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Rebirth After the Holocaust: Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp, 1945-1950

Bergen-Belsen was one of Nazi Germany’s most infamous concentration camps. Inmates were subject to inhumane treatment; starvation was rampant as were unsanitary conditions which led to the spread of disease. Anne Frank and her sister Margot were victims of a typhus epidemic at Bergen-Belsen. Both perished a few months before liberation of the camp by British forces on April 15, 1945.

Shortly after liberation the British burned the camp to the ground to halt the spread of disease.  Survivors were relocated to former military barracks close by. There they were disinfected, clothed and fed. They insisted on retaining the name of the original camp, and it became the known as the Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons (DP) Camp. By 1946 the camp housed more than 11,000 Jews, making it the largest DP camp in Europe. It was the only exclusively Jewish DP camp in the British zone of Germany.

Rebirth After the Holocaust: Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp, 1945-1950 recalls the true story of Jewish survivors who experienced the horrors of the Holocaust and maintained a desire for life.

Eager to regain control over their lives, the Bergen-Belsen survivors formed a camp committee three days after liberation. The committee soon organized cultural, religious and political activities for the survivors.

While waiting to learn the fates of relatives and friends, many Jews yearned for companionship and began creating new families. Almost twenty marriages took place every day. Weddings were social activities that involved the participation of others with professional skills. Over 2,000 children were born in the camp. Survivors and service providers established an elementary school, a high school, an orphanage and a yeshiva.

By the middle of 1950, the majority of the Jewish displaced persons had emigrated to Israel, the United States, Canada and South Africa with a small number remaining in Germany.

Rebirth After the Holocaust, organized by the World Federation of Bergen-Belsen Associations, is presented by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religious Museum.


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Wednesday, October 5, 2016