Although liberation, brought freedom to those persecuted and imprisoned by the Nazis, it was also a time of confusion and difficulty. Those who had survived the Holocaust had to come to terms with the loss of their family, home, friends, businesses and belongings. For many, there was nowhere and no one to return to. On top of this, camp survivors in particular also suffered from poor health due to years of malnutrition and poor sanitation. In Bergen-Belsen alone, 13,000 people died following liberation as a result of the conditions in the camp. Liberation marked the beginning of a complex and difficult journey for survivors to reconstruct their lives.
Many survivors wished to emigrate and start a new life abroad. For the majority, this new life was either in Palestine or the United States of America. However, in the immediate post-war period, both of these options were, for the most part, closed to survivors.
Palestine was still under British control until November 1947 (at which time the United Nations voted to split Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state). It was not until 14 May 1948 that the Jewish Agency declared Israel an independent state and mass immigration was permitted. The United States of America continued to operate a restrictive immigration policy in the initial post-war years, which made mass emigration to the country impossible. Between 1945-1948 survivors’ options, then, were limited.
To care for survivors and the many other people uprooted by the war, the Allies created Displaced Persons (DP) camps as temporary accommodation. In addition to those housed in DP camps, some survivors lived in external accommodation in towns or cities across post-war Germany. All survivors were supported by gemeinden (Jewish communities).