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

 Collection
Identifier: RG 294.4

Scope and Content Note

This record group serves as a major resource on the history of the Jewish displaced persons after World War II. The reconstruction of Jewish life after the Holocaust, the survivors’ aspirations toward new lives and homes, and the strong role played by the various facets of the Zionist movement in the lives of the refugees, are represented in this collection of documents from the DP camps in Austria.

Series I includes the files of Jewish organizations which functioned in Vienna during the post-war period. The records of the Israelitische Kultus Gemeinde, the Central Committee of Liberated Jews in Upper Austria, the International Committee for Jewish Concentration Camp Inmates and Refugees (ICK-Z), and the AJDC reflect the varied roles they played for the DP community. Materials include announcements, invitations, identity documents, correspondence, lists, minutes and reports. The files of schools, student organizations, Zionist parties and the rabbinate provide important documentation of the development of Jewish DP life in Austria.

Series II comprises the records of individual DP camps in the American Zone of Austria, particularly those near Linz and Salzburg. The camps with the most substantial groupings of materials include Bad Ischel, Enns, Steyr, and Wegscheid (Tyler). Correspondence, daily announcements, lists of residents, records of ration distribution, court records, and minutes of meetings held in the camps are all well represented in these materials. Identity records also comprise a significant portion of these records.

Series III contains materials of the U.S. Army, UNRRA and IRO pertaining to the daily operations of the DP camps, including regulations, memos, reports and statistical materials.

Series IV consists of miscellaneous materials such as the personal papers and documents of displaced persons in Vienna and the camps (arranged alphabetically); articles in manuscript form pertaining to contemporary events which were probably written for various DP publications; memorabilia such as photographs and ID cards; and reparation documents.

Dates

  • 1938-1960
  • Majority of material found within 1945-1950

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is in Yiddish, German, English, Hebrew, and Polish 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

After the liberation of Vienna in April 1945, there were 17,000 Jews in the city, most of whom were Hungarian Jews or other refugees. Between 1945 and 1952, their numbers were augmented by other Jewish displaced persons, whose needs were met by the displaced persons (DP) camps administered by the U.S. Army, the Central Committee of Liberated Jews, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (UNRRA), and later the International Refugee Organization (IRO).

Austria and Vienna were divided into American, British, French, and Russian zones. Vienna had an international sector as well. As elsewhere in liberated Europe, Jewish refugees gravitated towards the U.S. Zone, regarding it as a more desirable haven than the territories of the other occupation forces. A transient population, the Jewish DPs looked towards the American Army for services and protection, rather than towards the Austrian government.

Until 1948, when the occupation forces turned over camp administration to the PCIRO, the international agency that filled the gap between the demise of the UNRRA in 1947 and the resumption of aid by the IRO in 1948, the Jewish DP camps in Austria operated largely under the aegis of the U.S. military. The Austrian DP camps were also administered by the Central Committee of Liberated Jews. Affiliated with the World Jewish Congress, the Central Committee had its headquarters in Salzburg, and by 1948, represented approximately 25,000 Jewish DPs concentrated in twelve camps in Salzburg, Linz, Ebelsberg, Saafelden, Puch, Hallein, Wegscheid, Wels and Enns. Consisting of a secretariat and ten departments (Economic, Cultural, Educational, Financial, Emigration, Religious, Medical, Social Welfare, and Political and Legal, which included Press and Information), the Central Committee also published the most widely-read periodical in the U.S. Zone, the Bulletin.

From the start, the Jewish DPs in Austria, and the agencies which provided for their needs, were beset with challenges and problems. There were constant wrangles between the camp administrators and the Austrian authorities over facilities which the government sought to requisition for needy Austrians. There were also recurrent tensions with the local Austrians.1 The resources of the DP camps themselves, intended only as short-term housing, were continually strained as famine and anti-Jewish persecution in Poland, Romania, and Hungary caused new influxes of Jewish refugees to pour into Austria’s U.S. Zone. One of the challenges facing many DPs was the lack of identity documents so they could emigrate. The DP camps took on the responsibility for producing and certifying documents attesting to DPs' identities, marriages, and births. By the end of May 1946, there were 15,000 Jewish DPs in Austria, many of whom had fled Hungary and Romania, and then had been allowed by the Soviets to cross the Russian Zone to reach the American sector in Vienna. Most of these were temporarily placed in assembly centers, rather than regular DP camps, and soon sent on to longer-term accommodations in the American zones in Austria and Germany. When pogroms in Kielce and other cities in Poland in the summer of 1946 caused a rise in the number of refugees, the commander of the U.S. forces in Austria raised the quota of Jewish DPs in the U.S. Zone from 5,000 to 30,000.

