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Displaced Persons:

(excerpts from Encyclopedia Judaica article, pp. 75-80)

DISPLACED PERSONS (DPs), term used to describe people who had been driven out of their homes as a result of Nazi decrees and World War II. It was applied primarily to those who had been imprisoned in concentration and in forced labor camps. At the end of W.W.II there were approximately 8,000,000 DPs in Germany and the Nazi occupied territories. The victorious Allied Powers gave high priority to the rapid repatriation of the DPs so that close to 5,000,000 were returned to their home countries by August 1945 and a further 1,000,000 by the end of the year. The remainder, persons who could not or would not be repatriated for political reasons, were put in to special camps under the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA).

The general DP problem was being solved rapidly by repatriation. The Jewish DPs, however, presented a problem of an entirely different nature. At the war's end an estimated 50,000 Jews were liberated from concentration camps in Germany and Austria. Some of these joined the main stream of persons returning to their countries of origin; others managed in various ways to reach Italy in the hope of continuing from there to Palestine. Most of the Jewish survivors soon came to realize that they had no place to return to, as their communities had been destroyed and their families were no longer alive.

A reverse trend set in, wherein Jewish survivors began making their way to the DP camps in Germany; these were Jews who had been in hiding, had joined the partisan units, or had succeeded in posing as "Aryans." They joined into a concentrated mass of Jewish DPs in the hope of being recognized by the Allies as a separate category of refugees. Their purpose was to be rehabilitated in a new homeland rather than to be included in the groups of refugees, treated by country of origin... (an American report to President Truman concluded that "the only real solution of the problem lies in the evacuation of all non-repatriable Jews in Germany and Austria, who wish it, to Palestine...", leading the American authorities to recognize Jewish DPs as a special category of refugees.)

At first, the westward movement of Jews from Eastern Europe was only a trickle, due to political difficulties and the harsh winter conditions. A change too place after February 1946, when the repatriation of Polish citizens from the Soviet Union began. By mid-1946, some 140,000 Polish Jews were repatriated under this scheme.

Most of them could not find their place in Poland and left for the camps in Germany, at the rate of over 5,000 a month. After the Kielce pogrom on July 4, 1946, their number grew enormously... The total number of Jewish DPs trebled from less than 80,000 at the beginning of 1946 to an estimated 247,000 a year later...

International pressure to facilitate the resettlement of the Jewish refugees in Palestine did not succeed in persuading the British Government to open the gates... (the British allowed around 7,500 Jewish DPs to legally immigrate). The refugees themselves insisted on aliya and, as no immigration certificates were forthcoming, they took the road of "illegal" immigration...

With the establishment of the State of Israel the process that brought about the solution for the problem of the Jewish DPs began. By the end of 1949, 75,000 Jewish DPs form Germany and many thousands form Austria and Italy had gone to Israel... About two-thirds of the total number of Jewish DPs settled in Israel; a quarter emigrated to other countries, especially the U.S. and Canada; and the rest remained where they were and were absorbed by the existing local Jewish communities.

Swiss banks: (reprint from HaAretz, 2/23/96)

"The Jewish Congress: The Bank of Switzerland destroyed information about accounts which were deposited in '44", by Shlomo Shamir and Akiva Eldar

Republican Senator Alphonse D'Amato announced this week that in the coming days a hearing will take place on the case of the Swiss banks in the Banking Committee of the American Senate, which he heads.

D'Amato, who is close to Jewish circles, sent word that the committee will invite as witnesses Holocaust survivors and their relatives, whose money was frozen in Swiss banks. According to him, "The witnesses will give information about their estranged relationship with the Swiss banks regarding their attempts to reveal information on accounts which their relatives opened in the banks during the war."

From a document which reached the office of the World Jewish Congress in New York it turns out that a Swiss bank destroyed documents which included information concerning secret accounts which were deposited in 1944.

The Director General of the World Jewish Congress, Dr. Israel Singer, sent the document to the committee for legal affairs of the Swiss parliament, for a hearing which took place on Tuesday of this week on the question of confidential deposits made by Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

According to senior sources in the Congress office in New York, committee members "were shocked by the information which Singer presented before them."

The document will be forwarded as well to legal councilors of the American Senate Banking Committee, headed by Senator D'Amato.

The document concerns a letter which had lain latent in the archives of the Rumanian security services - which was sent by "The Bank of the Swiss People" in 1963 to Rado Leka, a Rumanian Nazi and war criminal. From October 1941 until August 1944 Rado Leka was officer-in -charge of dealing with "arrangement of the Jewish problem in Rumania".

