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Henry Judd

The DP’s of Europe – Forgotten Victims of a Rotting Society

(11 November 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 45, 11 November 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).


“Displaced Persons (DP’s) will perform those deeds and serve those interests we prefer. They will serve, prepare meals, wash dishes, floors, windows, latrines, dispose of garbage and perform other unskilled, disagreeable and toilsome tasks that we may direct. They will perform those duties to our satisfaction or we will throw them out and obtain Prisoners of War as laborers. They will not be permitted to attend the 6:30 show although there are adequate seats. They will not eat at the table with American soldiers. Girls will not enter the Enlisted Men’s Club except on Saturday evening. We are not concerned with their entertainment. We are not running a nursery. This is an army base. We are in charge and want them to know it. DP’s will receive for their basic 48 hours of service the standard wage rate of 120–150 marks a month. ($12–$15 per month – Editor.) Furthermore, we expect them to do a full day’s work in exchange for the food, clothing, shelter and considerate treatment extended them by the authorities. Tell them to take the lead out of you know where, or there will be some disagreeable changes taking place TOUT DE SUITE.”


In January, President Truman proposed that 3900 DP’s be admitted to the United States each month. Actually, until October, the figure admitted each month did hot reach 1,000.


The expression “Displaced Person” (DP) was first created by the American military authorities. It was a characteristically cold-blooded term, meant to apply to those haunted and bewildered hundreds of thousands whom the American armies drove before them as they advanced into Germany. It has already become one of the self-righteous myths of American benevolent imperialism that only this country tried to handle the DP problem in a humane way and did not treat these people as cattle. With the exception of the repatriation of the French prisoners of war – a comparatively simple problem – this is untrue.

The fact is that 2,885,000 person were repatriated from the American zone in the eight months from the war’s end to January 1946. A democratic repatriation in which these close to three millions would have been prepared for a resumption of life in their former countries, would have been economically fitted out and readjusted for future work, or would even have been given the elementary democratic right to decide whether or not they wanted to return to their native country – all this was ignored in the haste to get rid of the DP’s. Get them off our hands was American policy. As any GI witness to the events will readily relate, these victims of war and repression were herded off the American preserves and dumped onto the hands of broken-down and unstable governments.

The DP Problem Is Still Not Solved

Again, contrary to popular belief, the problem and tragic plight, of the DP’s is still with us: These victims of capitalist social decline occupy an important place on the agenda of the present General Assembly of the United Nations. The end of UNRRA, scheduled for January 1, 1947, demands that concrete measures be taken, but it is unlikely that the UN will provide anything but temporary continuation of the UNRRA camps and techniques. There are actually three categories of DP’s today: those still remaining in Germany who refuse to return to Russian-occupied lands; the Jewish refugees; and the whole new category of DG’s (Displaced Germans) expelled from lands long ago occupied by German settlers. Here are the latest available facts on these three categories of human beings, declared by society to be excess and unwanted:

(1) The State Department, on October 25, estimated a total of 1,000,000 DP’s in Greater Germany – 700,000 located in UNRRA DP camps; 300.000 not in camps. Half of this 1,000,000 total – 532,000 to be exact – are in the American occupied zones of Germany and Austria. The other half are scattered over the remaining zones. By far the greatest group of these – 353,000 – are Poles, the group on which the greatest pressure to return home (to Stalin’s Polish stooge regime) is now being put. Many Poles, convinced by their experience that to remain in their present state is to stagnate and sink lower, are reluctantly returning to their occupied land.

Their total possessions, aside from the clothing on their backs, are food supplies for 60 days. In addition, there are tens of thousands of homeless, hopeless peoples from other lands under Russia’s heel – Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Slavs, Russians, etc. The Russian principle is, of course, that these people must be returned to their lands, to swell Stalin’s supply of available labor. The Russians state, in effect, “These are our slaves. We want them back.” With the coming collapse of UNRRA, will it be long before these people are swept up in Stalin’s labor net?

The Plight of Europe’s Jews

(2) UNRRA does not classify Jews as DP’s, but rather as refugees. This false distinction is doubly wrong since the bulk of DP’s are actually refugees from the Stalinist regimes of Eastern Europe, and since the Jews of Germany, Poland and White Russia are certainly displaced persons without homes or the prospect of absorption into economic-social life. The exodus of Polish Jews to the UNRRA camps is well known, and continues. During September a new peak of 28,090 refugee Jews fleeing into the American occupation zone was reported. An all-time high of 117,000 is now in the zone, hoping for a Palestinian solution to their problem. Altogether, there are 143,000 Jews in Germany and 33,000 in the Austrian UNRRA camps. One out of every five DP’s is a Jew, constituting the group next in size to the Poles. The plight of these people has often been described in Labor Action and we will not repeat it.

(3) Finally, there is the enormous, million-numbered category of the dispossessed Germans, thrown out of Russian and Polish-seized German territories (approximately 6,000,000); plus 2,377,000 Germans scheduled for expulsion from the Sudetenland; plus many more hundreds of thousands expelled from Rumania, Hungary and the Balkan countries. By June of this year, 477,000 Sudetenland Germans alone had arrived in the American zone, three-fourths of them women and children. To be more accurate, they were dumped there, much as the 6,000,000 who were driven out of their lands by the Russians and Poles.

In fact, there is little doubt that the fate of these 9,000,000 Germans – scattered at will about this defeated and economically destroyed land – constitutes, in the long run, the most extreme and greatest example of the entire problem.

At the approaching discussion on the problem of Europe’s DP’s we will again have the opportunity to see how little capitalism, along with Russian totalitarianism, has to offer in the way of hope or relief to these categories of people.

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