Dave Obee       Local History / Family History


The 1940s: Forced from their homes

By Dave Obee
This series includes personal information on more than 2.1 million individuals processed by the Einwandererzentralstelle (EWZ, literally Immigration Center), a central German authority for the immigration and naturalization of qualified ethnic Germans for Reich citizenship during the period 1939-1945.
If you find relatives among the Berlin Document Centre records, there is a good chance you will learn more about their lives than you ever thought possible. In their interviews, they were required to provide their own birthdates and birthplaces, the same information for their parents, and the same information for any children still living with them.
They also gave details on where they lived throughout their lives. In some cases, they described their farms, or places of work.
It helps if you can read German, in that you will pick up some of the fine points about their lives. But a person knowing no German at all will still benefit from these films.
These forms were completed by ethnic Germans from throughout eastern Europe. In some cases, the documents were filled out in the villages in Russia, before the Germans started heading to Germany itself. In other cases, the paperwork was done after the people had arrived in Germany or in German-occupied Poland.
The Berlin Document Center forms were generally filled out by people after they had arrived in Germany territory as part of the resettlement that took place during the Second World War. When they got to their initial destination, which for most people was in Poland, they were housed in temporary camps. While they were in these camps, the paperwork had to be completed.
Today, that collection of paperwork is known as the Berlin Document Center biographic records. These records include personal information from more than 2.1 million individuals processed by the German immigration centre.
In 1945, most of these records were seized by the Allied Forces. About 80,000 files were lost or burned before capture. Those that survived are available on 8,000 rolls of microfilm, through the U.S. National Archives in College Park, Maryland.
Some of the microfilms are available through the Mormon family history library.
You can also contact researchers in the Washington area, and ask them to look up names for you.
Another way is to buy copies of the films youíre interested in. The cost is $34 US if youíre in the States, and $39 US if youíre in Canada. The Canadian price works out to about $60 in Canadian funds.
Along with the family information on the films, you will also find information on migration. You may see movement between the various areas of the Ukraine, such as between Bessarabia and Volhynia. You will find out where the people were sent during the first world war. In a couple of cases, I have found people who had been born in the United States - apparently, their families had gone there for a few years, then returned to Russia.
The records come in three basic series:

1. Antraege, or applications:
More than 400,000 applications, arranged by country or region, then alphabetically by family name. Each application might include several documents.
EWZ50 - USSR. About 110,000 files on 843 microfilm rolls.
EWZ51 - Romania. About 82,000 files on 700 microfilm rolls.
EWZ52 - Poland. About 100,000 files on 701 microfilm rolls.
EWZ53 - Baltic. About 73,000 files on 587 microfilm rolls.
EWZ5410 - Yugoslavia. About 23,000 files on 150 microfilm rolls.
EWZ5420 - Romania. About 14,000 files on 223 microfilm rolls.
EWZ5430 - Bulgaria. About 700 files on 6 microfilm rolls.
These films are not in the LDS library system.

2. E/G Kartei, basic card index
The central registry for naturalization. The set includes about 2.9 million cards in phonetic order on 1,964 microfilm rolls. The information here is not as great as for the first series, but more people are included. These films are in the LDS libraries.
Note that this set covers all of the new arrivals in Germany, no matter where they came from. That means there are a lot more people you arenít interested in.

3. Stammblatter, family forms
There are about one million forms here on 742 rolls. In terms of information, these forms have more than the big card index, but less than the individual files. These files are organized by number, rather than alphabetically, so you canít tackle this set first.
If a person is listed in the basic card index, but not the applications, check the family forms to get a bit of extra information.
This set also helps you find neighbors, and other relatives. Thatís because people from one village were often processed together - so their numbers would be together as well. Once you find the numbers for some of your people, you can find out who went through the system with them.
Why you would want to find those neighbors? In may case, Iíve discovered that some of the neighbors are also related, in some way. The connection might be in the names of grandparents, or in the names of spouses. I have discovered several connections using this series.
This series is also in the LDS libraries.
There is a guide to film numbers on Volhynia.com.

One word of caution regarding these three series - it appears that each one has some files that are not included in the other sets. It pays to check all three, just to be sure your people are there.
Regarding the files themselves, you canít believe everything you read in them. People did their best to be accurate, but itís no different than getting birth information from a death certificate today. The people were relying on what they had been told, and what had been passed down through the years.
Sometimes, obvious errors were missed by the German authorities. I have found one woman who was born in 1891. Her father died in 1881. That 10-year discrepancy is repeated in a couple of places in the file - but nobody noticed.
The Berlin Document Center records wonít help everybody. You have to be looking at ethnic Germans who arrived in Germany during the war. If youíre lucky, youíll find the records to be a goldmine.

This is an abbreviated version of the EWZ guide on Volhynia.com.

War Documents page on the Odessa site

Updates? Corrections? Better examples? Send an e-mail to Dave

Updated January 1, 2007

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