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Guide to the Records of the Displaced Person Camps and Centers in Germany

 Collection
Identifier: RG 294.2

Scope and Content Note

This record group is a major resource on the history of the Jewish displaced persons in the post World War II period. While it covers a wide range of aspects of the DP situation in Germany, it is most distinctly related to the reconstruction of Jewish life after the Holocaust and the preparation of the survivors for their new destinations. It also contains the records of local courts, which both handled accusations arising from the war years and administered marriages and the naming of children in the DP camps, mediating in this way between the past and the future.

Series I includes the materials generated by the Central Committee and its constituent departments as well as of the Central Court of Honor. The story of the founding of the Jewish DP administration and its rapid development is especially well documented in these files.

Series II through Series V include the records of 43 local DP centers such as camps, open communities and regional committees. The arrangement is alphabetical by the center's name. The contents and quantity of each center's files vary widely, from just a few items to an extensive archive. By far the largest in the latter category are the records of Camp Feldafing (Series III). Comprising almost 300 folders, these materials give a detailed picture of a Jewish DP camp, its administration, economy, cultural life and political activities. Another large camp archive is that of Camp Foehrenwald (Series IV). It includes about 170 files of the camp's court of honor, a resource for studying the self-imposed code of law and the perception of justice among the camp population. Substantial quantities of records exist also for camps Lampertheim, Landsberg, Rochelle, Schwabach, and in the British zone, Bergen-Belsen.

Series VI through Series XII include files of professional, social, cultural and political organizations that were established by the DPs in the American zone. These are largely records of professional unions and associations whose main concern were living conditions, health care matters and personal welfare of their members. Political groups, mainly Zionist parties, are represented to a much lesser extent in these files.

Series XIII through Series XIV include records of ORT and AJDC (American Joint Distribution Committee) offices in the American zone.

Series XV through Series XIX include the materials of the Central Jewish Committee for the British zone in Bergen-Belsen and files on Jewish DPs in the French zone and in Berlin.

Dates

  • 1945-1952
  • 1945-1952

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is in Yiddish, German, English, and Hebrew, in order of prevalence. Some Yiddish items are printed in Latin characters.

Access Restrictions

Permission to use the collection must be obtained from the YIVO Archivist.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish part or parts of the collection must be obtained from the YIVO Archives. For more information, contact:

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011

Email: archives@yivo.cjh.org

Historical Note

The displaced persons camps and centers in Germany came into existence in 1945 as a result of the liberation of masses of inmates from the Nazi concentration camps and forced labor units. The term "Displaced Person" (and its acronym "DP") was used by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and by the Allied military commands to describe the persecutees driven by the Nazis from their native countries into Germany and Austria. Of the nearly 6,000,000 DPs who at the end of the war were found in Central Europe, there were only about 50,000 Jewish survivors. But while most of the DPs were being repatriated at a rapid pace, the Jewish survivors from Eastern Europe did not want to return to their countries of origin and demanded that they be allowed to emigrate to Palestine. A report to President Truman by his special envoy Earl G. Harrison submitted on August 1, 1945 supported the assertion that the Jewish DPs were non-repatriable, that they should be considered as Jews rather than nationals of their native countries and that 100,000 immigration certificates to Palestine should be provided for them through the Jewish Agency. These recommendations were accepted by the military government in the American zone where there was the highest concentration of Jewish DPs and as a result, separate camps and centers were set up by UNRRA for the Jews (although the first Jewish DP camp, in Feldafing, was organized prior to the Harrison report).

At the same time the Jewish DP population began to grow quickly as a result of the flight of Jewish survivors from Poland which continued through 1946 and became especially intensive after the pogrom in Kielce (July 4, 1946). Also, in the spring of 1947 some 20,000 Rumanian Jews took refuge in Austria and Germany. This infiltration of refugees from Eastern Europe brought the total number of Jewish DPs to 184,000 in February of 1947.

