Friday, August 8, 2008

Lithuanian Research and Studies Center

Earlier this week I was in Chicago, where I spent most of my time at the Lithuanian Research and Studies Center. My goal was to find out more about Lithuanian opera (the Chicago Lithuanian Opera has been staging operas in Lithuanian for the past 50 years) and, more importantly, about my mother's family's experience in Camp Wehnen, a DP camp in Oldenburg, Germany.

The musicological archives are quite extensive. With the help of Lithuanian-American musician Vyto B (Vytas Beleška), who works in the archives, I browsed through an extensive collection of scores and recordings, including some original manuscripts by some of Lithuania's most important composers. Its collection would be an invaluable resource for anyone doing research on Lithuanian music and composers.

Another real treasure housed in the LRSC is its huge collection of documents from the many DP camps in the Allied occupation zones of post-WWII Germany. Camp regulations, protocols, rosters, school and health records, official correspondence, and myriad other documents relating to Camp Wehnen were kept neatly in chronological order and divided by subject. I found a health record from the month prior to my mother's emigration to the U.S., listing everyone in her family as healthy (an emigration prerequisite that was often hard for refugees to fulfill). After that, a camp school roster listing my aunts and uncle. Next, a list of inhabitants in barrack #9, complete with the names and DP numbers of my grandparents, mother, aunts, and uncle. The list goes on, and every piece of information helped to fill the hole between the stories I heard from my mother and her family, and the places, dates, and other historical facts about which I've been reading lately.

With about three weeks to go before my departure for Vilnius, I now have a healthy amount of information and insight into what it meant to be a displaced person in the wake of such a catastrophic war, but, as is the case with any subject into which a researcher delves deeper and deeper, there will always be more to discover.