg (Altdamm str.). The opera and ballet artists were:

1) A.Kaktiņš, an opera singer
2) P.Brīvkalne, an opera singer
3) J.Franks, an opera singer (tenor)
4) V.Zaķis, a cellist
5) J.Vesters, a violinist
6) H.Strauss (piano)
7) E.Leščevskis, a baletm.
8) M.Lence, a ballet dancer
9) T.Kestere, declamation
10) Tonija Kalve

Artistic supervision V.Pūce

There were popular pieces of Latvian music performed. E.Dārziņš, Melancholic waltz; J.Mediņš, Aria; Kalniņš, I wonder, A.Jurjāns, Fatherland and others.

Comments: Finowweg was a street in Stettin, the name should have been changed now to a Polish one. Kaktiņš and Brīvkalne were rather well known Latvian artists of that time. I have never heard of the names of other artists except V.Pūce. I estimate that the “Melancholic waltz” is the most popular piece of Latvian symphonic music. As they had no orchestra there, only a piano reduction was played, I think.

At the time of the concert an alarm broke out, the concert was interrupted and everybody went to a bomb shelter. Later the concert was continued. On the way home (we went by foot to Finsterwald) another alarm occurred, and we ran in the darkness and sought a bomb shelter that was found in a private house, more precisely, in its cellar. There we stayed for 40-50 min., the shelling was intensive all the time, the doors of the shelter were opening all the time.

Nothing new at the job. We are working for the third month. During the Christmas (1944) and the New Year we worked for one day of the five holidays. It was at the second Christmas from 1-8 p.m., but actually we finished the work at 6 p.m.

Because the front line was approaching approximately 20 km, we left the refugee camp on Feb. 25, 1945 by train of refugees and went to Bergen (island Rügen). We arrived there in the night of Feb. 25, but we did not stay there. We were forwarded to Goehren via Putbus where we arrived at approx. 4 a.m. of Feb.26, 1945. Here the Party functionaries met us, because the local Party organization was responsible for our train. We got in the hotel “Gasthof zur Linie” of Goehren. For supper we got some soup and went to beds that were covered with clean white blankets. We covered ourselves with quilts. The first impression was very good.

A couple of days later we got a lodging in the house of Prof. Stiewe with stove heating that was rather rare for those houses that are not lodged at yet, because here was a health resort and evidently the main activities went on in summers. The first thing we did was to get some firewood, because it was rather slow to receive official permission. It was a luck that quite near a small wood was situated and there we collected fallen boughs etc. The house host, who lived in Berlin, had a wheelbarrow, then we got the firewood from the wood by the wheelbarrow. We had meals in the feeding post of refugees “Deutsches Haus”. In these days (i.e. March 8) we are going to seek for a job.

Comments: Deutsches Haus – German House.

There is a sea around us, because Goehren is situated on a cap of the island. At this moment the weather is not nice, it is cold, snowy, windy, and sometimes strong storms happen. That is why one should care everyday on the heating of a stove (2 stoves). Other our compatriots - family Millers and Mrs. Izaks have the lodging i.e. a room in a hotel without heating, and they are suffering from cold awfully, they are visiting us to warm themselves. As it seems, it will not be much warmer this month (March). One can suppose here should be a nice place in summer time.

However after March 20 the weather became nice, the overcoat was not needed. During Easter time (April 1 and 2) it was windy and rainy again. Beginning from March 26 we were engaged in trench digging.

Viktors worked at Kagelmacher’s vegetable farm from March 13.

Now our women prepare meals at home kitchen, so we are living on much better than before.

On May 4 white flags have been hanged out in Goehren, it means: the surrender – capitulation. The capitulation of Germany. We have no newspapers. Radio sets also do not function, we do not know what actually is going on. Waiting for the further events with anxiety.

On May 5, 1945 the Russian troops entered Goehren.

On May 10, 1945 it was declared that the German Army has capitulated, the peace has set in, and this day was the day of the victory. All the houses in Goehren are decorated with red flags.

