Zeilsheim

Zeilsheim was a DP camp 12 miles west of Frankfurt in the American-occupied zone. Zeilsheim's German homes (small townhouses from two- to three-stories in height) were requisitioned to accommodate inhabitants of the DP camp. The streets and building complexes of Zeilsheim were named after towns and kibbutzim in Palestine.

Zeilsheim maintained a Jewish theatrical group, a synagogue, a jazz orchestra, a sports club named "Chasmonai," and a number of schools, including an ORT school. The camp had a library with approximately 500 books, and circulated two Yiddish newspapers: Unterwegs (In Transit) and Undzer Mut (Our Courage). The Jewish population in the camp reached approximately 3,570 in October of 1946.

Zeilsheim was the site of many protests against British policy on Jewish immigration to Palestine. Judah Nadich, General Eisenhower's first advisor on Jewish affairs in the European Theatre of Operations, frequently visited the camp in an effort to see that the basic requirements of DPs were being met. David Ben Gurion, then the chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency (and future Prime Minister of Israel), also visited the DP camp. His personal inspection of Zeilsheim was a pivotal event in the lives of Jewish DPs. The camp closed on November 15, 1948, after a piece de resistance during which the U.S. Army wanted to return the houses to workers from the IG Farben plant in nearby Hechst. Rabbi Bernstein believed that it would be cruel to inconvenience the DPs in order to accommodate Germans, especially since nearly all the camp residents were concentration camp survivors. He warned that the evacuation would only be accomplished through force. Thus, the army postponed the idea until July 1948, when it renewed its plan after the establishment of Israel. Conceding to the pleas of the camp committee, the army postponed the transfer date until November 15, 1948, but survivors still protested the move.

 

View of the entrance to the Zeilsheim displaced persons' camp, IRO Assembly Center 557.
Group portrait of the staff and children of the Zeilsheim Children's Center in front of their building.
Four Jewish policemen stand outside police headquarters in the Zeilsheim displaced persons' camp.