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What troops were in Latvia in the 1930s?

Discussion in 'Prelude to War & Poland 1939' started by aacinca, May 26, 2015.

  1. aacinca

    aacinca New Member

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    Hello everyone,

    We are stumped on something my friend's mother Lillian has told us, and has been telling family members for as long as anyone can remember. She says that as a little girl growing up in the port town of Ventspils, Latvia, she remembers her family's home being commandeered by troops so that their captain could live there, at which point her family was moved to an apartment. Later, when Russian troops entered the city in 1940, they took her family's house and basically destroyed it. She would have been 8 years old when the Russians arrived.

    Here is where we are stumped. She remembers these first troops as being Americans. She would have probably been somewhere between the ages of 4 and 7 to be able to remember them taking her house, and she remembers them as being very nice. But this doesn't make sense to us -- why would American troops have been in the Baltic states prior to entering the war? Unfortunately, Lillian has Alzheimer's, and her memory is sketchy, but as I mentioned, she was telling this story of Americans in Latvia long before her illness started.

    We can only figure that as a child she got the identity of the soldiers wrong, and believed all her life that they were Americans. She was very well educated as a child, and could speak German and English in addition to Latvian, so would it make sense for those soldiers to have been German? After all, she would have been able to understand them in the same way she would have understood Americans. Or were these troops Russians -- just a nicer group of soldiers than the ones who would come in later?

    I can't locate information anywhere about troops from any nation being in Latvia in the 1930s. Everything I read confirms that they were an independent state at the time. Even if Americans had a military base there, it seems quite unlikely they would commandeer some local family's home for their captain to live in.

    Does anyone have any theories on who these mystery soldiers might be? What could it be that Lilian is remembering? Thank you in advance to any of you wonderful historians who can shed some light on this puzzle.
     
  2. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Latvia was occupied by Russians troops in 1940. Then it was occupied by the Germans in 1941 and re_occupied by the Russians in 1944.
    It is possible the "nice" soldiers were actually Russians in 1940 or Germans in 1941. There were no American troops in Europe before 1942. The U.S. was a non belligerant country prior to the Pearl Harbor attack On Dec 7th 1941.
    The Germans were weclomed as liberators by many Latvians . In fact they switched from one one jug to another. In 1944 took their toll and depoprted ten thousands of atvians to the Gulags until 1952 .

    [​IMG]


    Here is a picture of Riga in 1940 when the Soviets arrived. (source wikipedia)
     
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  3. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Looking at:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Latvia#Independence
    Another possibility is that they were Latvian troops. The above article mentions a bloodless coup that occured in 1934. They could have been troops associated with that

    The article also mentions Soviet military bases in western Lativia prior to them occupying the country in 1940 so that's another possiblity.
     
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  4. aacinca

    aacinca New Member

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    Skipper, thank you for confirming what I had been finding, and for posting the picture of Riga -- I hadn't seen that before. And now we can at least rule out the Americans for certain.

    lwd, thank you again for your help with my questions -- this is my second post you've answered, again with good suggestions. I hadn't considered the Latvian army, and you're probably right about it being either them or Russians stationed there before the outbreak of the war.
     
  5. Coder

    Coder Member

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    I agree that there is no possibility of US troops in Latvia at any time. Even during WW2 they never reached that far.

    The possibility of Latvian or Soviet troops in the late 1930s is wide open.
     
  6. aacinca

    aacinca New Member

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    Coder, thank you for your thoughts on this puzzle, and confirming the possibilities of Latvian or Russian troops. If it is the latter, it would make sense that they would seem "nice", because they weren't aggressors or invaders in 1938. They would have just been troops stationed at a base nearby.

    When the Russians invaded Latvia, they came and took Lillian's father away more than a few times, and did brutal things to him, but they would release him, and kept him alive because they believed he could be of use to them, since he spoke five languages.

    Lillian and her mother left Latvia in 1941, smuggled out on a Red Cross boat (at least that is how she remembers it). Her father was to join them, but before he could get out, he was taken by the Russians (probably one of the many who were rounded up right before the Germans "liberated" Latvia), and was sent to a gulag where he spent the rest of his life.

    Hope that's not TMI.

    Thanks again everyone for your help.
     
  7. Smiley 2.0

    Smiley 2.0 Smiles

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    This is a picture of a German soldier being hoisted up by celebrating Latvians in Riga in 1941.

    View attachment 22564
     

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  8. aacinca

    aacinca New Member

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    Great photo, Smiley -- thank you for posting it! And I love your beautiful signature quote.
     

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