We left Goehren on May 21, 1945 by narrow-gauge railway carriages to Altefahr and further by wheelbarrow across the dam where the Germans had been blasted two bridges in the direction of Stralsund. In Stralsund we were informed by the commandant of the town that we should go to Barth. A couple of kilometers from Stralsund we with permission of military persons stayed at an abandoned house, where at the moment lived only two Italian soldiers (war prisoners). The house was in an awful condition – broken furniture, glasses, papers. In the upper store we cleaned up two rooms and stayed for a night.

Here we stayed exactly for three months. We worked for a unit of Russian troops. On August 21, 1945 we drove out with two horses (one of them we got ourselves, and the unit we worked for gave us another one) and one cow in the direction of Barth. On the way the commandant of a manor (Frauendorf) told us that the administrator of an another manor Adlich-Bartelshagen is a Latvian - Grube. It was also said that he needed workers and that we could go there. First we went there to find out what was about and it turned out that the workers were needed. On August 25 we went there and began to work as farmhands beginning from August 27. The manor is large (belonged to Meinhard) - 1000 hectares and is situated 18 km from Stralsund. The sea is nearby.

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This is the document Eglitis family got from the municipality of Stralsund city on August 21, 1945. At that time the city belonged to the Soviet occupation zone, and the municipalities were organized by the local people of left political orientation under the auspices of the Soviet Army, of course. You see that the Bürgermeister (the Mayor) of Stralsund Salinger had already elaborated his signature also in Russian.

The document says that the family is allowed to return home in Latvia. What is important, the document contains the names of all family members. The people who made the document were not very strong in politics and wrote that the family members are citizens of Latvia. From the Soviet point of view it was rather serious fault. The next document they received in Bartelshagen (see below) called them - citizens of Latvian SSR.

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On the backside of the document this stamp is printed and filled up. It asserts that military commandant of Stralsund town allows Eglītis family to leave Stralsund and to move to the camp No 209 in Barth. It is rather interesting that the stamp with permission was issued on Aug. 17, 1945 i.e. some days before the main document was made. The slash before the city name Stralsund means that permission was signed not by the actual commandant of the city but by one of his deputies.


And so again we have spent here 3 months. We all are working except Ausma and Mrs. Izaks. On November 26 the first snow felt. Until this day the weather was good, except several rainy days. The harvesting of sugar-beets was completed recently. Now only the harvesting of swedes remains. Now the land for the last sowing of rye is being prepared. Then comes the threshing on fields and in barns. Our Latvian colony, all together 14 persons, celebrates the birthdays and namedays. In the mornings the choir greets the appropriate people with songs, and so they feel obliged to organize a meal according to their possibilities. The state festivities are also celebrated with the appropriate program.


Comments: Ausma was a daughter of K.Eglītis. Presumably the youngest one, because she did not work.
The latest National festivity was on November 18, 1945.


On Dec. 7 the snow felt for the second time and right after it became cold 10-12°, and the frost stayed for approx. 3-4 days. Then it thawed again. Now it is Dec. 22 and the weather is good – warm. We are wearing no overcoats that probably would never be possible in Latvia in this season. There will be Christmas after a couple of days. We want to arrange a Christmas tree but have no candles.

We all the Latvian colony (14 persons) left Bartelshagen Feb. 2 1946 on a truck for a camp. It means we are going to the homeland. We arrived at the camp on Feb. 3 and now all the formalities should be went through.

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This is the document that Natalija Eglītis got from the administrator of the manor J.Grūbe. It certifies that she really worked as a translator and as an account-keeper in the manor. Quite similar document was also issued to Kārlis Eglītis. As far as I understand, N.Eglītis was a Russian by ethnicity and knew the Russian language that gave her the possibility of working as a translator.


The camp was left on Feb. 5 via Schwerin and Berlin. Where we were to go further to, we did not know yet. We arrived in Berlin (Hamburger und Lehrter) early in the morning Feb. 7 and got out of Berlin only in the night Feb. 8, and reached Frankfurt am Oder on Feb.9. There we pined away partially on the street till the evening, then moved to the station building. As soon as we have arranged ourselves for sleeping, a truck arrived and we in a hurry went to a camp. We reached the camp in the night. When we packed in it was about 3 a.m. (Feb. 10). We were placed in the room N45 of the building N5.

