A Strange Half-World
The Lives of Soviet Nationals in Europe’s Displaced Persons Camps, 1945-1948
The Second World War caused unprecedented population dislocation; 8 million people within the borders of Germany alone were categorized as displaced persons (DPs), civilians outside their national borders. While most were rapidly repatriated, nearly half a million Soviet DPs refused repatriation, and spent years of their lives in DP camps. This article seeks to better understand the experience of these DPs, for whom the camps were not merely a waystation, but a refuge. I examine three aspects of daily life in DP camps: coverage of basic needs, community building, and interaction with the world outside the camps, from the perspective of both DPs and camp personal to arrive at a more comprehensive understanding of the DP crisis. Doing so serves to humanize statistics, and offers insight into contemporary refugee crises.
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