A Baltic Odyssey: War and Survival


320 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-895176-24-7
DDC 940.54'8243




Edited by Elvi Whittaker
Reviewed by J.L. Granatstein

J.L. Granatstein is a professor of history at York University, the
co-author of the Dictionary of Canadian Military History and Empire to
Umpire: Canada and the World to the 1990s, and the author of The Good


“DPs,” or “displaced persons,” was the mildly derogatory term
used by Canadians to describe those tens of thousands of dislocated and
exiled Europeans who came to Canada after World War II. Viewed by
Canadians as flotsam and jetsam, lumped together into a formless mass,
the newcomers had histories and stories of their own, and now these are
being told.

This account, consisting of separate narratives by a husband and wife,
is a worthy addition to the genre, distinguished for its being given a
(sometimes naive) academic treatment by an anthropologist. The von
Rosens were Baltic German aristocrats who were patriated to German-held
territory in Poland in 1939 and, when the husband was conscripted,
separated. Jьrgen was taken prisoner in Italy at the end of the war;
Martha managed to survive invasion and defeat, ultimately shepherding
her family to safety and to an eventual reunion with her husband.

The narratives are well written and readable, offering a bottom-up view
of the war in Germany, where, we are told, life seemed to go on with
scarcely any knowledge of the war’s events, and in British and French
POW camps, where treatment was rough and occasionally brutal. Early in
the 1950s, the von Rosens came to Canada, made lives for themselves, and
struggled through tragedy and personal triumph. Their story is most
certainly worthy of publication, even without the anthropological and
pseudo–military-history gloss applied by Elvi Whittaker.


von Rosen, Martha, and Jürgen von Rosen., “A Baltic Odyssey: War and Survival,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 19, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/4911.