Today we voted for the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and for the Chamber of the Nationalities.


Comments: Strictly speaking, K.Eglītis was not very strong in the Soviet system. Actually they vote for the Supreme Soviet that consisted of two chambers - The chamber of the Union and The chamber of the Nationalities. They were handed two ballots with one candidate for each one of the chambers. Evidently they were already considered as the Soviet citizens.

On Feb. 18 we left the camp and packed in the railway carriage but left Frankfurt/Oder only in the night Feb. 21.

Today Feb. 22 we are crossing Polish land in the direction of Warsaw. Snow is seen here. There is no room in the carriage. On Feb. 23 we went through Kalisz and Lodz. On Feb. 24 we were in Warsaw. Feb. 26 afternoon we approached Bialystok. On Feb. 27 we arrived in Grodno, it was afternoon, we had to leave the carriages at once, but because of the lack of appropriate transportation means we waited in cold and snowstorm till the morning 5 a.m. Then we got in the camp N308, on the next day we moved to another barracks N3. Now we are waiting when we will be delivered to the homeland.

Comment: The railway route from Frankfurt am Oder via Warsaw, Bialystok to Grodno was and is still the standard one for crossing Poland. The further route of K.Eglītis from Grodno to Minsk instead to Kaunas is a very long way to reach Riga.

We left the camp in Grodno on March 8. There were distributed four railway carriages for Latvians. Separate carriages were also for Lithuanians and Estonians. At the night we left Grodno. Now on Feb. 9 we are in the railway station Vilkavišķi. It seems we are going through Kaunas. No, that was not the case. We are going to Minsk. On March 9 we are in Baranoviči. In Minsk on March 10. Here our train is divided into parts for different routes. Nothing happened again. On March 11 we went through Borisov and also through Orša. At night March 12 we left Orša, but not far from Orša the train torn off and after a long waiting the part of it, that went away, returned and in a long run we approached Vitebsk on March 13. Till the evening we reached Polock. Now on March 14 we are in Polock and are waiting for the departure to Daugavpils that we wanted to reach in the evening. We went in Daugavpils via Indra on March 14. In the night time we went further to Riga. On March 15 approx. 8 a.m. we were in Krustpils and on March 16 in the railway station Zemitāni of Riga.


What happened with family Eglītis and other war refugees of his group later after they returned home?

In fact I do not know. The list of arrested persons /Represētie/ contains 8 persons with the name Kārlis Eglītis. They were arrested before 1946 for joining Nazi Army or Police forces, or they were born in years other than 1892. So the author of this text does not fit among them.

According to the general practice, the people that returned from the West (for example, war prisoners) were to be imprisoned into the so-called filtration camps where they were identified and investigated if they have committed any crimes or have been recruited by, say, Intelligence Service. However, as I was informed by A.Skuja, these rules were not applied to the civil war refugees and normally they were not imprisoned in any filtration camps. Only some additional checking of the persons was carried out later when the refugees applied for the Soviet passport. When they loaded out at the railway station Zemitani, the officials lost any visible interest for them, and they solved the future problems as they could. It seems that the fact that they left the country before the Soviet Army came in could arise suspicions that they wanted to escape the punishment for some deeds, so I think that the security forces studied them secretly much more careful than other people.

Of course, if it was discovered that a person collaborated with Nazi Army or Police forces, the situation changed. Just working in the railway system in a relatively high position as in the case of K.Eglītis could cause criminal prosecution but evidently it did not happen to K.Eglītis. The documents that I have show that K.Eglītis worked in Riga in 1954. I also have a document of his wife Natālija Eglītis that informs she worked in the State Printing House of Securities in 1919-1931 as a secretary. This document is a certified copy of the original document of 1931. The copy was made in August 1950 in Riga. I think N.Eglītis needed the document for her pension formalities and was in Riga at that time.



© Comments. Bruno Martuzāns. 1995-2002