Displaced Persons Camps and Centers Poster Collection
Scope and Content Note
This collection of posters includes approximately 1,000 rare or unique items pertaining to over 100 displaced persons (DP) camps and centers in Germany (Series I, https://archives.cjh.org/repositories/7/archival_objects/362651), Italy (Series II), and Austria (Series III), dating primarily from 1946 to 1952. The posters were drawn from three YIVO collections of records of the DP camps and centers in those three countries, respectively: RG 294.2 (Records of the Displaced Person Camps and Centers in Germany); RG 294.3 (Records of the Displaced Person Camps and Centers in Italy); and RG 294.4 (Records of the Displaced Person Camps and Centers in Austria).
Comprised of approximately 60% handpainted and 40% printed items, it includes posters produced by diverse Jewish groups within individual camps, such as administrative and cultural committees, sports clubs, Zionist and religious groups, and landsmanshaftn; as well as organizations active throughout the camps, including the Jewish central committees in the respective countries, the World ORT Union, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC), the Jewish National Fund, and the Jewish Agency. A small number of items also document activities of the revived Jewish communities in the city centers of Munich, Germany (Subseries 15, Subsubseries C), and Vienna, Austria (Subseries 1, Subsubseries K). Many of the posters use not only language but also color, graphic design, and pictorial and figurative elements to engage their audience with calls to entertainment, lectures, protests, and commemorations.
Whereas the majority of items are posters advertising events and communicating news and announcements, scattered items are of a different nature, including technical drawings, charts, maps, and children's artwork. Examples of such items are: technical drawings of facilities at Camp Feldafing (Series I, Subseries 3, Subsubseries L); statistical charts created at Camp Bad Reichenhall (Series I, Subseries 2, Subsubseries C); maps related to AJDC operations in Germany (Series I, Subseries 14); a printed map of DP camps in Austria (Series I, Subseries 3, Subsubseries L); and children's artwork from Camp Wels (Series III, Subseries 2, Subsubseries H).
Only Series III (Austria) contains items dating from after 1951, to as late as 1959, all related to organizations in Vienna (e.g. the Association of Jewish University Students, the Jewish Community of Vienna, ORT), including posters found in >Series III, Subseries 1, and several supplemental files of small-format ephemera and miscellaneous correspondence, in Series III, Subseries 4. The only materials in the collection from before 1946 are a technical drawing related to Camp Feldafing (Item GER.98) and a supplemental file containing miscellaneous correspondence dated 1920 to 1926, addressed to the Jewish Agency in Vienna (Item AUS.301).
Please note that item numbers begin anew in each series, and reflect the posters' respective countries of origin, i.e. posters of Germany are numbered GER.1, GER.2, etc.; those of Italy are numbered ITA.1, ITA.2, etc.; and those of Austria are numbered AUS.1, AUS.2, etc. (Duplicate items are labeled with small letters following the item number, e.g. Item GER.2a is a duplicate of GER.2.)
Fifteen items in the collection are double-sided, i.e. the verso of an existing poster was evidently used to create a new poster, and the item thus represents two different posters in one. In these instances, the two sides of the item are each described as a separate poster but are assigned the same item number, with the addition of "r" (recto) or "v" (verso) to distinguish them. (The designation "double-sided" also appears in the physical descriptions.) The two sides are always listed in sequence according to the item number, recto followed by verso. Since it sometimes happens that one of the sides pertains to an organization or entity different from the heading under which the item has been placed, cross-references have been inserted as needed.
- 1920-1926, 1939, 1946-1959, undated
- Majority of material found within 1946-1952
Language of Materials
The collection is predominantly in Yiddish (approximately three-quarters), with some German and Hebrew, and scattered items in or using English, Romanian, Polish, Italian, Hungarian, Russian, French, or Aramaic.
The collection is open to the public. Permission to publish part or parts of the collection must be obtained in writing from the YIVO Archives.
