When the Third Reich surrendered in May 1945, 8 million people were left uprooted around Europe. Millions drifted through the 2,500 hastily arranged Displaced Persons camps before they were repatriated. Far from scenes of joyful liberation that should have greeted the end of Nazi oppression, files reveal desperation, loss and confusion, and overwhelmed and often insensitive military authorities. The last DP camps were closed in 1953 .
Liberated concentration camps were transformed into DP camps. Food was still scarce — often just coffee and wet black bread — and medical care was insufficient, said a report written for President Harry Truman.
Inmates were kept under armed guard to maintain order. They still wore their old striped, pjama-like concentration-camp-issue uniforms and slept in the same drafty barracks through a bitter winter.
Compounding their misery, they could watch through barbed wire fences and see German villagers living normal lives.
"As things stand now, we appear to be treating the Jews as the Nazis treated them, except that we do not exterminate them," wrote presidential envoy Earl G. Harrison in his famously quoted report to Truman after visiting that summer.
People still died at the rate of 1,000 to 1,500 a day. Corpses were stacked in front of barracks, to be carted away by captured SS guards. "Bodies frequently remained for several days in the huts, the other inmates being too weak to carry them out," Francois-Poncet wrote in a report for the Allied Military Government.
Relocating those refugees was not easy .
Racism was rampant . "Being a Kalmyk of Mongolian race, is ineligible for most Anglo-Saxon countries,"
And the sexism . "The doors are closed to unmarried mothers," said a note from strongly Catholic Ireland.
Nor should the post -war horrors of the Second World War suffered by the German working class should be forgotten . It is something that has been hidden away . The largest ethnic cleaning of modern times , forgotten about . The treatment of German POWS by the Allies , forgotten about yet it was the first redesignation of prisoners of war to circumvent the Geneva Conventions , the precedent for Bush and Guantanamo Bay .
Throughout all of 1945 the Allies forces of occupation ensured that no international aid reached ethnic German civilian population .
" I feel that the Germans should suffer from hunger and from cold as I believe such suffering is necessary to make them realize the consequences of a war which they caused..." - General Lucius Clay , then Deputy to General Eisenhower
And of course it succeeded . In early October 1945 the UK government privately acknowledged in a cabinet meeting that German civilian adult death rates had risen to 4 times the pre-war levels and death rates amongst the German children had risen by 10 times the pre-war levels .
General Lucius Clay stated in October 1945 "...By the spring of 1946, German observers expect that epidemics and malnutrition will claim 2.5 to 3 million victims between the Oder and Elbe"
German infant mortality rate was twice that of other nations in Western Europe until the end of 1948.