Joy in Liberation?: The Creation of Displaced Person Camps in Europe Post-World War II

by Brittney Switzer and Tatiane Ribeiro
Faculty advisor: Dr. Dixee Bartholomew-Feis

The liberation of the concentration camps at the end of World War II by United States, British, and Soviet troops posed a new problem for the Allied soldiers: What should they do with the people in the camps? There was no established protocol for what to do with the prisoners. They could not just open the gates and let the prisoners out. Many were starving or suffering from illness or diseases. Many of the Jews had nowhere to go after the camps were liberated. They could not return to their homes because most homes had been destroyed or occupied by another family. They were also at risk of being met with violence and forced to turn back. The prisoners-of-war, Polish and political prisoners could return home because they had far less risk of trouble at home.

Under the Allies, displaced person camps were created within the confines of the former concentration camps. The prisoners, predominately Jewish, were still locked in the camps, but there was no more killing or starvation. They began to prepare for the future.  For many, to quote an unnamed survivor, there was “no joy in liberation,” but the displacement camps allowed the people to resume some semblance of a normal life. The Allies set up information centers - to collect information on the prisoners - as well as schools and hospitals. These survivors got married, had children, set up councils and synagogues. They had to attempt to create a new life in spite of their trauma.