Letter from Howard J. Carroll to Apostolic Delegate Cicognani, with memorandum on Lithuanians in France, May 23, 1945

Letter from Carroll to Cicognani with attached memorandum on Lithuanian Displaced Persons in France

Carroll to Cicognani, with memo on Lithuanian Displaced Persons in France

This letter from Carroll to Cicognani introduces a short memorandum on the plight of Lithuanians in France. Their situation seems even worse than that faced by Catholic refugees in Lisbon during the war, a humanitarian crisis examined in another document in this collection. The Catholic refugees in Lisbon were part of the earlier wave of Displaced Persons (DPs), fleeing from Nazi persecution, whereas the Lithuanians in France are the first example, in these documents, of postwar DPs who are unwilling to return to their now-Communist dominated homelands. This group of Lithuanians have been squeezed into their current predicament by not one, but two totalitarian systems.  First, they were brought into France by the Germans as a source of compulsory labor, as part of the Germans’ massive wartime economic mobilization, but now they are threatened with forced repatriation by the Soviet authorities.

Ellis Island- aerial view

Aerial view of Ellis Island, Bruce M. Mohler Papers, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

The Soviets’ claims of authority over the Lithuanians are based on the fact that Lithuania has become a Soviet satellite state. We can see, in these documents and in the political dialogue of this time in general (particularly at meetings of organizations like the UN) the constant re-examination of the question of DP rights. Although the DPs were frequently in a legally vulnerable position, Western nations agreed that they should be protected from those who might seek to exploit them. Nonetheless, at this time the victorious Allies were still struggling to define their position on this issue, and how much they should bow to the Soviets’ demands of repatriation. This memorandum asserts that French authorities have weakly allowed the Soviets to repatriate the unfortunate Lithuanian refugees as though they were cattle. It is the duty of the Allies, the memo says, to see that this occurs no more.

 

Questions

As you read the document (linked below) reflect on the following questions:

  • Why do Lithuanians in France have a particularly difficult time living in the refugee camps provided for them?
  • To what extent did the French authorities cooperate with the Soviets in the Lithuanians’ forced repatriation?
  • A postcard is sent from one refugee camp in Aisne, France which reads, in part, “Here, no one considers us as human beings.” For what audience is this postcard intended?

 

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