David P. Boder Interviews Janis Kalnietis; September 21, 1946; München, Germany

  • David Boder: [In English] Munich, September 21, 1946 at a displaced peoples camp in for Latvian, Lithuanians and Estonians. The interview is Mr. Janis Kalnietis, 46 years old.
  • David Boder: [In German] Are you a teacher?
  • Janis Kalnietis: [In German] Yes.
  • David Boder: [In English] He is a teacher here at the school. In gymnasium?
  • Janis Kalnietis: [In German] No.
  • David Boder: [In English] . . . in the elementary school. He just showed me a book which is printed here in Nürnberg with a number of pictures of Latvia, and the final pages are devoted to the so called . . . of the . . . em . . . horrors of the Soviets in Latvia. The question whether they have recorded any of the horrors caused by the Nazis. He says that so far, they don't have the proper material. The name of the book is "Zeme, kas palika ugunis", "The Land Which Has Remained in Fire". I asked whether I can buy such a book. He was rather non-committal, but I may see whether I can get a copy. He wants talk in the Latvian, but we will make a trial to get up kind of a report.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Now, please, Mr Kalnietis take your hand off of your face and come closer.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Well, tell me where you were when the Russians first came, came again, to Latvia and what happened to you then? Speak in Latvian.
  • Janis Kalnietis: [In Latvian] When the Bolsheviks came, I was in the countryside in Vidzeme; I was in Vidzeme. As a teacher, I had a vacation in the summer, and I was at my father's.
  • David Boder: [In Russian/German] Well, yes. Go on.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Tell me everything that happened to you further; however, not what happened in general, but mainly what happened to you - everything that happened to you personally. Do you remember?
  • Janis Kalnietis: [In Russian] Yes, yes.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Now, do you want to speak? Do not wait for me to question you.
  • Janis Kalnietis: [In Russian] In Latvian or in Russian?
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Go on in the Latvian language.
  • Janis Kalnietis: [In Latvian] It happened in summer, in the fall I had to start my work at school; then the Bolsheviks suspended me from duty—I was an assistant to the school superintendent—but I was degraded to a teacher, and then I was completely expelled from school. However, since they wanted to have a choir with a conductor, and they did not have one, they took me back on the condition that I would conduct their choir. This way, I stayed as a teacher for some time, but after having worked for a few months, I became aware that I was followed everywhere and the school superintendent was a communist who kept a special logbook on those teachers that were suspected of Bolshevism, improper for the Bolshevik regime, and incidentally, one of the teachers was lucky enough to come across this logbook on the table and read a few pages, and it was written there that Kalnietis on a certain day at a certain time, left home, was seen talking to this and that person in the street, then supposedly, on the national holiday in November, he had these and those visitors who left at this and that time—in short, I saw that I had someone spying on me.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Continue.
  • Janis Kalnietis: [In Latvian] Without waiting, not waiting any longer, not waiting for the next event, I decided to disappear, to go to the woods, and several of us did so, all together. I spent the rest of the Bolshevik period in the woods, and I dared coming out of the woods only when the Germans came, and probably, I had acted in the right way or alternatively, I would have been sent to Siberia.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Now tell me what happened when the Bolshevi . . . when the Soviets left Latvia—in what way did they leave?
  • Janis Kalnietis: [In Latvian] When the Bolsheviks were leaving Latvia, I think that we expected liberation from the Bolshevik terror, and with great pleasure, we watched the Germans coming to our country as our liberators, but our hopes vanished in a few days because, the first thing that the Germans did was rename streets in Riga. For example, Freedom Boulevard was renamed as Hitler Street, and there was Von der Goltss Street. Because Goltss was our most severe enemy in nineteen-nineteen against whom we shed our blood, and one of the main streets in Riga was named after him, For us, it was like spit in the face, at any rate, I personally felt it like that, and all Latvian thinking suddenly shifted again against the so called liberators—the Germans.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Now from the beginning.
  • David Boder: Yes, now translate into the Russian language if you can.
  • Janis Kalnietis: Yes, I can slightly.
  • David Boder: Well, now tell me what else happened to you personally. What did you teach at school?
  • Janis Kalnietis: I taught music at school.
  • David Boder: A-ha.
  • Janis Kalnietis: Music and also history lately.
