Not all of the Jews in Europe were murdered in the Holocaust. After the fall of the Third Reich, Europe was a war-torn shambles. Hundreds of thousands of people were homeless and seeking a new life. These were known at the time as "displaced persons." Among them were several hundred thousand Jews who had either survived the horrors of the concentration camps or escaped the Nazis altogether. Resettling these displaced persons was the job of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). In 1947, because of problems with the UNRRA, a new organization, the International Refugee Organization (IRO) took over the work of finding homes for the displaced persons.
Resettling the survivors was not an easy job. When the IRO took over in 1947, there were approximately 1,200,000 Jewish and non-Jewish people looking for homes. In the next four years the IRO was able to resettle about a million people.
The Jews represented a serious problem for the IRO. They did not want to return to the homes they had before the war. Some Jews were, in fact, murdered by mobs when they tried to return to Poland. Others did not want to return to countries now run as Soviet puppet states. The problem was complicated because many countries refused to allow the survivors to enter. A large number of Jewish survivors wanted to go to Palestine; the British were against such immigration and allowed fewer than 100,000 Jews to enter before Israel declared its independence in May, 1948.
Another complication was the attitude of certain officials in the United States who deliberately impeded Jews from immigrating there despite the policy of the government to allow them to find new homes in the United States. In 1945, President Harry Truman had appointed Earl G. Harrison to make a report of the condition and needs of refugees, especially Jews. His excellent report resulted in a reorganization of UNRRA and, later the establishment of the IRO. Truman asked Congress several times to relax immigration restrictions for displaced persons and, on December 22, 1945, announced in the Truman Directive that the policy of the United States was to give preferential treatment to displaced persons. President Truman continued to be personally interested in this problem, but was unable to effectively put his policies into action.
Looking for new homes approximately 137,000 Jews came to the United States (which admitted almost 400,000 refugees). Other countries where Jews found new homes were France, Canada, Great Britain, and Israel. The two countries receiving the largest numbers of emigrés were the United States and Israel.
In the judgment of one historian, the efforts made by the United States and other countries did not meet the needs of the Jewish refugees in Europe, who were often denied the opportunity to find new homes and new lives. As Leonard Dinnerstein states in his book about the refugees: "In sum, strong national prejudices, procrastination in Congress, and some less than dynamic leadership from the White House combined to prolong the miseries of those Jews who survived the Holocaust."
Two good books on this subject are:
more short essays...