The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

"I Was Born On the Way Home!” Family Histories of the DP Camp “Babies”

After the Second World War, the western Allies established displaced persons (DP) camps in the Allied-occupied zones of Germany, Austria and Italy. Immediately following the establishment of DP camps, young Holocaust survivors started to get married and in less than a year, the birth-rate of the Jewish population in European DP camps was the highest of any group in the world at the time. Being a Holocaust survivor and giving birth in the conditions of a DP camp is a unique phenomenon. These parents went through traumatic events and lost their families. The babies were born in obscurity and in homelessness, detached from their root, in the transitional phase of the aftermath. While these babies are the second generation after the Holocaust, they were born, in the place where the tragedy that befell their families took place.

Today, more than 70 years later, in Israel these former DP babies are retired, and eager to explore their family history and roots. They actively search for traces of their family members’ lives in the documentation. They carry their parents` past deep inside but lack sufficient knowledge about it. This past has major impact on their everyday lives yet the knowledge of this past remains elusive. There are many practices of memory work that they use: they unite and communicate; they participate in various groups and associations of former DP children; organize conferences; arrange trips to their birth places.

Considering the significance of being born in the space of DP camps during transitional period between the Holocaust and immigration to Israel, the lecture will showcase the microhistory of the Holocaust survivors’ families, which gave a birth in the DP camp, and immigrated to Israel. Moreover, I will demonstrate that family history has important impact on the formation of personal and group identities of the former “DP born babies” at present time.