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< Echoes of Memory

Life in the DP Camps


By Martin Weiss

Life in the displaced persons camps gave people hope, for the first time, since they left their home. Almost every person there had lost parents, siblings, extended family, and many friends. As people started to feel better, they embraced life with zest. Though they had been dehumanized, sick and at death’s door, many started to marry. In the camps, they made wedding dresses from any material they could find, even parachutes.

I recall thinking that they were crazy. No one in the camps had a home or income, but still they mustered their resources and hopes for a new future. What they possessed was humanity and hope, in spite of their predicaments. Soon many countries opened their doors to Holocaust survivors and people emigrated anywhere that would accept them. Many went to Palestine (later Israel) and many to the United States, South America, and Australia.

Within three years, the camps emptied out and the survivors were refugees no more. The amazing thing was that all these downtrodden and beaten people built the state of Israel, made good citizens in their adopted countries, and raised children and grandchildren. Most didn’t look for vengeance. Instead they embraced life.

The atmosphere in Europe was hopeful. People were relieved that the Nazis had lost the war and hoped that all countries would adopt democracy. “Utopia” was often mentioned in conversations and everyone had high hopes for the future. Esperanto, an invented, international language, was mentioned in conversation as a way to improve mankind.

Being young and naïve, I hoped for a world of goodness. Now with more life experiences I realize that some people insist on living in the dark past. They don’t allow light and modern thought. They are repressive, autocratic, and anti-democratic; instead of promoting hope and education, they preach hate vengeance and death.

In the Western world, we make a constant effort to correct past misdeeds and promote democracy so that all people can have a taste of freedom. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has shown that when you teach tolerance and educate people, the world can be a better place for all mankind.

©2011, Martin Weiss. The text, images, and audio and video clips on this website are available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined in the United States copyright laws.

Tags:   martin weissechoes of memory, volume 6

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