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Following the end of the Second World War there were initially six to seven million persons living outside of their countries of origin, including approximately 50,000 Jews, who were accorded the status of "displaced persons" (DPs) by the Allied military authorities and the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). The military authorities immediately began setting up "assembly centers" – commonly known as DP camps – to house and care for these individuals, using whatever buildings were available, including former military barracks, schools, hospitals, and private residences. The majority of DPs were quickly repatriated, so that by September 1945 there remained in the Allied Zones of Germany, Austria, and Italy approximately one million DPs for whom repatriation was problematic, including many Jews. From fall 1945 through 1946 the Jewish DP population grew tremendously, primarily augmented by a large number of Polish Jews who had survived the war in the Soviet Union and initially returned to their former homes in Poland but, unable to reestablish themselves there (the pogrom in Kielce, Poland, on July 4, 1946 is the most infamous example of renewed anti-Semitism after the war), subsequently fled westward. Later there were also significant westward migrations of Romanian and Hungarian Jews. By some estimates a total of more than 250,000 Jewish DPs resided at some point in camps and centers in the Allied Zones of Germany, Austria, and Italy in the period from 1945 to 1952.
A report to President Truman by special envoy Earl G. Harrison, submitted on August 24, 1945, described poor conditions in the DP camps, and highlighted the particularly difficult situation of Jewish DPs, who until then had not been recognized as a group, since the authorities categorized DPs only according to nationality. For the sake of the safety and humane treatment of Jewish DPs the American military authorities subsequently designated certain DP centers as predominantly or exclusively Jewish, beginning with the Feldafing, Landsberg, and Föhrenwald camps (all in the vicinity of Munich, in Bavaria), and followed by scores of others. All-Jewish camps were also established in Austria and Italy.
The camps ran under the authority of the Allied military, who were responsible for security, the facilities, and the delivery of provisions, but oversight of daily operations within the camps fell to the UNRRA, and, later, its successor organization, the International Refugee Organization (IRO). Jewish voluntary organizations, including the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) and the World ORT Union, played a vital role in providing supplementary aid and services, including vocational training.
The prospects of Jewish DPs for emigration either to Palestine or the United States (the two most prominent possible destinations) were initially limited, and did not significantly improve until after the establishment of the state of Israel, in 1948 (the highly restrictive British policy on immigration to Palestine prior to then was the subject of debate and protest among the Jewish DP population). As a result, the transitional circumstances in which DPs lived in Germany, Austria, and Italy, had a long-term dimension. Within the framework of the camps and centers, the DPs created their own cultural and social milieus in which they first began to recover from traumatic experiences and to rebuild their lives for the future.
The Jewish DP population developed its own structures of self-government, with meetings of representatives of Jewish survivors first held in Germany shortly after liberation, in spring 1945. Central committees representing Jewish DPs in Germany were separately established in the American, British, and French Zones, respectively (early efforts at a united representation across the zones were unsuccessful). Other such committees of representatives were established in Austria and Italy as well. Jewish self-governing community structures also played an important role at the level of the individual camps.
The cultural and social life in the Jewish DP communities included schools, religious life, training programs, newspapers, lectures, theater, concerts, meetings, and protests. An array of local committees and organizations were typically active within individual camps, such as camp administrative and cultural committees; sports clubs; and Zionist, labor, or religious groups. Many memorial services and commemorations for victims of the Holocaust were also held, including landsmanshaft gatherings in remembrance of prewar Jewish communities of Eastern Europe. The Jewish DP communities also had significant relations and exchange with the Zionist leadership in Palestine, and, later, the young state of Israel.
With increased emigration beginning in 1948, the institutions of Jewish DP life began to disband and the various central committees representing Jewish DPs in Germany, Austria, and Italy were dissolved by the end of 1950. Almost all of the DP camps in all three countries were closed by 1952. The last DP camp to remain open was Föhrenwald, in Germany, which finally closed in 1957.
10 Linear Feet (1006 items + 18 supplemental files)
This collection of posters includes approximately 1,000 rare or unique items pertaining to over 100 displaced persons (DP) camps and centers in Germany, Austria, and Italy, dating primarily from 1946 to 1952. Comprised of approximately 60% handpainted and 40% printed items, it includes posters produced by diverse Jewish groups within individual camps, such as administrative and cultural committees, sports clubs, Zionist and religious groups, and landsmanshaftn; as well as organizations active throughout the camps, including the Jewish central committees in the respective countries, the World ORT Union, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish National Fund, and the Jewish Agency. A small number of items also document activities of the revived Jewish communities in the city centers of Munich and Vienna. Many of the posters use not only language but also color, graphic design, and pictorial and figurative elements to engage their audience with calls to entertainment, lectures, protests, and commemorations.
