Displaced Persons After the Holocaust

The survivors said: "We were liberated, but we are not free."

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About half the Jewish DPs in Germany, Austria, and Italy--about 120,000 between 1947 and 1950--emigrated to Palestine/Israel. A somewhat smaller number, estimated at 80,000-90,000, went to the United States. This number would have certainly been larger had the Americans opened their doors to emigration more widely. About 20,000 Jewish DPs established homes in Canada, and approximately 5,000 went to Australia and South America, respectively. Many other countries welcomed smaller numbers of Jewish DPs.

In April 1948, one month before the establishment of the State of Israel, there were still 165,000 Jewish DPs in Germany; five months later, their number had dwindled to 30,000. Displaced-persons publications and official statements by Jewish organizations around the world called on the last Jewish DPs to follow suit and leave Germany. Most of them did, but a considerable minority stayed behind, unable or unwilling to leave.

The last DP camp, in Fohrenwald, closed in February 1957, thereby bringing to an end the chapter of displaced persons in post-war Europe.

Image courtesy of Wisconsin Historical Society.

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Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is Professor of Jewish History and Culture at the University of Munich.