After the liberation of the concentration camps, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) established the Central Tracing Bureau to help these prisoners of war (PoWs) or displaced persons (DPs), as they came to be known, to find relatives who may have also survived. Radio broadcasts, newspapers and broadsheets provided lists of survivors’ names and their locations.
From the end of the war until 1952, Germany, Austria and Italy had hundreds of thousands of Jewish DPs living in camps and in their major cities. These facilities were organised and supervised by Allied military and civilian authorities, and the UNRRA. Although many of these camps had been brutal Nazi concentration camps, the DPs transformed them into vital centres of education, rehabilitation and social interaction. With teachers from Israel and America helping to establish schools within these camps, the difficult task of rebuilding the community began. Many marriages and births were celebrated and, although repatriation was offered, many survivors felt that they could not return to their old homes, which were now occupied by non-Jews, especially while antisemitism remained rife in Europe. However, in 1948 the State of Israel was established, and the United States Congress passed the Displaced Persons Act, allowing a limited number of survivors to migrate to the US. By 1952 most of the DP camps had been closed. About 140 000 DPs went to Israel; 80 000 Jewish DPs went to America and another 20 000 to other parts of the world.
FIRST STEPS IN THE DP CAMPS AND A NEW BEGINNING
In the video, “Holocaust Survivors – First Steps in the DP Camps and a New Beginning”, Yad Vashem’s International School of Holocaust Studies staff member Sheryl Ochayon presents the story of the survivors, following the fundamental dilemma – “What Now?” – through to life and culture within the DP camps. She outlines the reality and remarkable phenomena within the DP camps, as well as their human significance in restoring a sense of personal identity and early steps towards a new beginning. Sheryl Silver-Ochayon is a staff member at the International School for Holocaust Studies, Yad Vashem.