The collection is arranged in three series, corresponding to the three YIVO collections from which the posters were drawn, namely, RG 294.2, RG 294.3, and RG 294.4, containing the records of DP camps and centers in Germany, Italy, and Austria, respectively. Within each series, the posters are grouped according to the entity responsible for their creation. The specific arrangement of those entities into subseries reflects the series structure found in each corresponding collection of records, with all of the headings given in the same sequence as in the records, even when the poster collection does not contain any material relating to a particular heading. For that reason, some subseries in the collection are empty. For example, the posters from Austria (Series III), are arranged in four subseries, corresponding to the four series found in RG 294.4 (Records of the Displaced Person Camps and Centers in Austria); since there are no posters corresponding to the third heading, "U.S. Army, UNRRA, IRO," that subseries is labeled "subseries not used."
In all three series the following three major groupings of items can typically be distinguished: 1) the Jewish Central Committee in the respective country; 2) individual DP camps, arranged alphabetically by camp name; and 3) organizations that operated throughout the camps, often arranged alphabetically by name of organization. An exception to this pattern in the case of Germany is that besides the alphabetically-sequenced grouping for camps in the American Zone, there are two separate small subseries toward the end related to camps in the British Zone (Bergen-Belsen) and in Berlin (Schlachtensee, in the American Zone). The arrangement for Austria (Series III) is slightly different: in that case, the first subseries, devoted to organizations, includes the Jewish Central Committee, integrated with the others in alphabetical sequence; and the individual camps follow in the second subseries. In all three series, items of a miscellaneous nature, or of unidentified provenance, and/or supplemental files of small-format ephemera and correspondence, are found at the end.
The title for each individual poster in the inventory list below is first provided in English, with a title in the poster's original language and script following in parentheses. The English title is used for alphabetization. Most English titles are direct translations of poster text, or paraphrases incorporating translations of key words and phrases; for posters with limited or unclear text, a descriptive title was constructed. The notes following each poster listing provide additional details, including language information, dimensions (height x width), poster material, and method of creation (handpainted, printed, etc.).
The placement of individual items is sometimes ambiguous. For instance, items pertaining to events at specific DP camps that also represent the activities of larger organizations (e.g. Jewish National Fund; Poale Zion) have typically been placed under the heading for the camp, rather than the organization. In the case of items relating to events co-sponsored by two or more groups, the item has simply been placed under the heading for one of the named entities, and a note about the other(s) included in the description.
- Series I: Germany, 1939, 1946-1951 (381 items + 5 supplemental files)
- Subseries 1: Central Committee of the Liberated Jews in the American Zone, 1946-1951 (13 items)
- Subseries 2: Displaced Persons Camps and Centers A-E, 1946-1947, undated (20 items)
- Subseries 3: Feldafing Camp, 1939, 1945-1950 (68 items)
- Subseries 4: Föhrenwald Camp, 1947-1949, undated (61 items)
- Subseries 5: Displaced Persons Camps and Centers, L-Z, 1947-1949, undated (20 items)
- Subseries 6: Union of the Employees of the Central Committee, 1947 (1 item)
- Subseries 6: Subseries not used (see Subseries 3, Feldafing Camp, Item GER.87)
- Subseries 8: Union of Jewish Students, 1949 (1 item)
- Subseries 9: Landsmanshaftn, 1948 (1 item)
- Subseries 10: Jewish Actors Union, 1948 (2 items)
- Subseries 11: Various DP unions. Subseries not used.
