Büro für heimatvetriebene Ausländer (1952–1964): Latvian Refugees in West Germany and Their Role in Functioning of the Office

Kārlis Kangeris

The mass emigration from West Germany of World War II refugees ended in 1952. About 160 000 East European refugees stayed. In order to maintain an overview of the remaining refugees the West German government established the Büro für heimatvertriebene Ausländer” (BfhA) (Office for Exiled Foreigners). Its mandate was to “observe and report on the emigrants from the East – their organisations, their activities and outside connections– in the Federal Republic of Germany. and to maintain unofficial relations and coordination with US institutions, which work with emigrant representatives.” This West German office had two functions. The first was the “Research Service” which published regular reports about events and life in the Eastern Bloc countries. The second function was the observation of East European refugee groups in West Germany. To better accomplish these tasks, the BfhA sought and found help from “reliable persons” among the refugee groups.

The Latvian refugees under the leadership of the Latvian Central Committee (LCK) started to collaborate with the BfhV in 1953. Their cooperation increased markedly in 1955, when the USSR started to implement its repatriation policy in West Germany. In this area – especially to combat communist infiltration – the collaboration lasted until 1964 when the BfhV was closed.      

Concurrently, the Latvian Central Committee also collaborated with US institutions, especially the Central Intelligence Agency; a  cooperation which lasted until 1962.

From to 1955 to 1964 the BfhA was a valuable instrument in the Cold War offensive against communism and communist activities among refugees. It provided highly useful information to West German ministries and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. In the end the BfhA had become a typical Cold War institution, which, on the one hand, gathered and published information about the Communist bloc countries, while, on the other hand, it followed the activities of the East European refugees, assisted the German government and the refugee groups in their efforts to stop the repatriation policies, thus taking an active part in combating communism in the ideological battle of opposing world views.