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Survivors in the DP-Camp Bergen-Belsen

In the summer of 1945 two Displaced Persons Camps (DP camps) were established near the liberated Concentration Camp Bergen-Belsen: one for Jewish survivors, one for Polish. Lists and registration cards preserved in the archive of the ITS document the names of individuals, some of whom kept waiting in the camp for their turn to emigrate until 1950.

In April 1945, on the site of former Wehrmacht barracks, the British military established a camp providing support and medical care to the 29,000 liberated prisoners of Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. Almost half of these people, weakened, emaciated, and often gravely ill, died in the first weeks and months. Initially created out of the necessity of providing emergency care to the survivors, this DP camp grew to become a place for all those who could not, or chose not to, return to their home countries. Starting in June 1945, the camp administration housed the Jewish and the Polish survivors in two separate living areas, the reason for this being a number of different conflicts. There were effectively two DP camps existing in one place. Early on, the people living in each of the DP camps organized their own self-government and political lobbies, as well as educational and cultural facilities.

Over the course of 1945, the number of persons registered in these camps rose sharply. While first 5,800 Polish DPs had been there, as a list dated 6 June 1945 from the ITS archive documenting the names, dates and places of birth shows, their number had increase to over 10,000 by September. There were also more and more DPs living in the Jewish Camp: many of the Jews who had survived Nazi persecution in East Central Europe and Eastern Europe had fled westward – particularly following the pogroms in Krakow and Kielce. The DP Camp Bergen-Belsen developed into a hub of Jewish life within the British Zone.

In June 1946 the new UNRRA camp management began gradually disbanding the Polish unit of the DP camp and sending the people to other camps. In September 1946 the Polish DP camp Bergen-Belsen was closed. The Jewish DP camp continued to exist until 1950 - at times providing housing for more than 12,000 people. The number of residents didn’t decrease until the State of Israel was founded and when the overseas states abandoned their restrictive immigration policy.

For the name-based search of DPs from these and other camps in the Western Allied Occupation Zones the ITS archive provides various search possibilities: in addition to the lists of the Allies and Welfare Organizations there is an index file of registration cards.