Thursday, September 10, 2015

Displaced Persons Camps, No. 1: A New Beginning

Post-War Life

The end of the Second World War, while a welcome victory over fascism, did not immediately end the misery for millions of persons displaced by war, particularly the desire for permanent housing and a normal life—things that many of us now take for granted. Yet, it must be said that conditions did improve for most, their lives noticeably better than during the war, where deprivation and brutality were the norm.

After the war, the Allies set up displaced persons (DP) camps [1945-52], which were in Germany, Austria and Italy; today such persons would be called refugees or migrants. As one website puts it:
At the end of the war, there were eight to nine million displaced persons and refugees in West Germany, Berlin and Austria. Roughly 2,500 displaced persons camps provided shelter. The various relief organisations were able to repatriate between six and seven million people and helped about 1.5 million people to emigrate to other countries, such as Australia, Israel, Canada and the USA.
At their height, more than 250,000 Jewish refugees lived in such camps. This short educational documentary, by Yad Vashem’s  International School for Holocaust Studies (ISHS), gives a brief and general look at the lives of Jewish persons at such camps. My father was in a DP camp for many years, arriving in Canada in 1951, six years after the war, where he started a new life. He met and married my mother in 1952, worked hard and raised a family. “A New Beginning” is an appropriate title.