In a Nutshell
As the Red Army took control of East Prussia at the end of World War II, thousands of orphaned children were forced to flee the cities and enter the woods in search of food and shelter. They became known as wolf children because they traveled in packs and made regular night trips between Germany, Poland, and Lithuania to avoid Soviet detection.
The Whole Bushel
When it became clear that the Third Reich was going to fall, Hitler enforced a law that prevented citizens from leaving Germany. The law caused many families to suffer and thousands of orphaned children were forced to flee. The children banded together, formed small communes, and became known for “begging, drudging, and stealing” food in order to stay alive.
The groups of children had to avoid Soviet detection, too—if caught, they would be forced to work for Russia. In some cases, Lithuanian farmers would offer the children food in exchange for work. The luckiest were adopted by nice families and grew up in Lithuania. The locals called them “Vokietukai” (“little Germans”) and thousands of children settled in the country in the wake of the war.
The stories documenting wolf children didn’t reach the mainstream public until the dissolution of the Soviet Union, which took place on December 26, 1991. After World War II, it was the official stance of the Soviets that no Germans lived in the occupied zones of Poland, Germany, and Lithuania. Today, approximately 100 wolf children are still living in Lithuania as adults. Some have tried to regain German citizenship, but the German government has refused the requests. Lithuania, on the other hand, has embraced these people and provided them with a pension.