At the end of World War II, 12 million people had been driven from their homes. In 1946 there was 200,000 inquiries for lost children. There were more than 7 million men and women living in Germany who had been moved to the German Reich as slave laborers or prisoners. The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) took care of these people. UNRRA was essentially a temporary organization which expired in June 1947. Afterward, the International Refugee Organization (IRO) took care of Displaced Persons. Almost 6 million DPs were repatriated in the 5 months from May to Sept. 1945. Three years after the war, there were 370 camps in the English, French and American Zones in Germany, 120 camps in Austria and 25 camps in Italy with well over 800,000 DPs. Of this 800,000:
Oct.1945 General Eisenhower banned the use of force in repatriation in
the American Zone. (Wayman, p.69)
The summer of 1947 was the beginning of 'close out' (closing a camp), the winding down the DP sponsorship efforts by the Allied countries, although there were still a million displaced persons (DPs) living in Europe, more than half were in the U.S. Zone.
The big question: where to put the people who could not be repatriated back to their homeland. By 1948 the following countries accepted refugees:
Australia a few thousand
Belgium has accepted nearly 20,000 ;
Canada 2,000 and was preparing to admit 25,000
England 17,000 from the camps and 250,000 Polish Army & their families
USA was still not accepting immigrants.
(Statistics provided by Scholars in the DP Camps by Edward B. Rooney, SJ):
The passage of the DP Act in 1948 divided the DPs into forcibly displaced from voluntarily displaced, i.e., those who were not allowed to emigrate to the U.S. To be considered forcibly displaced one must have entered one of the western zones between September 1, 1939 and December 22, 1945. This dateline bracket excluded all late-comers from Iron Curtain countries, such as the Czechs who did not start coming over until late 1947. Voluntarily displaced were the early comers, i.e., those working men and women throughout Europe who had followed the trek of higher wages, which in early 1939 were being paid only in Nazi Germany.
The Einwanderungszentrale of Nazi Germany had the complete vital statistics of every foreigner entering into Germany (name, age, place of original, date of entry and two photos (full face and profile). Using these files, the UNNRA and IRO (replacement organization for the UNNRA) categorized, provided medical exams, X-rays, TB and VD, mental and educational exams to determine who was eligible for immigration to the US and distant ports. Genealogiest should get freedom of information form G639 from the U.S. Citizenship & Nationalization Services for their records. This agency will tell you what camp your parents were in.
Requesting Freedom of Information Records: --
(2) Manner of requesting records. All Freedom of Information Act requests must be in writing. Requests may be submitted in person or by mail. If a request is made by mail, both the envelope and its contents must be clearly marked: ``FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST'' or ``INFORMATION REQUEST.''
(3) Fee - A requester automatically agrees to pay fees up to $25.00 by filing a Freedom of Information Act request unless a waiver or reduction of fees is sought.
Australian resettlement often was managed by ship via Italy, US resettlement was via Bremerhaven, Germany.
By 1949 some 110,000 DPs had been admitted to the states and about 30,000 of these were shipped as of May 1950. June 16, 1950 the DP Act extended the deadline for immigration. Kathryn Hulme of UNRRA worked diligently to qualify as many people as possible from her camps.
Some who did not qualify, committed suicide in despair rather than be repatriated to Stalin-controlled countries. Others, repatriated back to communist-controlled Poland or Russia (Ukrainians categorized as Russians), found their way back to the dp camp (in Germany) were they were more secure.
Russians soldiers, repatriated to Russia, were never heard from. Their families came to the DP camp gates looking for any news. The word spread fast and Russians refugees refused to get on the transports bound for Russia.
From the chapter titled,"Cultures in Exile," taken from: DPs Europe's Displaced Persons, 1945-1951 by M. Wyman:
"the most obstreperously nationalistic" group at the Aschaffenburg camp, scorning the Saturday night folk dancing of other groups and instead presenting scientific and anthropological lectures. 'The DP Ukrainians snoozed through the lectures, and loved them,' the reporter added."
Scholars in the DP Camps 1947
To order a copy, request this number / title, along with a U.S. check for $4.75 to: Archives, University of Notre Dame, 607 Hesburgh Library, Notre Dame, IN, 46556.
Truman: "It is with very great reluctance that I have signed S. 2242, the Displaced Persons Act of 1948. If the Congress were still in session, I would return this bill without my approval and urge that a fairer, more humane bill be passed. In its present form this bill is flagrantly discriminatory. It mocks the American tradition of fair play. Unfortunately, it was not passed until the last day of the session. If I refused to sign this bill now, there would be no legislation on behalf of displaced persons until the next session of the Congress. More of this at the Truman Library.
European Social Science History Conference
Third European Social Science History Conference 12-15 April 2000 Amsterdam
Topic B-1 - FORCED MIGRATION AND DISPLACED PERSONS
Nathan Stoltzfus: Fear Communists, not Nazis: American Perceptions of Ethnic German Resettlers, in the early 1950s
Arune Arbusauskaite: The social and political aftermath of the Molotov-Ribbentrop secret protocol: the case of repatriates in the 1941th
Maria do Rosario Rolfsen Salles: Displaced Persons and the Politics of Migration in the post-WWII era
Ukrainian dispora text in cyrillic
The Western Diaspora: Quo Vadis?
World migration, Labor migration to western Europe after 1945 see page 271
E-mail: Olga Kaczmar / USA