Without a Home: German Jews as Displaced Persons in Postwar Germany
After the Second World War, some German Jews renounced their German heritage and proclaimed themselves stateless displaced persons (DPs). Unlike other DPs, they shared a common culture, history, and language with the perpetrators of the Holocaust. The language they spoke identified them as Germans, providing them with both opportunities and difficulties as they navigated the complex post-war world. German-language skills allowed for easier border crossings, since Jews could pose as ethnic Germans or as German prisoners of war. For those not wanting to live in displaced persons camps, their language ability facilitated interactions with the German authorities responsible for the housing and ration cards issued to free-living DPs. It also allowed them to seek retribution through assisting in the apprehension and prosecution of war criminals. The disadvantages of being German speakers were most evident outside of Germany’s borders and within the confines of the DP camps. In these locations German was the language of the oppressor, and it was all too easy to confuse German Jews with German perpetrators and to treat them as enemy nationals. Intending to leave Germany, German-Jewish DPs occupied an uncomfortable space between their former fellow countrymen and the predominantly eastern European Jewish DPs.
Feinstein, Margarete Myers. “Without a Home: German Jews as Displaced Persons in Post-War Germany.” The Leo Baeck Institute Year Book 62 (November 1, 2017): 75–93. https://doi.org/10.1093/leobaeck/ybx012.