The American authorities recognized the need to receive the refugees and establish for them a "temporary haven" in the American zone. This policy was in force until April 12, 1947 when any further infiltration by the refugees into the American zone was barred by the military. The British zone was closed off to the refugees much earlier, on December 5, 1945.

The establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948, aided by the introduction in the U.S. of the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 brought about the solution to the DP problem. By 1951 a great majority of Jewish DPs had emigrated to Israel and to the U.S. The last of the DP camps was closed in 1953.

Faced with the post-war chaos and uncertain of their future, the Jewish DPs began organizing themselves soon after the liberation. The very first meetings of the representatives of Jewish survivors in the American zone were held as early as June 24, 1945 at the Flak-Kaserne in Munich and on June 1, 1945 in the Feldafing camp. Instrumental in organizing these meetings were Abraham Klausner, a chaplain of the U.S. Army, and the members of the Jewish Brigade who arrived from Italy for the express purpose of contacting survivors. These initial contacts led to the conference in St. Ottilien which opened on July 25 with the participation of 94 delegates from all over Germany. The conference elected the Central Committee of the Liberated Jews in Bavaria, but it did not succeed in establishing one representation for all survivors in Germany. Separate committees of survivors were organized in the British and French zones.

On January 27, 1946 the first Congress of Shearit-Ha-Pleita was opened in Munich. The Congress elected a new Central Committee of Liberated Jews in the American zone of Germany.

In the following years two more congresses of the survivors were held. The second congress took place in Bad Reichenhall on February 25, 1947. The third congress, again in Bad Reichenhalll convened on March 30, 1948. Each congress elected a new Central Committee and a Council. The task of the Council was that of determining policy directions. The Central Committee was headed by the chairman, the vice-chairman, and the general secretary. These functionaries, along with four other Central Committee members comprised the Presidium. This group was in charge of all daily operations of the Central Committee. The first chairman of the Central Committee was Zvi Grinberg. Upon his departure for Israel in 1946, David Treger took over the post and remained at it until 1949. Pesakh Piekatch was the last chairman presiding over the period of dissolution of the DP camps and liquidation of the Central Committee. Among other members of the Central Committee were: Jacob Olejski, Abram Blumovitch, Boris Pliskin, J. Ratner, H. Eife, Avram Melamed, M. Chwoinik, C. Fefer, S. Schlamovitch, Rabbi Samuel A. Snieg, Sultanek. The first chairman of the Council was Dr. Samuel Gringauz; he was replaced in 1947 by R. Rubenstein.

The Central Committee was officially recognized by the U.S. military authorities in the summer of 1946. In the letter of recognition dated September 7, 1946 the U.S. Army Commanding General Joseph T. McNarney specified the committee's functions as:

"...a. Operational: On a zone level, the Central Committee may function within its available resources, in those welfare activities which are supplementary to the operations of the army, UNRRA and its associated voluntary agencies, which are in accord with the general policy of the Military and UNRRA in regard to the care of displaced persons, and which are approved by the official Liaison Officer.

b. Consultative: The Central Committee may furnish the army and establish welfare agencies, advise on the specific needs of the Jewish Displaced Persons and shall in turn insure that the official interpretation of the policies of the military authorities are transmitted to the group it represents

c. Representative: The Central Committee may act on behalf of those Jewish Displaced Persons whom it represents in an advisory capacity to the military authorities in the American zone, as the ultimate solutions of their problems of rehabilitation and resettlement. This advice will normally be presented through the Liaison Officer."

The Central Committee was rapidly developing into a sprawling bureaucracy with a complex organizational structure of departments and offices. In 1948 it employed about 1000 persons in its own departments and in various institutions that it maintained. It exerted control in the camps and communities through regional and local committees which were organized in a similar manner to the Central Committee.

In addition, a multitude of political, cultural, educational and professional organizations were active among the DPs contributing to a sense of an organized community, if only in transition. There were schools, professional unions, political parties of various persuasions, religious groups, theaters and writers' unions. These groups produced ad hoc publications, made election posters, issued and collected tickets and kept track of their libraries.