  • David Boder: A-ha, all right then. What had the Germans done there generally?
  • Janis Kalnietis: The Germans allowed us to continue working, but in the school . . . the school was taken over for military, military troops, and we had to stay and work in a garage - six hundred.
  • David Boder: The school?
  • Janis Kalnietis: Yes, the school was located in one of the garages; six hundred pupils and twenty three teachers were working hmm . . . in four shifts every day; in fact, it was difficult to do it this way, but it was still possible to work.
  • David Boder: At what time was each shift?
  • Janis Kalnietis: What?
  • David Boder: At what time was each shift? Well, what time did the first shift start?
  • Janis Kalnietis: Oh, at seven, at seven o' clock in the morning it started and finished late in the evening. We were working all day long.
  • David Boder: How long was each shift?
  • Janis Kalnietis: Three to four hours for each shift.
  • David Boder: Well, go on.
  • Janis Kalnietis: Particularly, it was difficult to teach history.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Janis Kalnietis: We could not, in any way, - we did not dare to explain to the children the year of nineteen-nineteen when the Germans attacked Latvia. They did not allow us to tell children what was true.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Janis Kalnietis: Our . . .
  • David Boder: You can go on in Latvian. Your what?
  • Janis Kalnietis: One of our teachers who taught history . . .
  • David Boder: So.
  • Janis Kalnietis: . . . explained to the children the true story.
  • David Boder: So?
  • Janis Kalnietis: . . . and right away was dismissed . . .
  • David Boder: . . . and was identified; it means that he
  • Janis Kalnietis: . . . and he was dismissed.
  • David Boder: So?
  • Janis Kalnietis: And then nobody wanted to teach history.
  • David Boder: So?
  • Janis Kalnietis: Many of my acquaintances and friends among the Latvian intellectuals were put in jail by the Germans, were taken to concentration camps, and we were concerned, all the time, that we would have a similar destiny.
  • David Boder: So. Mr. hmm . . . Kal e . . . nietis, tell me
  • Janis Kalnietis: Yes.
  • David Boder: Kalnietis. Here in this camp there are some Latvians who have been in West German concentration camps.
  • David Boder: Yes, yes.
  • Janis Kalnietis: I know one of the Latvians.
  • David Boder: So, the one who was taken to the concentration camp by the Germans?
  • Janis Kalnietis: Yes.
  • David Boder: Well . . . how, no.—What was he taken for?
  • Janis Kalnietis: Actually, during the German rule, Latvians published newspapers . . .
  • David Boder: So?
  • Janis Kalnietis: . . . that were against, against the Germans, duplicated by shapirographs and so . . .
  • David Boder: Secret newspapers?
  • Janis Kalnietis: Secret newspapers, and very many Latvian intellectuals worked there and distributed these newspapers.
  • David Boder: Оh.
  • Janis Kalnietis: And the Germans wanted all of them to go to Schwerin.
  • David Boder: Eh . . . to exterminate.
  • Janis Kalnietis: To exterminate. One of us in our camp, that I know of.
  • David Boder: So. Now tell me, when the work for covert newspapers against the Germans was not being done . . .
  • Janis Kalnietis: Yes.
  • David Boder: . . . were they pro-Russian or not? How was it?
  • Janis Kalnietis: Simply Latvian nationalists.
  • David Boder: Were they Nazi nationalists?
  • Janis Kalnietis: Latvian nationalists.
  • David Boder: So, they were against the Germans, but they were not for the Russians?
  • Janis Kalnietis: Against the Germans and against the Russians.
  • David Boder: ?h, so it was.
  • Janis Kalnietis: Yes.
  • David Boder: Well, tell me, were any kind of partisans there?
  • Janis Kalnietis: In Latvia?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Janis Kalnietis: Yes, during that time partisans operated in Latvia and during the nineteen forties, in fact, under the Bolsheviks.
  • David Boder: But together with the Bolsheviks or against the Bolsheviks?
  • Janis Kalnietis: Against the Bolsheviks.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Janis Kalnietis: During the Bolshevik times.
  • David Boder: So they, they struggled against the Bolsheviks?
  • Janis Kalnietis: Yes.
  • David Boder: So and then?
  • Janis Kalnietis: And during the German rule - against Germans.
