Norbert Angermann, Die Deutschen in Litauen. Ein geschichtlicher Überblick. Lüneburg: Verlag Nordostdeutsches Kulturwerk, 1996. Paper. Map. 36 pp. DM5.00.
Angermann, a well-respected professor of Baltic history at the University in Hamburg, has provided us with a solid summary of the activities of Germans in Lithuania from medieval times to modern. In his short brochure, easily-read in a few minutes, Angermann indicates what niches Germans filled in the economy and societyCthose requiring education or trainingCwithout exaggerating their contributions; his map indicates clearly that Germans were to be found in cities, towns, and in the countryside along the Prussian border.
Athough Germans and Lithuanians were at war for much of the thirteenth and fourteenth century, the Grand Dukes nevertheless provided from the presence of German artisans, missionaries and merchants (not all of whom were friendly to the German crusaders in Prussia and Livonia). In the fifteenth century the Hanseatic connection became stronger; a kontor was established in Kaunas (only two others existed, in Novgorod and Polock), and the German quarter in Vilnius expanded until the AGerman street@ became one of the most impressive in the city.
When the Russian invasion of 1665 caused the most prominent citizens of Vilnius and Kaunas to flee temporarily to Prussia, officials in Königsberg wrote out their names; 52 German merchants from Vilnius alone were on the list. The plague of 1709-1711 struck urban centers in Lithuania hard, but later lists of craftsmen indicate the presence of German goldsmiths, watchmakers, and teachers. Lutheran churches served these groups.
In the nineteenth century German scholars were active at the university until its closing in 1830/1831. A small number of agricultural immigrants entered the province Neuostpreußen, followed by artisans, teachers, doctors, and pharmacists. With the arrival of the railroad came a small number of specialists in operation and repair.
The Lithuanian-Germans were never sufficiently numerous to become a special class or to isolate themselves from class equals in Lithuanian society; hence the good relations that existed between the groups. Nor was their presence well-known in Germany. With the German occupation during the First World War arose a settlement plan whose first stage was the opening of schools for local German-speaking communities. The inter-war years were not easy ones: the Polish seizure of Vilnius, the conflict with Germany over Memel, and the rise of Hitler had to be coped with. Still, Lithuanian-Germans had no enthusiasm for anti-Semitism or anti-Catholicism, and their relationship with Lithuanian neighbors remained good.
The 1941 evacuation of 52,000 persons contained 45,000 Germans. About 25,000 returned between 1942 and 1944, only to flee again. This time forever.