Wolf children: Wikis


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Wolf children (German: Wolfskinder) was the name given to a group of orphaned German children at the end of World War II in East Prussia.

When the Red Army conquered East Prussia in 1945, thousands of German children were left on their own, because their parents had been killed during bombing raids or during harsh winters without any food or shelter. Older children often tried to keep their siblings together, and survival—searching for food and shelter—became their number-one priority. Many went on food-scrounging trips into neighboring Lithuania and were adopted by the rural Lithuanian farmers, who often employed them. Most of these children made these trips back and forth many times to get food for their sick mothers or siblings. They were called “wolf children” because of their wolf-like wandering through the forests and along railroad tracks, sometimes catching rides on top or in between railroad cars, jumping off before reaching Soviet control stations. All who assisted the German children to survive had to hide their efforts from the Soviet occupation authorities in Lithuania. Therefore, many German children's names were changed, and only after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 could they reveal their true identities.


Evacuation impossible

The Nazis had forbidden civilians to evacuate as the Soviet Red Army invaded, because they viewed evacuation as a sign of capitulation[citation needed] As the Red Army got closer, many prepared to evacuate anyway. Until the last minute, NS Governor Erich Koch gave orders that fleeing was illegal and punishable ("strenges Fluchtverbot" - flight strictly forbidden). At the last moment flight was allowed. [1]. The invasion prompted thousands of men, women, and children to flee; however, many parents were killed, leaving many children orphaned. The children also fled into the surrounding forest and were forced to fend for themselves. Many German children who were not fortunate enough to escape were killed by Allied bombs. Thousands more found themselves abandoned, orphaned, raped or kidnapped[2].

At the end of World War II the Soviet Army told the German population, "Wojna kaput- damoi" ("go back home"). They needed people to work for them and to farm for food to feed their troops in the occupied territories. However, most homes had been destroyed by British and Soviet bombardment and the Soviet ground assault on East Prussia.

Lithunian Aid

The Lithuanians aided the children of East Prussia commuting to Lithunia to find nourishment and called them vokietukai (little Germans). They adopted in in their Lithunian farms some of the younger ones. Though Lithunian risked to be sentenced severely by Soviet authorities should it be detected that they sheltered Wolfskinder. [3].

Expulsion to GDR

In 1946, the Soviets began emptying Samland of Germans. In October 1947, the Soviets decided to resettle 30,000 Germans from Kaliningrad Oblast by trains to Soviet Occupation Zone of Germany (later GDR). On 15 February 1948, the Ministerial Council of the USSR decided to resettle all Germans, declaring them illegal residents in their own homeland. According to Soviet sources, 102,125 persons were resettled in 1947 and 1948. Of those, only 99,481 arrived. (Communist GDR sources attribute this to "perhaps a Soviet calculation error.") In May 1951, another 3,000 East Prussian Umsiedler came to the GDR.

The Soviets eventually put German orphans in orphanages commanded by Soviet military officers but staffed mostly with some of the remaining Germans. In Fall 1947, 4,700 German orphans were officially registered in Kaliningrad. In 1947 The Soviet Union sent trainloads of orphans to the communist GDR; these train rides took four to seven days partly without food or toilet facilities and some children did not survive. [4]. In 1948, the children's village of Pinnow, then Kinderdorf Kyritz, was opened.

Time Witnesses

None of these evernts were reported in the press, and they only became known to the public after 1990, because the official Communist Party line in Russia and Poland was that there were no Germans in these areas. This had been their official position as early as the Potsdam Agreement in August 1945. Historian Ruth Leiserowitz, who lived in Lithuania researched, and published books about the Wolfkinder of East Prussia under her maiden name Ruth Kibelka and her married name.

Search for Relatives

The Communist Regime and the Iron Curtain lasted from 1945-1991. Once the Iron Curtain fell, people could once more travel to research or reclaim their identities as Germans. The story of one survivor can be read in “ABANDONED AND FORGOTTEN: An Orphan Girl's Tale of Survival in World War II by Evelyne Tannehill,” in which Evelyne and her family fell victim to the Russians who invaded her parents' farm by the Baltic Sea in East Prussia. Her family was separated[5]. Only after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 she was able to return back to East Prussia to revisit her childhood homeland.

The German Red Cross helps to identify and locate family members who lost contact with one another, such as the wolf children, during the turmoil in East Prussia. “It was only the politics of Gorbatschow which allowed the opening of the Russian archives. Since the nineties, about 200,000 additional fates of missing persons have been clarified. More information about the fates of Germans who were taken prisoners and deceased still remain in unopened archives in Eastern and South-eastern Europe[6].

In Memory

The President of Lithuania, Valdas Adamkus, stated that an exhibition will be opened in Bad Iburg which will be named “The Lost History of East Prussia: Wolf Children and Their Fate”.

See also



  • Tannehill, Evelyne (2007). ABANDONED AND FORGOTTEN: An Orphan Girl's Tale of Survival in World War II. Wheatmark 2007. ISBN 9781587366932
  • (de) Ruth Kibelka: Wolfskinder. Grenzgänger an der Memel. (title translated to English: Wolf children - Passing the border at river Memel.) 4. Auflage. Basisdruck, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-86163-064-8
  • (de) Ruth Leiserowitz: Von Ostpreußen nach Kyritz – Wolfskinder auf dem Weg nach Brandenburg. (title translated to English: From East Prussia to the city of Kyritz - Wolf children on their way to Brandenburg.) Potsdam 2003, ISBN 3-932502-33-7. Im Internet abrufbar unter Wolfskinder aus Ostpreußen.
  • (de) Keine Hilfe für deutsche „Wolfskinder“. (title translated to English: No help for German "wolf children") In: Der Spiegel. Hamburg 2007, Nr. 7, p 21, ISSN 0038-7452 0038-7452
  • (de) Neue Zürcher Zeitung vom 13. November 2008: Litauens «Wolfskinder» – Fremdlinge im eigenen Selbst. (title translated to English: Lithunian "Wolf children" - strangers in their own self). Retrieved on 30. November 2008.
  • (de) Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e. V. (Hrsg.): Treibgut des Krieges - Zeugnisse von Flucht und Vertreibung der Deutschen (Zeitzeugenberichte über Flucht, Vertreibung, Wolfskinder) (title translated to English: flotsam and jetsam of war - Witnesses of flight, kicking out, wolf children). Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e. V., Kassel, Kassel 11 March 2010.

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