Dziesmu Diena Fišbachā (Fischbach Latvian Song Festival)Kārlis Puriņš, foreword by Jēkabs Poruks, 1948As evidenced by materials not just in our collection but in museums, Latvian cultural life was alive and vibrant at the Fischbach D.P. 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; 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.
|||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.|
|||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.|
- The Latvian "DP ALBUMS" web site (www.dpalbums.lv) 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.
"A Latvian-German district gathered two years ago in pine-surrounded Fischbach, by Nuremberg, to celebrate the first Dziesmu Diena. This year, atop that same festival mount, we commemorated the First Latvian Song Festival — ours another first of its kind, a string which this year encircles the globe — everywhere, where Latvians live in colonies large and small.
"A thousand listeners and 700 active participants will indelibly remember this day, June 27, 1948, as a magical bridge to our ancient past, as a sacred pledge to our future.
"On the face of it, we are in an even bleaker situation than 75 years ago, but our spiritual inheritance over this period has so matured, our bearing so tempered at the forge of harsh circumstance, that nothing shall break us.
"When the most beautiful songs will have stopped sounding, when the festival flame will have been extinguished, when in place of our ornate costumes we have once again donned our work clothes, leaf through these pages, and moments will dawn like Latvian wonders in a foreign land, in foreign winds.
"Treasure those! In the forests of Canada, the pastures of Australia, the plantations of Brazil, the factories of America, they will call you home one day to sing:
God bless Latvia!
J ē k a b s P o r u k s.
Dziesmu Diena Fišbachā is reproduced as a Non-Protected work of reportage under Latvian Copyright Law §6. ¶4.
Our reproduction for informational, educational, and research purposes additionally qualifies under §20. and §21.