The Central Committee was dissolved in 1950, at the time when all of the camps and centers in the American zone had closed down.

The Jewish self-government in the British zone was the first to be established by the Jewish DPs in Central Europe. The first Jewish DP committee was organized by the inmates of Bergen-Belsen on April 17, just two days after the liberation of the camp. Joseph Rosenzaft was named the chairman. Several weeks later an expanded Central Jewish Committee was established which represented not just the Bergen-Belsen camp but also other Jewish DP centers in the British zone. The survivors of this zone held their first Congress of Liberated Jews on September 25-27, 1945 in Bergen-Belsen. The second Congress of the Survivors was held on July 20-23, 1947 in Bad Harzburg.

The Bergen-Belsen camp was closed in September 1950. The last DPs to emigrate from the British zone departed on August 15, 1951.

The Jewish DPs in the French zone were represented by the Comité Central des Juifs Libérés in Constance. Its secretary general was M. Gerstenfeld. The Jewish DP group in the French zone was the smallest of all zones comprising in 1947 some 1800 persons.

Until 1947 UNRRA was the officially designated administrator of the DP program. In 1947 the International Refugee Organization (IRO, PCIRO) took over the task of caring for the DPs and assisting them with the emigration process. On the Jewish side, the American Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish Agency, the World Jewish Congress and ORT (Organization for Rehabilitation and Training) contributed their shares to the maintenance of the camps and subsequent dispersion of the DPs through emigration.

Extent

52.92 Linear Feet

52.92 Linear Feet

Overview

These records detail the history of the displaced person camps in Germany, primarily in the American zone. They include the records of the individual camps as well as political and cultural groups that operated within the camps. The collection primarily consists of administrative records such as reports, correspondence, and lists as well as cultural materials from political, theatrical, and literary groups. There are also a large number of records of court proceedings, centering on accounting for actions taken during the Holocaust as well as the formation of new families in the DP camps.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged with the records of the umbrella administration the Central Committee of Liberated Jews in the American zoneat the beginning, followed by materials generated by the individual camps. Following that are materials produced by the organizations that operated throughout the DP camps. Various materials and addenda appear at the end, as well as materials related to German DP camps in the British and French zones.