- Subseries 12: Zionist parties/organizations, 1946-1949 (41 items)
- Subseries 13: ORT (World ORT Union), 1947, undated (2 items)
- Subseries 14: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC), 1946, 1948 (3 items)
- Subseries 15: Various organizations, 1946-1950, undated (107 items)
- Subseries 16: Miscellaneous/unidentified printed matter, 1946-1950, undated (24 items)
- Subseries 17: British Zone (Central Jewish Committee, Bergen-Belsen), 1947 (1 item)
- Subseries 18: Berlin – Western Zones: Schlachtensee Displaced Persons Camp (Düppel Center), 1947-1948, undated (15 items)
- Subseries 19: Supplemental files, 1946-1950 (1 item and 5 supplemental files)
- Series II: Italy, 1946-1948, undated (326 items)
- Subseries 1: Central Committee of the Organization of Jewish Refugees in Italy, 1946-1948, undated (18 items)
- Subseries 2: Department of Statistics. Subseries not used.
- Subseries 3: Central Court. Subseries not used.
- Subseries 4: Central Committee – Cultural Department, 1948, undated (23 items)
- Subseries 5: Displaced Persons Camps and Centers, 1946-1948, undated (234 items)
- Subseries 6: Organizations, 1946-1948, undated (44 items)
- Subseries 7: Landsmanshaftn, 1946 (1 item)
- Subseries 8: Miscellaneous materials, circa 1947, undated (6 items)
- Series III: Austria, 1920-1926, 1946-1959, undated (299 items + 13 supplemental files)
- Subseries 1: Organizations, 1946-1959 (191 items)
- Subseries 2: Displaced Persons Camps, 1946-1948, undated (90 items)
- Subseries 3: U.S. Army, UNRRA, IRO. Subseries not used (see under Camp Ebelsberg, Item AUS.248)
- Subseries 4: Miscellaneous/unidentified, 1920-1926, 1947-1958, undated (18 items + 13 supplemental files)
The posters and supplemental files in this collection were received together with the records of displaced persons camps and centers in Germany, Italy, and Austria, in the course of a wide collection project begun by YIVO in Europe in 1945. The aim of the project was to locate and collect archival materials on the Holocaust and the post-war years of Jewish revival in Europe. The history of the Jewish displaced persons figured prominently in this project. Specifically, the records of DP camps and centers in Germany (RG 294.2) were received between 1946 and 1954; those of camps and centers in Italy (RG 294.3), between 1946 and 1950; and those of camps and centers in Austria (RG 294.4), between 1946 and 1960.
The collection has been digitized and made available in its entirety.
During the present processing the posters were sorted and arranged according to the arrangement schemes found in the corresponding collections of records of the DP camps and centers; and placed in new acid-free folders, interleaved with tissue paper. Many items subsequently received conservation treatment.
- American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
- Cremona (Italy)
- Emigration and immigration
- Feldafing (Displaced persons camp)
- Föhrenwald (Displaced persons camp)
- Germany (West)
- Holocaust survivors
- Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)
- International Refugee Organization
- Jewish Agency for Palestine
- Jewish National Fund
- Jewish refugees
- Jews -- Austria
- Jews -- Germany
- Jews -- Italy
- Linz (Austria)
- Milan (Italy)
- Munich (Germany)
- Organizzazione del prefughi ebrei in Italia
- Paintings (visual works)
- Palestine -- Emigration and immigration
- Printed ephemera
- Refugee camps
- Revisionist Zionism
- Rome (Italy)
- Salzburg (Austria)
- Trani (Italy)
- United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration
- Vienna (Austria)
- World ORT Union
- World Socialist Union of Jewish Workers--Po'alei Zion
- YIVO Archives
- Guide to the Displaced Persons Camps and Centers Poster Collection 1920-1926, 1939, 1946-1959, undated (bulk 1946-1952) RG 294.6
- Initially processed by YIVO archivists / Additional processing by Vital Zajka; additional processing completed and finding aid compiled and encoded by Violet Lutz
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Description is in English.
- Processing made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany. Digitization made possible by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany.
- June 2015: digitization information and dao links for Series I: Germany added by Leanora Lange.
- July 2015: dao links for Series II: Italy folders 1-16 added by Leanora Lange.
- March 2016: dao links for Series II: Italy folders 17-23 and Series III: Austria folders 1-9 added by Leanora Lange.
- May 2016: dao links for posters Series III: Austria folders 10-35 added, digitization information updated by Leanora Lange.