What were displaced persons camps?

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A displaced persons camp or DP camp is a temporary facility for people forced to leave their homes. To cope with all the refugees DP camps were set up by the Allies across Austria, Italy and Germany.

Often survivors found themselves in the same camps as German prisoners and Nazi collaborators, who had until recently been their jailers.

Initially the camp facilities were very poor. In addition, many survivors suffered severe psychological problems caused by their horrendous treatment at the hands of the perpetrators and collaborators.

By the autumn of 1945, Jewish DPs were recognised as a special group. They were housed in separate camps. They were given some authority to manage their affairs themselves. Most camps elected a committee that took responsibility for running the camp. These committees took care of sanitation, hygiene, cultural activities, education, and religious life.

Care of the children was a high priority and took various forms. DP camp committees established children’s homes and educational facilities. In addition, serious attempts were made to locate any surviving family members.

In DP camps survivors began to recreate lives. In addition to rebuilding their Jewish religious and cultural life, many survivors married and began to start new families. At their height the DP camps held in excess of 250,000 Jewish survivors. Eventually there was less of a need for DP camps. The last Jewish DP camp in Germany closed in 1953.