Displaced person

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Schoolchildren in the Schauenstein DP Camp (1946)

The term Displaced Person (DP) is English for a "person who is not at home in this place" (also Displaced People ) and was coined by the headquarters of the Allied Forces (SHAEF) during World War II .

Displaced Persons in World War II

As "DP" was one at this time civilian designates which visited due to the war outside their home country and not return without help or could resettle in another country. In a memorandum that was first drafted in the summer of 1944, the Allies laid down regulations, tasks and responsibilities for their troops on how DPs were to be housed, supplied and administered. DPs were primarily forced laborers and forced deportees under the National Socialist regime, who came primarily from Eastern European countries but also from all over Europe and who were in Germany at the end of the war . The Allied armies reckoned with 11.3 million DPs in 1944.

The designation was already used in 1943 by the migration researcher Eugene M. Kulischer in a different sense, namely “for those persons who were deported from their homeland by the Axis powers or by a power allied with them during the Second World War or to leave their homeland by means of an employment contract were forced ”.

Displaced Persons after the Second World War

Jochen Kusber : Displaced persons (2010)

Differentiation of the DPs

The "DPs" included forced laborers who were obliged to work in German companies during the war, as well as prisoners of war, former concentration camp inmates and Eastern Europeans who either voluntarily started work in Germany after the war began or who fled the Soviet army in 1944 .

The SHAEF understood DPs as "all civilians outside the borders of their home states" who came to their stay abroad through the action of war in the broadest sense and who needed Allied help to return home or to settle in another country. They were roughly divided into

  • Members of the United Nations (UNDPs) founded on June 26, 1945
  • Members of ex-enemy DPs from Italy, Finland, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary
  • Members of enemy DPs , from Germany, Austria, Japan
  • Stateless persons or persons who could not prove their claimed nationality

Special categories were:

  • Soviet DPs because of their repatriation treaty at the Yalta Conference
  • UNDPs who were abroad before the war began
  • Persons who have claimed the status of prisoners of war as nationals of UN states
  • British and American citizens not interned
  • People with doubtful citizenship who claimed UNDP status
  • Persons whose nationality was affected by territorial changes
  • racially, religiously or politically persecuted
  • Citizens of neutral states (Swiss, Sweden)
  • non-German collaborators

Approx. 300,000 Jewish refugees who fled to the western occupation zones of Germany in 1946/47 after anti-Semitic excesses in Poland and Eastern Europe (see Kielce pogrom ) were recognized as “DPs” . At the end of the Second World War, there were around 6.5 million DPs in the later western occupation zones , for which around 450 camps had been set up in the American occupation zone in 1946.


In the post-war period, repatriation was the name given to the organized return of uprooted and displaced people to the state of which they were citizens. Allied forces began repatriation on the basis of the agreements made in Yalta. Because people were trekking through the country on their own, they were first taken to camps and cared for there. The work was taken over by an international aid organization, the UNRRA , a sub-organization of the United Nations founded in 1943 , under the direction of the military administrations of the western zones of occupation .

In view of the turmoil of the war, the exact number is unclear; it is estimated at between 6.5 and 12 million, the latter number referring to all DPs liberated by the Allies, including those who were in the areas previously occupied by Germany . A large number of these people could be returned (“repatriated”) to their countries of origin relatively quickly by the Allies . In the cases of nationals of the Western Allies, repatriation posed a minor problem. The return of forced laborers from Northern, Western and Southern Europe was correspondingly swift. By September 1945, all but approximately 1.2 million DPs could be repatriated.

Only the repatriation of foreign workers from Eastern Europe, especially the Ukraine, and the Baltic States took a disproportionately long time. There were two main reasons for this; For example, the former forced laborers from Poland could only return home from Ludwigshafen at the end of 1945, as the Soviet Union had only insisted on the repatriation of all Soviet citizens before allowing other DPs to pass through its zone of occupation.

It also happened that former Polish slave laborers resisted repatriation because they did not want to return to their communist-ruled homeland. This attitude was also reinforced by functionaries of the Polish government in exile . Added to this was the fact that the eastern part of Poland had been annexed by the Soviet Union. There was often a fear among the Soviet forced laborers that they would be punished for their forced labor with the German enemy after they returned home. This concern was justified as there was extensive reprisals and 157,000 repatriated Soviet citizens were executed on suspicion of collaboration.

In the winter of 1945/1946 the repatriation of the DPs came to an almost complete standstill. Most of the remaining DPs were designated as non-repatriable .

