Shaped by War

A 15-year-old boy writes in the DP camp newspaper Undser Lebn about his experiences in the war and his demand for the establishment of a Jewish state.

Undzer Lebn, September 25, 1946: “Our children about themselves”

In September 1946, the camp newspaper Undser Lebn interviewed children from the DP camp “Düppel-Center” in Schlachtensee. Sol Zvi (right column, second picture from the top), 15 years old, recounted his experiences:

“In 1942, I and my younger brother were deported to Majdanek together with my parents. My parents stayed there forever. My brother and I took an opportunity to escape into the forest, where we lived together with partisans for three years. I also carried out combat missions with the partisans. There [in ‘Eretz Israel’] I want to go to a technical school. We have been in exile long enough. In all other countries, what we have already gone through can happen to us Jews. Every people must have its own country.”


Undzer Lebn, September 25, 1946: “Our children about themselves”

After the end of World War II, Berlin became a place of refuge for millions of refugees and displaced persons (DPs). Several groups of people who had lost their homes through war, enslavement and persecution fell under the DP status.

In addition to former forced laborers, foreign contract workers and prisoners of war, Jewish displaced persons also found themselves in Berlin. They had been liberated from Nazi concentration camps or on death marches or were returning from exile. They called themselves she‘erit hapletah, (Hebrew for “the surviving remnant”, in Yiddish sheyres hapleyte). For most of them, Germany, as the land of the perpetrators, was the last place they wanted to stay.

Three larger transit camps for Jewish DPs were established in the destroyed city. Being housed in a camp again had a retraumatizing effect on many. But within a few months, the camps developed into self-governing small towns within the urban area of Berlin. The camps remained only until 1948, but some residents stayed in the city for the rest of their lives.


Undzer Lebn, September 25, 1946: “Our children about themselves”

In August 1946, the first issue of the Yiddish language camp newspaper Undser Lebn appeared, which was to be the central organ of camp life. Often written humorously, the authors devoted themselves to topics of social, political, and cultural interest. The newspaper was published at irregular intervals and had a circulation of up to 3,000. In addition, numerous Yiddish-language publications appeared in the DP camps. Separate Yiddish libraries were established.