Dziesmu Diena Fišbachā (Fischbach Latvian Song Festival)Kārlis Puriņš, foreword by Jēkabs Poruks, 1948

As evidenced by materials not just in our collection but in museums, Latvian cultural life was alive and vibrant at the Fischbach Displaced Persons camp.

Refugees first arrived on June 27, 1945, riding in the backs of American lorries, at the site of a former military camp located not far from Nuremberg. The newcomers took on the daunting task of transforming the old huts, dirty barracks, and piles of rubble into an orderly, well-run Latvian settlement meeting the needs of its refugee population. A public school, headed by Pauls Turlejs, and high school, headed by Prof. Ernests Ābele, were already functioning just a month later. Classes were held outside until suitable facilities were set up that fall. A kindergarten was established; soon, even students from surrounding camps were attending Kārlis Skalbe high school—the academic program at Fischbach considered one of the best in all of Germany.

A printing shop published the Herald ("Vēstis") and other journals and books. There was a library, store, and various crafts and trades workshops and popular horticulture school. A drama troupe, choir, and scouting troops were organized. An ambulance service was established, later, a hospital.

At the urging of the camp's elder, composer and former director of the Latvian National Opera, Jēkabs Poruks, the first D.P. Cultural Festival was held that first August (1945)—in part, to demonstrate the cultural richness of Latvian heritage to foreigners and to UNRRA's leadership. A long sequence of events followed, among them annual celebrations of Latvia's founding, the founding of the Latvian University, archbishop Teodors Grīnbergs' sermon marking his 50th service anniversary, and Jāzeps Vītols attending a concert of his musical works.

The first Latvian song festival in Germany was organized together with the nearby Mercfelda (Märzfeld) Latvian D.P. camp and held June 30, 1946. The program opened with readings of poetry and prose. More than 700 singers participated, the combined choir concert closing with "Tev mūžam dzīvot, Latvija!" (Latvia, Forever Shall You Live!), which the singers had to repeat multiple times in encore.

1947 was marked by a writer's festival and song festival; 1948 by the song festival preserved in our album here, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the first Latvian Song Festival in 1873[1]; 1949, by a gathering of boy and girl scouts commemorating their time at Fischbach.

Fischbach closed in September, 1949. A small group of those remaining (400, down from a peak of 2,000) resettled in temporary quarters in Dillingen[2].

[1]Album editor Kārlis Puriņš and composer Arnolds Kalnājs, pictured in the album, founded the choir Dziesmu Vairogs ("Shield of Songs") in 1945, most of whom resettled in Michigan. Kalnājs led the choir until his death in 1975; the choir eventually disbanded in 1981. The choir's archives are preserved at the Immigration History Research Center (IHRC) at the University of Minnesota.
[2]Background on Fischbach from Astrīda Straumane Ramrath's review of Fišbachas viršos 1945-1950: Dzīve nometnē rakstos un attēlos. Apcere un pārdomas. by Ansis Pommers, published in Los Gatos, California, 2007. Her review appears in Jaunā Gaita issue 252, March 2008.

Additional Reading

  • The Latvian "DP ALBUMS" web site ( contains some of these and many other pictures of life in Fischbach and Märzfeld.
  • Short German Wikipedia article about Fischbach bei Nürnberg, mainly recounting all the times throughout history that it has been partially or completely destroyed.
  • Wikipedia article about Nuremberg, Fischbach is at the far eastern end, and is part of, the city.
...Timeline...Latvia Under German Occupation in 1943Latvia Under German Occupation in 1943. Latvian Legation, Washington, DC. 1944. The Latvian diplomatic corps reports on Latvia's third year under Nazi occupation, recounting still-fresh events. What Latvian Wishes From This War?What Latvian Wishes From This War? Alfreds Bīlmanis. Latvian Legation, Washington DC. 1944. As head of the Latvian Foreign Ministry's press division, Alfreds Bīlmanis (1887-1948) actively promoted independent Latvia's interests abroad. His war-time monograph, subtitled: "Background, Current Situation, Hopes for the Future"—written while there was still hope for Latvia's post-war freedom—dispels still-prevalent misunderstandings regarding the historical inter-relationships of the Baltics, Europe, and Russia. Zedelgem POW Camp 2227Zedelgem POW Camp 2227Latvians whose only "crime" was to fight to free their homeland after multiple invasions are called Nazis and shot as target practice. Today, official Russia and others invested in the "Latvians are Nazis" meme keep the lie alive. Skalbe's Collected WorksSkalbe — Kopoti Raksti (Collected Works), Pirmais Sējums (Volume One), Kārlis Skalbe. Auseklis, Stuttgart. 1947. Authorized by UNRRA. Excerpted and translated poetry. Exiles' Calendar 1947Latviesu Trimdinieka Kalendars 1947 (The Latvian Exile's Calendar 1947). Complete facsimile (Latvian) and poetry translations; published in the D.P. camps, 1947 Fischbach Song FestivalDziesmu Diena Fišbachā (Fischbach Song Festival), Kārlis Puriņš. Viktors Puriņš. 1948. Latvians in the Displaced Persons camps of Fischbach and Märzfeld in Nuremberg and environs gather to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the First Latvian Song Festival. Album of 24 pictures, with foreword by composer and Fischbach DP camp elder Jēkabs Poruks. European Unification and LatviaEiropas apvienošanās kustība un mēs (The European unification movement and us), Modris Gulbis, 1948. The necessity of a European Union to the welfare of the European continent and to Latvia Anna Dārziņa Post Card SetLatvian folk costumes, Anna Dāŗziņa. Esslingen DP Camp, Jānis Liepiņš, ca. 1949. Artist Anna Dāŗziņa's illustrations of Latvian folk costumes. Set of 18 postcards. Pīrāgi & GalertsLatviska un Moderna Virtuve (The Latvian and Modern Kitchen), Fischbach D.P. Camp, Germany, 1949. Traditional Latvian recipes, excerpts and translations The Story of LatviaThe Story of Latvia—A Historical Survey. Arveds Švābe. Latvian National Foundation, Stockholm. 1949. Švābe's concise history of Latvia, from the Balts inhabiting what is today western Russia through the continuation of Soviet occupation into the post-WWII era. First USA Song FestivalThe First Latvian Song Festival in America, various, Chicago, 1953. Mixed choir participants' music. 21 songs, complete
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