Within each organization, the materials tend be arranged by subject in order of importance. For example, in the subseries devoted to individual camps, the administrative materials for each camp appear at the beginning, while the court records appear at the end. Detailed scope notes often offer specific information on individuals' names or the dating of individual documents. Keyword search will be a powerful tool in navigating this document.
  1. Series I: Central Committee of Liberated Jews in the American zone, 1945-1950
  2. Subseries 1: Congresses, 1946-1948
  3. Subseries 2: Presidium of the Central Committee, 1945-1950
  4. Subseries 3: Organization Department, 1945-1950
  5. Subseries 4: Personnel Department, 1945-1950
  6. Subseries 5: Central Audit Commission, 1946-1950
  7. Subseries 6: Cultural Department, 1945-1949
  8. Subseries 7: Central Historical Commission, 1945-1947
  9. Subseries 8: Various Departments, 1946-1950
  10. Subseries 9: Central Court of Honor, 1946-1948
  11. Subseries 10: Legal Department, 1945-1950
  12. Series II: Camps and Centers A-E, 1945-1948
  13. Subseries 1: Amberg, community, 1947-1948
  14. Subseries 2: Augsburg, community, 1945-1946
  15. Subseries 3: Bad Reichenhall, camp, 1948
  16. Subseries 4: Bamberg, 1946-1948
  17. Subseries 5: Berchtesgaden, rest home, 1947
  18. Subseries 6: Deggendorf, camp, 1945-1946
  19. Subseries 7: Eggenfelden, camp, 1946
  20. Subseries 8: Eschwege, camp, 1947-1948
  21. Series III: Camp Feldafing, 1944-1949
  22. Subseries 1: Presidium and Camp Administration, 1945-1949
  23. Subseries 2: Housing Office, 1946-1948
  24. Subseries 3: Provisioning Office, 1946-1949
  25. Subseries 4: Economic Office, 1946-1948
  26. Subseries 5: Clothing Office, 1945-1949
  27. Subseries 6: Employment Office, 1946-1948
  28. Subseries 7: Sanitation and Health Care Office, 1946-1948
  29. Subseries 8: Cultural Commission, 1946-1949
  30. Subseries 9: Religious Office, 1946-1948
  31. Subseries 10: Audit Commission, 1946-1948
  32. Subseries 11: Camp Police, 1946-1948
  33. Subseries 12: Various Offices, 1945-1948
  34. Subseries 13: Organizations and Individuals, 1944-1949
  35. Subseries 14: Camp Court, 1945-1948
  36. Series IV: Camp Foehrenwald, 1945-1955
  37. Subseries 1: Camp Committee, 1945-1950
  38. Subseries 2: Registration Office, 1945-1951
  39. Subseries 3: Sanitation and Health Care Office, 1945-1955
  40. Subseries 4: Finance Office, 1947-1950
  41. Subseries 5: Miscellaneous, 1945-1954
  42. Subseries 6: Camp Court, 1945-1948
  43. Series V: Camps and Centers F-Z, 1945-1950
  44. Subseries 1: Frankfurt, community and camp, 1946-1948
  45. Subseries 2: Fritzlar, camp, 1947-1948
  46. Subseries 3: Fulda, community, 1945-1948
  47. Subseries 4: Gauting, hospital, 1947-1948
  48. Subseries 5: Giebelstadt, camp, 1948-1949
  49. Subseries 6: Gersfeld, community, 1946-1949
  50. Subseries 7: Hasenecke, camp, 1946-1948
  51. Subseries 8: Heidelberg, community, 1948
  52. Subseries 9: Heidenheim, camp, 1947-1948
  53. Subseries 10: Hofgeismar, camp, 1946-1947
  54. Subseries 11: Kassel, region, 1947-1949
  55. Subseries 12: Krailing-Planegg, community, 1947-1948
  56. Subseries 13: Lampertheim, camp, 1946-1948
  57. Subseries 14: Landau, community, 1945-1949
  58. Subseries 15: Landsberg, camp, undated, 1948
  59. Subseries 16: Munich, region, 1947-1948
  60. Subseries 17: Neu-Freiman, camp, 1946-1949
  61. Subseries 18: Neu-Ulm, camp, 1947-1948
  62. Subseries 19: Plattling, community, 1947
  63. Subseries 20: Pocking Waldstadt, camp, undated
  64. Subseries 21: Poppendorf, camp, undated
  65. Subseries 22: Regensburg, region, 1947-1949
  66. Subseries 23: Rochelle, camp, 1947-1949
  67. Subseries 24: Schwabach, community, 1946-1949
  68. Subseries 25: Schwabach, region, 1946-1949
  69. Subseries 26: Schwaebisch Hall, camp, 1946-1949
  70. Subseries 27: Straubing, community, 1945
  71. Subseries 28: Stuttgart, region, 1946-1950
  72. Subseries 29: Tirschenreuth, camp, 1946
  73. Subseries 30: Vilseck, camp, 1947-1948
  74. Subseries 31: Wetzlar, camp, 1946-1948
  75. Subseries 32: Windsheim, camp, 1946-1948
  76. Subseries 33: Zeilsheim, camp, 1946-1947
  77. Subseries 34: Ziegenhain, camp, 1946-1947
  78. Subseries 35: Various camps, 1945-1948
  79. Series VI: Union of Employees of the Central Committee, 1946-1950
  80. Series VII: Union of Invalids, 1946-1954
  81. Series VIII: Unions of Jewish Students, 1945-1953
  82. Subseries 1: Union of Jewish Students in the American zone, 1945-1950
  83. Subseries 2: Union of Jewish Students in Munich, 1946-1953
  84. Series IX: Landsmanshaftn, undated, 1947-1948
  85. Series X: Jewish Actors Union, undated, 1945-1950
  86. Series XI: Various DP Unions, undated, 1946-1949
  87. Series XII: Zionist Parties, undated, 1947-1949
  88. Series XIII: ORT, 1946-1952
  89. Series XIV: AJDC, 1945-1952
  90. Series XV: Various organizations (addenda), undated, 1945-1949
  91. Series XVI: Various printed matter, undated
  92. Series XVII: British zone (Central Jewish Committee, Bergen-Belsen), 1945-1948
  93. Series XVIII: Berlin, French zone, 1945-1949
  94. Series XIX: Addenda to Various Series, 1946-1949