The U.S. “Freeze Order” of April 21, 1947 left the frontiers open, but prevented DPs who entered the U.S. zones after that from receiving assistance from the Army or the IRO. Hit particularly hard were 19,434 Romanian Jews who had fled Russian-annexed Bukovina and Bessarabia to enter the U.S. Zone in Vienna. Bound for Israel, some of the Romanian DPs passed quickly through to Vienna to DP camps in Germany. Others were provided for in Austrian U.S. Zone camps. The burden for their care fell entirely upon the shoulders of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, until August 17, 1947, when the Austrian government took over the task of provided them with the basic food ration. By the end of 1947, there were 20,133 Jewish DPs in the U.S. Zone in Austria.

The AJDC also instituted work projects, medical program, and a school systems in the camps. By 1947, there were thirty AJDC elementary schools, and a kindergarten in every Jewish DP camp. The language of instruction was Hebrew, and the educational focus was on Israel. The AJDC also aided 250 Jewish DPs who attended university in the U.S. zone, and served, along with the Jewish Agency,a nd the Central Committee of Liberated Jews on the Board of Education and Culture for Jewish DPs in Austria. There were also, by mid-1948, thirteen ORT vocational schools in existence in Austria. By October 1947, 2,644 Jewish DPs were employed in AJDC sewing shops, carpentries, bakeries, or as locksmiths, camp and shoemakers, and electricians. A certain number of Jewish DPs were also employed as physicians, schoolteachers, and policemen in camps.

By 1949, stricter border controls in Romania and Hungary resulted in a reduction of the flow of immigrants into the U.S. Zone in Austria. Emigration, mainly to Israel, had also played a role in reducing the number of Jewish DPs there. By mid-year, there were only seven Jewish DP camps in Austria. The number of camps had dropped to six by June 1950. 1950 marked the end of a number of DP activities and institutions in the U.S. Zone. All DP Zionist parties ceased to function, and the number of ORT schools was reduced to three. The Office of the Advisor on Jewish Affairs to the U.S. Military was discontinued on January 30, and the Central Committee of Liberated Jews resolved to cease its activities on October 1, 1950. By mid-1952, only three DP camps were left in Austria. These three camps in Vienna, Salzburg and Linz contained the remaining difficult cases ineligible for emigration because of medical infirmities and lack of skills. At the beginning of 1952, the IRO began to wind down its aid activities, and until their closing, the few remaining camps were supported by the Austrian government with supplementary aid from the AJDC.

Footnotes

1For example, Austrians frequently blamed Jewish DPs for blackmarket profiteering. See Abraham S. Hyman, "Displaced Persons," American Jewish Yearbook 1950, American Jewish Committee, Vol. 51 (1950): 455-472. Article Stable URL: http://www.ajcarchives.org/AJC_DATA/Files/Vol_51__1950.pdf

Extent

14 Linear Feet

Overview

These records detail the history of the displaced person camps in the American zone in Austria. 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, vocational, and cultural groups, as well as personal papers. There are also records of the U.S. Army, UNRRA, and IRO’s actions in the camps.

Acquisition Information

The records of the DP centers in Austria were received by YIVO between the years 1946 and 1950. These records were gathered as a result of a wide collection project that was started by YIVO 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 experience of the Jewish Displaced Persons figured prominently in this project. YIVO issued appeals to the DPs in the camps and centers, and organized voluntary committees of YIVO friends to coordinate the gathering of relevant materials, which were forwarded to YIVO in New York. Among the most active of the YIVO correspondence in Austria were Josef Fuksman, Maurycy Rubin, Kurt Weigel and Mordkhe Shaechtel.

Microfilm

The microfilm (MK 492) 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.

Some of the files of the ICK0Z’s Rothchild Hospital are of a confidential medical nature and have therefore not been microfilmed.

Related Material

This collection is part of a record group that includes the Records of the Displaced Persons Camps and Centers in Germany (RG 294.2), the Records of the DP Camps of Italy (RG 294.3), and the Papers of Leo W. Schwartz (RG 294.1). RG 294.5 is a collection of photographs that depicts daily life and major events in DP camps in Germany, Austria and Italy.

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.

Separated Material

Posters originating from the Austrian DP camps are catalogued separately, in the DP Posters Collection (RG 294).

Processing Information

A preliminary inventory was compiled by Zosa Szajkowski, and the arrangement of the records was completed by Solomon Rabinowitz in 1986. A first finding aid was prepared by Solomon Rabinowitz and Roby Newman. The files were grouped into series at YIVO according to the best determination of provenance and the objective of imposing on the entire collection an overall order resembling the internal organization of the Jewish community in Austria.
Title
Guide to the Records of the Displaced Person Camps and Centers in Austria 1938-1960 (bulk 1945-1950) RG 294.4
Status
In Progress
Author
Processed by Zosa Szajkowski between 1946 and 1950 and by Solomon Rabinowitz and Roby Newman in 1987. 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
Described and encoded as part of the CJH Holocaust Resource Initiative, made possible by 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