Forced repatriation

According to the agreements made at the Yalta Conference, the Western governments signed an agreement with the Soviet Union on February 11, 1945, stating the group of people to be forcibly repatriated. One of five possible criteria had to be met:

  1. Resident on Soviet territory on September 1, 1939
  2. fell into Western Allied hands after the Yalta Conference
  3. on June 22, 1941 or later, he was required to serve in the Red Army
  4. Captured in a German uniform
  5. Proof of collaboration

Points 1 and 2 were intended to prevent the contract resettlers, who had never actually had anything to do with the Soviet Union, from being threatened with forced repatriation to the Soviet Union. Polish Ukrainians and Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians who came from areas that only became Soviet after September 1, 1939, that is, during the course of World War II, were not included in the group of people to be repatriated.
The term “contract resettlers” was used to describe the ethnic Germans who were mainly resettled to the Warthegau between 1939 and 1941 on the basis of international agreements . These included around 54,000 Galicia , 74,000 Wolhynia (from the Polish part), 89,000 Bukowina and 93,000 Bessarabian Germans .

Most of the citizens of the Soviet Union had been returned to the USSR by the end of September 1945, some of them under duress. Many Soviet citizens did not want to go back under any circumstances. As a result, there were frequent mass suicides in the camps, such as the Lienz Cossack tragedy . People who had previously been deported by National Socialists were punished in the USSR on suspicion of collaboration. Red Army soldiers who had been captured by Germany as a prisoner of war and who had survived were considered traitors. During the war, over 150,000 were sentenced to death by express courts. A large number of those returning home were sent to specially built camps and labor battalions.


From the beginning of 1947, attempts were made to resettle the DPs that had not yet been repatriated in other countries. The receiving countries included Great Britain , Canada , Belgium , USA , France , Australia , among others . The settlement took place under the humanitarian term resettlement , but resembled the recruitment of urgently needed foreign workers customary at the time due to the selection of employable and preferential treatment of single people. Both legal and illegal emigration of Jews to Palestine accelerated the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 . As countries like the United States no tuberculosis shots luxation, many DPs remained (English resettlement resettlement ) denied.

The remaining or returned displaced persons, including many Jews, remained in DP camps for years, where they were looked after by UNRRA, from 1947 by its successor, the International Refugee Organization , IRO, and by Jewish organizations such as the Joint Distribution Committee . The situation in the camps was initially critical, which was reflected in the Harrison Report ; Some of the accommodations were former forced labor or concentration camps (e.g. Belsen or Haid ) in which the liberated were now to live. They were also discriminated against by the German population and the administration. Due to the unclear perspective, educational institutions such as kindergartens and teachers' seminars were set up in some larger camps.

After the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany , the equality of the remaining DPs with the German population was regulated in 1951 in a separate “Law on the Legal Status of Homeless Foreigners ” outside of a general refugee law; some of them remained stateless. In 1957 the last DPs, Jewish Holocaust survivors, left the Föhrenwald camp in Upper Bavaria; the camp was closed in 1958.