Acquisition Information

The records of the DP centers in Germany were received in YIVO from various donors between the years 1946 and 1954. In 1963 a separate record group was formed of these materials and a preliminary inventory was compiled by Zosa Szajkowski. The arrangement of the records and preparation of the finding aid were completed by Marek Web in 1986.

These records were gathered as a result of a wide collection project that was 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 war-ravaged Europe. The history of the Jewish displaced persons figured prominently in this project.

In the beginning YIVO issued appeals to the DPs in the camps and centers and organized voluntary committees of YIVO friends to stimulate the gathering of relevant materials. In 1948, a special YIVO representative was appointed to direct the collection activities and secure for YIVO the records of the DP institutions. This post was occupied by Mordecai Bernstein, who between the years 1948 - 1952 arranged the transfer to YIVO of the bulk of DP records from Germany. A total of 603 parcels containing documents, microfilms and books were received as a result of his efforts.

Microfilm

The microfilm (MK 483) was prepared in July 1966 by the YIVO Archives at the request of the Ha'apala Projects in Israel and a complete copy thereof was deposited in the Institute for Zionist Research of Tel Aviv University in Tel Aviv.

This finding aid provides access both to the original records and the microfilm. In the contents list, the description of the materials corresponds to both a folder number and the microfilm number. Of the microfilm number, the first number corresponds to the film roll, while the second number indicates the frame where the folder begins on a given roll. Frames on each roll are numbered consecutively from 1 to the end of the roll.

Related Material

This collection is part of a series which includes the Papers of Leo W. Schwartz, RG 294.1, the Records of the DP Camps of Italy, RG 294.3, and the Records of the DP Camps of Austria, RG 294.4. RG 294.5 is a collection of photographs that depicts daily life and major events in over seventy localities. There are extensive files of photographs on Bergen-Belsen, Berlin, Feldafing, Landsberg, Munich, and Stuttgart.

YIVO and its partners at the Center for Jewish History have extensive collections relating to displaced persons, which can be found by searching the catalog.

Processing Information

The record group is a conglomerate of files whose provenance is varied. The majority of the files originated in various DP institutions which made it possible to group the files in series according to the provenance and to impose on the entire collection an overall order resembling the internal organization of the DP camps in Germany.

Establishing the origin of a file was often made difficult by lack of file titles or other identification. The organizational framework of the DP institutions was characterized by many changes, especially from 1948 onward. A number of folders within a series overlap in time as well as in subject but they were left intact in order to document the function these papers were supposed to serve. Equally, items which were received in small numbers from miscellaneous donors were not interfiled with files of same or similar subject but assembled in separate series to indicate their different origin.

When this collection was first processed, a Yiddish finding aid was drawn up and folder numbers assigned. When it was reprocessed for microfilm in 1989, new numbers were assigned and the current English folder descriptions were created. A concordance between the old and new folder numbers is available in the collection's authority file.
Title
Guide to the Records of the Displaced Person Camps and Centers in Germany 1945-1952 RG 294.2
Status
In Progress
Author
Processed by Marek Web in 1986. Additional processing and EAD encoding by Sarah Ponichtera in 2014.
Date
©2014
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Sponsor
Processing made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany.

Repository Details

Part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States