Displaced Persons

April 14, 1948

Report Outline
Refugee Problem Left by World War II
International Action to Aid Displaced Persons
Admisson of Displaced Persons to United States

Refugee Problem Left by World War II

Population of Displaced Persons Camps in Europe

At the close of hostilities in Europe in 1945, the Allied armies became responsible for some eight million persons classified as “displaced” in Germany, Austria and Italy. These included persons liberated from concentration camps, forced laborers who had been brought into Germany and Italy from conquered and occupied countries, prisoners of war, and the thousands who had fled before the Russian army as it advanced across the continent. The Allied armies arranged for the return to their home countries of some seven million persons within a year after V-E Day, providing the necessary food, clothing, medical attention and shelter for them in the meantime.

There remained, however, over a million displaced persons for whom repatriation would mean political or racial persecution. The United States took the lead in insisting that, under such circumstances, no one should be forced to return to his home against his will. Yet the problem of establishing these individuals and their families in other countries has been one of the most difficult for which to find a solution. While a large number of the displaced persons will be able to maintain themselves in the countries of Western Europe where they now reside and work, and a small additional number may yet decide to return to their home countries, it is estimated that about 800,000 will have to be resettled elsewhere. The heart of the problem immediately before the United States and other western democracies which have opposed forced repatriation is to find places where these people, over three-fourths of whom are still in camps in Germany, Austria and Italy, can make their homes and again become contributing members of a community.

At the end of the year 1947, displaced persons camps held 617,600 men, women and children—a population slightly less than that of North or South Dakota, and larger than the populations of ten other American states. The United States is paying a large part of the cost of supporting these people, both through its contribution to the International Refugee Organization which maintains the camps and through additional services for which the military authorities have assumed responsibility. It has been estimated that during the fiscal year 1947 the total dollar cost to the United States of caring for displaced persons approximated $130 million.

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