Researching DP Archives at the Lithuanian Research Center

Kristina LapienytÄ— (Lithuanian Research Center)

The end of World War II was decisive for many people who found themselves west of Lithuania. After leaving, a large part of the Lithuanian nation not only sought to survive, but also to create their own mini-society and mini-Lithuania where they lived. This is how Lithuanian schools, Lithuanian clubs, kindergartens, song and dance groups appeared, and Lithuanian concerts and celebrations occurred. The Society of Lithuanian Exiles felt the need to document and preserve the information about their activities. Thus, a Committee for the Collection of Historical Materials was formed, which documented and collected all the activities carried out in the Displaced Persons (DP) camps.

Once most of the people left the DP camps for North America, all camp records were moved to Chicago, to the World Lithuanian Archive, which later became the Lithuanian Research Center. Currently, more than 300,000 pages, or about 30 linear meters, of materials from various camps are stored in the DP archive. This material is organized by the individual camps that operated in the territory of Western Europe at that time. The stored documents are very diverse: school and club lists, minutes of meetings, descriptions of meetings, photos, and event posters. The most interesting collections are of the founding records of the Lithuanian Red Cross and the Lithuanian Community in Exile.

Since the Lithuanian Research Center is well-known among Lithuanian academics, the aforementioned DP archive attracts a number of researchers and is available to the public. It must be said that the archive is mostly studied by Lithuanian researchers, although we would like to see more attention paid to the existence of DP camps as a phenomenon by the researchers from abroad, including the United States.

Although a considerable amount of archival material already has been collected, still many documents are stored in private collections, or worse, are inaccessible to the public due to being destroyed by family members who are unfamiliar with their historical worth. The LRC aims specifically to ensure all such documents related to Lithuanian DP camps are collected, preserved, and accessible to the public for research.