"Will it [the Sh'erit ha-Pletah] mean an accidental term for survivors of a destroyed people, or will it mean a revolution in Jewish history--a renaissance of Jewish life?"
--Menachem Sztajer, Editor, DP Express-Fun Jidiszn Lebn
May 8, 1945, marked the end of hostilities and a turn toward peace for war-ravaged Europe. For those who had survived the Nazi Holocaust, however, the end of the war brought the beginning of a long and arduous period of rebirth. Following the defeat of Nazi Germany in the spring of 1945, as many as 100,000 Jewish survivors found themselves among the seven million uprooted and homeless people classified as displaced persons (DPs). In a chaotic six-month period six million non-Jewish DPs, who had been deported to Germany as forced laborers for the Nazis, wandered through Germany and Central Europe toward their homelands. But the liberated Jews who were plagued by illness and exhaustion, emerged from concentration camps and hiding places to discover a world in which they had no place. Bereft of home and family and reluctant to return to their prewar homelands, these Jewish DPs would be joined in a matter of months by more than 150,000 other Jews fleeing fierce antisemitism in Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Russia. Together, these survivors became known as Sh'erit ha-Pletah, a biblical term that means "the Surviving Remnant."
In time, the Allies and voluntary agencies rallied to the refugees' aid. As the world debated where to house the Jewish DPs, the Sh'erit ha-Pletah asserted its vitality, assuming administration of the Jewish DP camps in Germany, Austria, and Italy. They established cultural, educational, and social bodies that transformed a disorganized group into a powerful moral and political force. As Sh'erit ha-Pletah leader Zalman Grinberg declared, "What we, the Sh'erit ha-Pletah must do is show that we, the victims of Nazism have always been and will always be the carriers of humanity."
While the strict immigration restrictions of Western nations protracted the Sh'erit ha-Pletah's stay in DP camps from months to years, the survivors moved from the chaos of liberation to self-governance and revitalization. They began searching for relatives and jobs and eventually reunited with family members, started new families, and argued for immigration to the United States and especially Palestine, the Jews’ religious and historical homeland. Neither free nor enslaved, unwanted by the community of nations, and caught in the lands of their oppressors, the Jewish DPs created flourishing communities in their camps. There, in an unparalleled six-year period between 1945 and 1951, European Jewish life was reborn.