DP Camps

Allied authorities created Displaced Person Camps, also called DP camps, following the liberation of concentration and death camps. Located across Austria, Italy, and Allied-occupied Western Germany, these camps housed more than 250,000 Jews recently released from imprisonment.


Residents lived in harsh conditions for the first few months, as DP camps were often located in the very same concentration camps the prisoners had just been liberated from and resources in the postwar world were scarce. Conditions improved in August 1945 after Allied authorities allowed Jews more freedom to manage their own affairs inside the DP camps.

Individual DP Camp file for Sam Pivnik, with photo and fingerprints, 1946.
Individual DP Camp file for Sam Pivnik, with photo and fingerprints, 1946.


With few other options, many former survivors began creating new lives in DP camps. They searched for other surviving family members, broadcasting information via newspaper and radio in an attempt to locate their loved ones. The International Tracing Service (ITS) helped them in this task by gathering information about missing persons. People in DP  camps established schools, theater, musical troupes, and clubs. Many Jews married and had children in the DP camps.


The number of DP camps rose substantially between 1946 and 1947, shifting international attention to the Allied powers and creating pressure to invent a more permanent home for Holocaust survivors. Many survivors joined the Zionist movement, a political affiliation that encouraged the return to the Jewish homeland in Palestine, which was then controlled by Britain (see also Ella Liebermann-Shiber’s story). Mass protests against British policy became common occurrences in the DP camps as Zionists hoped for an independent Jewish State of Israel. The creation of Israel in 1948 and the emigration to destinations around the world led to the closure of most DP camps by 1950, with the final camp closing in 1957. 80,000 camp refugees immigrated to the United States, 136,000 to Israel, and 20,000 to other nations.


For more information on Displaced Persons Camps:

Yad Vashem: Displaced Persons Camp

USHMM: Displaced Persons