See also



  • Norbert Muhlen : Germany twice . Translation of Hilde Walter . Politics and Economy, Cologne 1955, pp. 213–255.
  • Wolfgang Jacobmeyer : From forced laborer to homeless foreigner. The Displaced Persons in West Germany 1945–1951 , Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1985, ISBN 3-525-35724-9 .
  • Michael R. Marrus : The Unwanted . Translation of Gero Deckert. Berlin: Schwarze Risse, Rote Strasse, VLA, 1999 ISBN 978-3-924737-46-7 (first in English 1985).
  • Angelika Königseder, Juliane Wetzel : Courage in life in the waiting room. The Jewish DPs (Displaced Persons) in post-war Germany , Fischer TB, Frankfurt am Main 1994, ISBN 3-596-10761-X .
  • Fritz Bauer Institute (Ed.): Survived and on the move: Jewish Displaced Persons in post-war Germany . 1997 yearbook on the history and impact of the Holocaust. Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 1997
  • Angelika Königseder: Escape to Berlin. Jewish Displaced Persons 1945–1948. Metropol Verlag, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-926893-47-8 .
  • Michael level: foreign workers, displaced persons, homeless foreigners. Constants of a marginal group fate in Germany after 1945 , Lit Verlag, Münster 1997, ISBN 3-8258-3185-X .
  • Zeev Mankowitz Life between Memory and Hope: The Survivors of the Holocaust in Occupied Germany . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002
  • Andreas Rinke: Le grand retour. The French displaced person policy 1944–1951 . Peter Lang, Bern 2002, ISBN 3-631-37863-7 .
  • Atina Grossmann : Jews, Germans, and Allies: Close Encounters in Occupied Germany. Princeton University Press, Princeton 2007, ISBN 0-691-08971-X
  • Christian Pletzing, Marianne Pletzing (eds.): Displaced Persons. Refugees from the Baltic states in Germany . Martin Meidenbauer, Munich 2007 (= Colloquia Baltica 12), ISBN 978-3-89975-066-9 .
  • Susanne Rolinek: Jewish Worlds 1945-1955: Refugees in the American Zone of Austria . Innsbruck: Studien-Verlag, 2007 ISBN 978-3-7065-1924-3 .
  • David Cesarani (Ed.): Survivors of Nazi persecution in Europe after the Second World War . Vallentine Mitchell, London 2010, ISBN 978-0-85303-932-7 .
  • Jutta Fleckenstein, Tamar Lewinsky ( eds. ): Jews 45/90. From here and there - survivors from Eastern Europe. Hentrich & Hentrich, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-942271-47-9 .
  • Anna Holian: Between national socialism and Soviet communism: displaced persons in postwar Germany . Ann Arbor, Mich. : Univ. of Michigan Press, 2011 ISBN 978-0-472-11780-2 .
  • Jan-Hinnerk Antons: Ukrainian Displaced Persons in the British Zone. Camp life between national fixation and pragmatic future plans. Klartext, Essen 2014, ISBN 978-3-8375-1187-1 .
  • Rebecca Boehling, Susanne Urban, René Bienert (Eds.): Exposures: displaced persons; Life in transit: survivors between repatriation, rehabilitation and a fresh start . Yearbook of the International Tracing Service; 3. Göttingen: Wallstein, 2014 ISBN 978-3-8353-1574-7 .
  • Hans-Peter Föhrding, Heinz Verfürth: When the Jews fled to Germany , Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2017, ISBN 978-3-462-04866-7 .
Regional studies

Web links

Commons : Displaced persons  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Quoted from Henriette von Holleuffer: Between Strangers and Strangers: Displaced Persons in Australia, the USA and Canada 1946–1952 (Studies on Historical Migration Research ), Osnabrück 2001, ISBN 3-932147-19-7 , p. 13.
  2. Angelika Königseder, Juliane Wetzel: Mutual courage in the waiting room. The Jewish DPs (Displaced Persons) in post-war Germany , Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1994, ISBN 3-596-10761-X , p. 7
  3. Wolfgang Jacobmeyer, From forced laborers to homeless foreigners. The Displaced Persons in West Germany 1945–1951 , Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1985, ISBN 3-525-35724-9 , p. 30 f.
  4. Hans-Peter Föhrding, Heinz Verfürth: When the Jews fled to Germany , Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2017.
  5. Angelika Königseder, Juliane Wetzel: Mutual courage in the waiting room ... , p. 9; Jürgen Matthäus: No victims, no perpetrators - German reactions to the immigration of Polish Jews after the Kielce pogrom ... , in: Alfred Gottwaldt u. a. (Ed.): NS-Tyranny , Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-89468-278-7 , p. 360 f. gives a number of 141,000 in October 1946 and 200,000 with high fluctuation until 1950.
  6. The number comes from an essay by Ulrike Goeken-Haidl, Repatriation in the Terror? The return of the Soviet forced laborers and prisoners of war to their homeland 1944–1956 , in: Dachauer Hefte 16 (2000) “Zwangsarbeit”, pp. 190–209, here pp. 203 ff.
  7. Jörg Echternkamp : In the shadow of the war. On the consequences of military violence and National Socialist rule in the early post-war period , in: The German Reich and the Second World War , Vol. 10/2: The collapse of the German Reich 1945 , Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-421-04338-2 , P. 665 f.
  8. Caestecker u. Vanhaute: Immigration of workers to the industrialized countries of Western Europe . In: The "guest worker" system . Ed .: Oltmer, Kreienbrink, Diaz, Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, Volume 104, Oldenbourg 2012, ISBN 978-3-486-70946-9 , p. 42.
  9. Karin Böke: Refugees and displaced persons between the right to their old homeland and integration into their new homeland , in: Armin Burkhardt u. a. (Ed.): Political key words in the Adenauer era , de Gruyter, 1996, ISBN 3-11-014236-8 , p. 150.
  10. Rainer Pöppinghege: Review (English)
  11. Review
  12. ^ Exhibition by the Jewish Museum in Munich , mainly on the history of displaced persons.