  • David Boder: Simply they were just Latvian nationalists.
  • Janis Kalnietis: Latvian nationalists, and all who did not wa . . . hmm . . . who were forced to join the German army, but did not want to join the army, and there were many of those.
  • David Boder: Yes, now tell me something, in which town did you live?
  • Janis Kalnietis: In Rujiena.
  • David Boder: Rujienaa—what is it called in Russian?
  • Janis Kalnietis: It is the same - Rujiena.
  • David Boder: Rujiena. Where is it?
  • Janis Kalnietis: Near the Estonian border.
  • David Boder: Near the Estonian border, but you are from Latvia, aren't you?
  • Janis Kalnietis: Yes, I am.
  • David Boder: You in Latvia—did you know what the Germans did to the Jews?
  • Janis Kalnietis: In my town there were very few Jews. I think that there were only fourteen people, and I knew all of them very well; however, I do not know their data.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Janis Kalnietis: But I know that all of those fourteen Jews were gathered by the Germans, and taken some nineteen kilometers away from the town, and during the night they were shot dead and buried in the forest. Everybody saw that and knew about that.
  • David Boder: What happened?
  • Janis Kalnietis: What happened there? They wanted to force the Latvian policemen to shoot people, but they all ran away. The Germans could not find anybody who would be willing to assist them, and they took them away themselves by a truck and shot them dead; everybody knows about it very well.
  • David Boder: But tell me how it was under the Ulmanis rule.
  • Janis Kalnietis: Yes.
  • David Boder: Were the Jews free in Latvia?
  • Janis Kalnietis: Yes, under the Ulmanis rule, all were free.
  • David Boder: But why is it said that they were forced to sell their real estate to the Latvians?
  • Janis Kalnietis: But I do not know about that.
  • David Boder: You do not know.
  • Janis Kalnietis: I do not know about it. But I . . .
  • David Boder: I have told you what people say in America?
  • Janis Kalnietis: Yes.
  • David Boder: That under the Ulmanis rule, when he dismissed the parliament, they went to the Jews and told them to sell their real estate to the Latvian citizens and that they did not want the Jews to have real estate and so on. Do you know anything about that?
  • Janis Kalnietis: But I saw that under the Ulmanis rule only a few large factories were taken, taken by the Latvian government, however, I do not know about the private real estate. Also, all stores in Riga and other cities—all of them stayed as they were before.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Janis Kalnietis: But I think that Ulmanis wanted to apply a policy in which all large plants should be taken over by the government irrespective of the owner—be it a Jew, or a German or a Russian, or a Latvian, - irrespective of that. I think that this is what Ulmanis' policy was about.
  • David Boder: Now tell me this. Under the rule of Ulmanis and the Latvian government and independence, what was done to the German estates? Were these estates divided or were they still owned by German barons?
  • Janis Kalnietis: They were divided during the first years of Latvian independence.
  • David Boder: ?-ha.
  • Janis Kalnietis: Each and every person of the new Latvian peasantry, who was in the war, came from the war and received ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty hectares, when all German estates had been divided.
  • David Boder: But some of the German barons stayed there, didn't they?
  • Janis Kalnietis: There were very few German barons left, but those who stayed also got twenty, thirty hectares, and they had to work themselves the same way the Latvians worked.
  • David Boder: But tell me about the time when the Germans came. Did they try to deprive the Latvians of land? Or did they leave all of that as it was?
  • Janis Kalnietis: The Germans seemed not to have managed to do it during the war, but everybody understood that they had it in mind. For example, their policy regarding schools was aimed at leaving only primary and vocational schools for the Latvians and so that we had to . . . we, well . . . we could be more like servants.
  • David Boder: Servants.
  • Janis Kalnietis: Servants to the Germans.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Janis Kalnietis: This policy was obvious, however, they did not have enough time to implement it all.
  • David Boder: Now, what did they do with Riga university?
  • Janis Kalnietis: The Germans.
  • David Boder: Hм . . .
  • Janis Kalnietis: I was not in Riga; I was in the province, and I do not know well enough.
  • David Boder: ?-ha . . .
  • Janis Kalnietis: I cannot say anything.
  • David Boder: You cannot say anything about it. Now, tell me what happened to you when the Germans started leaving? With you personally.
