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Holocaust Survivors:
The Fate of Survivors


Survivors: Table of Contents | Photographs | Elie Wiesel


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For the survivors, returning to life as it had been before the Holocaust was impossible. Jewish communities no longer existed in much of Europe. When people tried to return to their homes from camps or hiding places, they found that, in many cases, their homes had been looted or taken over by others.

Returning home was also dangerous. After the war, anti-Jewish riots broke out in several Polish cities. The largest anti-Jewish pogrom took place in July 1946 in Kielce, a city in southeastern Poland. When 150 Jews returned to the city, people living there feared that hundreds more would come back to reclaim their houses and belongings. Age-old antisemitic myths, such as Jews' ritual murders of Christians, arose once again. After a rumor spread that Jews had killed a Polish boy to use his blood in religious rituals, a mob attacked the group of survivors. The rioters killed 41 people and wounded 50 more. News of the Kielce pogrom spread rapidly, and Jews realized that there was no future for them in Poland.

Many survivors ended up in displaced persons' (DP) camps set up in western Europe under Allied military occupation at the sites of former concentration camps. There they waited to be admitted to places like the United States, South Africa, or Palestine. At first, many countries continued their old immigration policies, which greatly limited the number of refugees they would accept. The British government, which controlled Palestine, refused to let large numbers of Jews in. Many Jews tried to enter Palestine without legal papers, and when caught some were held in camps on the island of Cyprus, while others were deported back to Germany. Great Britain's scandalous treatment of Jewish refugees added to international pressures for a homeland for the Jewish people. Finally, the United Nations voted to divide Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state. Early in 1948, the British began withdrawing from Palestine. On May 14, 1948, one of the leading voices for a Jewish homeland, David Ben-Gurion, announced the formation of the State of Israel. After this, Jewish refugee ships freely landed in the seaports of the new nation. The United States also changed its immigration policy to allow more Jewish refugees to enter.

Although many Jewish survivors were able to build new lives in their adopted countries, many non-Jewish victims of Nazi policies continued to be persecuted in Germany. Laws which discriminated against Roma (Gypsies) continued to be in effect until 1970 in some parts of the country. The law used in Nazi Germany to imprison homosexuals remained in effect until 1969.


Sources: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

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