Familienfotos als Quelle zur memelländischen Geschichte 1944-1960

Ruth Leiserowitz


There are still to this day a large number of gaps in post-war Memel history in the Lithuanian SSR due to the fact that the subject was neglected prior to 1989 for ideological reasons. Until then, the history of German minorities had remained taboo along with accounts of the mass emigration out of the USSR. As part of a survey and collection project, the Institute of Baltic History and Archaeology in Klaipėda collated private image sources that contain material relating to cultural and social spheres within the investigation period, with the aim of closing and discussing historiographical gaps. The photographs document private strategies that existed beneath the level of large-scale political decision-making. They provide insights into recreational past times, religious customs, private environments as well as relationships between genders and generations. A further theme highlighted by the collection is the mass emigration movement that took place from 1958 to 1960. In the second section of the text, specific images are introduced and discussed. The aim of including these concrete examples is to demonstrate the extent to which private photographs may qualify as objective factual sources in developing our understanding of everyday social history.