  • Janis Kalnietis: Leaving?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Janis Kalnietis: It was during that fall, I had been again working at school.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Janis Kalnietis: In Rujiena, there was an order received from the German commander that all of us should leave the town.
  • David Boder: All inhabitants.
  • Janis Kalnietis: All inhabitants.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Janis Kalnietis: So I did, and I fixed a cart and set out, but I did not make it far with the cart, because a tank damaged the cart, and we continued to go on foot.
  • David Boder: How did the tank make the damage?
  • Janis Kalnietis: It was an accident at night, at night.
  • David Boder: So, did you have a horse?
  • Janis Kalnietis: The horse was killed, and all Germans looted my clothes and everything, and I just walked away as I was.
  • David Boder: How many of you were in the household?
  • Janis Kalnietis: In the household?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Janis Kalnietis: Eh, I had my wife, my father and mother.
  • David Boder: A-ha. You did not have children.
  • Janis Kalnietis: No, we did not have children.
  • David Boder: Well, now let us express ourselves a bit shorter to fit into those four minutes left. Can we?
  • Janis Kalnietis: Yes.
  • David Boder: Even though I would not like to rush you, we can proceed. Tell me, in fact, then you got out of Latvia. Where to?
  • Janis Kalnietis: I was sent from Latvia to Gottenhafen.
  • David Boder: ?-hа.
  • Janis Kalnietis: . . . and from there to Bromberg. It is a big city in Westpreussen.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Janis Kalnietis: On the previous Polish border.
  • David Boder: So, and what did you do there?
  • Janis Kalnietis: There I was placed in one of the factories, a carpentry factory, as a night stoker.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Janis Kalnietis: I had to be a stoker, tending the fires of furnaces.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Janis Kalnietis: And there I had been working for two months, and then again we fled from there. The Germans took me along, and I got here in Brunnau, there I had less . . . in Brunnau. It is not far from Munich.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Janis Kalnietis: There I was placed in a hospital to work; I had to work with coal.
  • David Boder: And where is your wife?
  • Janis Kalnietis: My wife stayed in Latvia. We were not together.
  • David Boder: Your wife stayed in Latvia, didn't she?
  • Janis Kalnietis: She stayed in Latvia, and so she is now.
  • David Boder: And your parents?
  • Janis Kalnietis: They are also in Latvia.
  • David Boder: So, you are alone?
  • Janis Kalnietis: Just alone.
  • David Boder: Do you write, receive letters from your wife?
  • Janis Kalnietis: I do not want to write.
  • David Boder: And by "The Red Cross"?
  • Janis Kalnietis: I am afraid.
  • David Boder: You are afraid. So, does she know that you are alive or does she not know?
  • Janis Kalnietis: She does not know.
  • David Boder: Have you tried to write or send something through America?
  • Janis Kalnietis: I have not tried. I am afraid. I know from the nineteen forties that those who received letters from somewhere abroad, those got lost; therefore, I am afraid to write. It is not because of me, it is because of others.
  • David Boder: Now, tell me about where were you released then?
  • Janis Kalnietis: Here in Germany?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Janis Kalnietis: In Brunnau, in the hospital where I worked.
  • David Boder: And who came there?
  • Janis Kalnietis: Americans came.
  • David Boder: Now, tell me what are you going to do now?
  • Janis Kalnietis: It is difficult to answer, but I think that I have to wait until everything gets clarified.
  • David Boder: What do you mean?
  • Janis Kalnietis: With my parents, my wife, and in general in Latvia.
  • David Boder: Well, do you think that there will be a change in Latvia soon?
  • Janis Kalnietis: Well, what else can I think of?
  • David Boder: I do not know.
  • Janis Kalnietis: We all expect that, perhaps, there will be a change.
  • David Boder: But one should not go on living in camps, barracks and similar places for so long. It is necessary that some of your queries get resolved.
  • Janis Kalnietis: It does not matter for me. I am just alone. I can work and take on any physical work. I am ready for everything, ready for everything that the Americans would . . .
  • David Boder: Offer.
  • Janis Kalnietis: . . . would offer. I trust England and America. I know very well, I know that all of us Latvians can expect everything good only from those two nations, but not from others—it is in my opinion.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes spool four hundred forty-two.
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