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Involuntary labour? Work in the camps

Despite the change of overseers, hard work once again became the lot of most young Latvian women in the camps. They were directed by the DP camp administrators into a range of jobs, most of them typically feminised types of work, rather than the hard manual labouring that some of them had undertaken under the Nazis. For many young women, however, the work remained physically demanding and menial and a minority even found themselves undertaking the same work in the same location. In table 4.1 the types of work undertaken before and after arriving in the camps are shown. Lizina, for example, who was 17 in 1945, had worked in the kitchens in a camp in Schwerin when it was run by the Germans. Teenagers and women had been recruited for the lighter work and male Italian prisoners of war undertook the heaviest tasks. At the end of the war, the camp was transferred into Allied control and became a hospital but Lizina stayed in the same kitchens, doing the same heavy work. Vieda was also initially allocated manual labour. Here she describes her first job in a DP camp:

But her life improved as she was befriended by another young woman who was employed in the administration: ‘Then after a while I got a job in her office and by then I was fluent in German and so on and I got promotion. By then I was 17 and a half.’