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Search for Contemporary Witnesses from DP Camp Lahde

Sonja von Behrens spent a two-day investigative visit to the International Tracing Service at Bad Arolsen viewing lists from displaced persons’ camp Lahde and checking DPs’ names. Her research endeavour is to culminate in the production of another book on the post-1945 history of her hometown Minden and its surroundings. “It would be wonderful if I could manage to make a connection with former DPs in Poland“, says 43-year-old von Behrens expectantly.

Her master’s degree thesis centred already on the after-war history of her hometown and bore the title “Die Zeit der Polendörfer” (Our Villages’ Polish Era). In 2004, von Behrens published a book based on the said paper and titled alike. After the war, eight villages north of Minden had been requisitioned by the British occupiers, their houses fitted out for, and used by, displaced persons. “The village people had to pack their bags virtually overnight“, so the historian. “To this day, the subject is apt to stir the emotions of German contemporary witnesses.” Most of the roughly 16,800 DPs had returned to their home countries by 1946. As their repatriation proved more intricate, Polish DPs were staying longer in Lahde, though.   

Preparing, and conducting research for, her first book, the historian had profited by German documentary sources. This time she has been looking through documents kept by the London National Archive and collaborating with the foundation for Polish-German Reconciliation. “As freelance historian mainly investigating for television reports and documentations, my gathering and compiling information stretches over a longer period of time. The book is a sideline project”, explains von Behrens.

At ITS, the historian examined nine folders on DP Camp Lahde and checked the names of about 25 displaced persons laying great emphasis on their having filed requests with ITS in their cause.

“My stopover in Arolsen turned out to be most important, as consulting the correspondence files I could come across some old addresses. Now I am attempting to make contact with the former DPs and hope that they are willing to talk.” Von Behrens has already succeeded in entering into communication with two contemporary witnesses still alive and plans to go to see them in Poland.