Leka, who was nicknamed "The Rumanian Eichmann", and was in close contact with the Nazi regime in Germany, accumulated a great deal of capital from exploiting Jews; he used to take bribes form them, in exchange for a promise that he would prevent expulsions to concentration camps.

At the end of the war Leka was sentenced to death in Rumania, but the Communist regime in Rumania commuted his sentence to life in prison. He was released at the beginning of the 1960s, and lived out his life in Bucharest.

Upon his release Leak turned to the bank in Switzerland and requested to allow him access to his secret account. Attached to his letter was the confidential number of his account. The bank refused his request, and in a formal letter which was sent to him the refusal was based on the claim that "all the documents relating to accounts from 1944 were destroyed".

The Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress, Ilan Steinberg, said yesterday to "HaAretz" that the letter from the bank to Leka clearly backs the claim that senior Nazi officials used to deposit in Swiss banks sums of money and jewelry which had been confiscated from Jews.

In addition, said Steinberg, the letter raises a justified fear that Swiss banks destroyed documents which included information on confidential accounts of Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

"The document counters the version of the Swiss banks, which claim that they have exact data on these accounts and information on their numbers and amounts of money which were deposited in them," he claimed.

Nazi hunting

"Do Old Nazis Fade Away?" by Michael Kallenback and Brett Kline, Jerusalem Report, August 1, 1991.

Is there any point in trying or jailing ailing, aging war criminals nearly five decades after their crimes? That question has sparked a storm of controversy in both Germany and Fracne. In Germany, it's one reason the trial of Josef Schwammberger, charged with murdering over 3,000 people, is drawing intense public attention; in France, the spotlight is focused on the release on bail of Paul Touvier, head of the pro-Nazi militia in Lyon during the Occupation.

Schwammberger, a former SS officer extradited from Argentina in 1990, is on trial in Stuttgart Regional Court. He is charged with personally killing 52 Jews and being involved in the killing of 3,377 others between 1941 and 1944, when he was commander of a Nazi labor camp in Rozwadow in southern Poland.

The costly trial - the government is paying the travel expenses of 18 witnesses from as far off as South America - comes as polls show Germans would rather deal with unification and unemployment than with the Nazi past.

And many share the view of Dietrich Willier, a journalist covering the trial, who says Schwammberger is "too old for the judicial process to have any effect on him." But Heinz Galinski, head of the Council of Jews in Germany, counters: "Every trial is necessary. No one can right Nazi wrongs, but that's no reason not to prosecute."

Jewish leaders in France, meanwhile, have denounced the release, ostensibly for health reasons, of Touvier, 76. And the French prosecutor's office has appealed the July 11 release decision by the Paris Court of Justice.

Noting that Touvier was involved in the wartime arrest and deportation of French Jews, Jean Kahn, president of the Jewish umbrella organization known as CRIF, says: "The age and state of health of Jews rounded up during the occupation were not taken into consideration."

First arrested in 1947, Touvier escaped and hid in convents across France with the help of a top staffer of the archbishop of Lyon. He was rearrested in 1989. Touvier faces charges for "crimes against humanity" - including the 1944 murder of Human Rights League president Victor Basch, 81, and his wife; the 1944 execution of seven Jewish hostages and the attempted assassination of Lyon synagogue officials; and the 1944 illegal arrest of 57 Spanish political refugees, subsequently deported to Auschwitz.


  • "Give Us Our Money Back", "Jerusalem Report", 6/95.
  • Horovitz, David, "Is the Hunt for Nazis Over?", "Jerusalem Report", 8/12/93, pp. 28-32.
  • Jakubowski, Jackie, "A Living Ghost," "Jerusalem Report", 8/1/91, pp. 28-29.
  • Klein-HaLevi, Yossi, "Jesus Saved Them", "Jerusalem Report", 8/12/93, pp. 34-35.
  • Petreanu, Dan, "A Pale Memory", "Jerusalem Report", 6/3/93, pp. 32-33.
  • Rosenberg, David, "Czeching Out", "Jerusalem Report", 8/24/95, pp. 34-35.
  • Sawicki, Tom, "Signs of Life", "Jerusalem Report", 7/28/94, pp. 30-32.
  • Sawicki, Tom, "6,000 Witnesses", "Jerusalem Report", 5/5/94, pp. 32-33.
  • Sawicki, Tom, "When Memory Fades", "Jerusalem Report", 8/1/91, pp. 31-32.




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16 Apr 2007 / 28 Nisan 5767 0