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29.07.19

Between flight and new beginnings

A chapter of German post-war history about which little is known is now at the center of attention on the occasion of a symposium held at the KU from September 22 - 24, 2019. The conference focuses on Jewish Displaced Persons camps drawing on the example of the camp that existed in Eichstätt. It will include testimonials of contemporary witnesses who lived in the Eichstätt camp as children or were born there and who return to Eichstätt for the first time since then to speak at the conference. The symposium is hosted by the KU Center for Flight and Migration and will present current contributions from the field of Displaced Persons research and historical sciences. Furthermore, the topic of flight, deportation and migration will be approached from artistic and musical points of view. An exhibition will offer insights into historical documents and photographs.


The Jewish Displaced Persons camp in Eichstätt, which was largely organized and run by the inhabitants themselves, also had an own kindergarten. (Photo: Zakai/private)

The Jewish Displaced Persons camp in Eichstätt, which was largely organized and run by the inhabitants themselves, also had an own kindergarten. (Photo: Zakai/private)

The former DP camp on the premises of today’s Bereitschaftspolizei (riot police) which consisted of former military buildings and wooden barracks. (Photo: Ettle/private)

The former DP camp on the premises of today’s Bereitschaftspolizei (riot police) which consisted of former military buildings and wooden barracks. (Photo: Ettle/private)

Between fall 1946 and October 1949, when the camp was closed, the Eichstätt DP camp was home to up to 1,400 people at a time. Among the people living in the camp were survivors from concentration camps but also Jews from eastern Poland who were deported to Siberia during the war. After the end of World War II, they were repatriated to Poland, where they fell victim to pogroms again and were thus forced to flee to the American occupation zone in Germany.

Just like all Displaced Persons camps in the American occupation zone, the camp in Eichstätt was also mainly self-administered and received supplies from the United Nations’ Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). Inhabitants set up an own system for education and training as well as for religious, cultural and sports activities: The camp had an own kindergarten, an elementary and a vocational school, two soccer teams, four Talmud Torah schools, a synagogue and a ritual bath. What is today the youth hostel in Eichstätt served as a hospital for camp inhabitants where 150 children were born at the time. The former hunters’ barracks, which is today part of the Bereitschaftspolizei buildings formed the main part of the camp.

“Although the buildings still exist virtually unchanged, the history of the DP camp in Eichstätt is almost unknown”, explains Dr. Julia Devlin, head of the Center for Flight and Migration who co-organizes the symposium together with the local historian Dr. Maximilian Ettle. In their research, they found and contacted several persons who were born in the DP camp in Eichstätt and emigrated to the State of Israel after its foundation together with most inhabitants of the camp. Together with their relatives, many of them will be visiting Germany for the first time in a long time to attend the conference. “For some, this is a welcome opportunity to close the circle”, says Devlin. The attending contemporary witnesses will not only be speaking at the conference and tell participants about their lives, migration paths and families but will also visit the location of the former camp on a guided tour. In general, this conference has the aim of inducing researchers in other locations to also take a closer look at the local history of flight and migration, says Devlin.

Scientific contributions at the symposium will deal with findings on DP camps in the American occupation zone in general and with regard to the camp in Eichstätt, for example in relation to the contexts of origin and the ensuing migration paths of the inhabitants. Another focus area will also be the potential for further research into DP camps. Attending speakers include, amongst others, the American artist Krista Svalbonas, whose parents came from the Baltic States and lived in different German Displaced Persons camps before emigrating to the USA. She incorporated Eichstätt motifs in her work in which she processed her family history. These will be shown in the accompanying exhibition. She will open the conference with her speech on the relationship between art and migration. Other speakers include Holger Köhn (Büro für Erinnerungskultur, Babenhausen), Sebastian Huhn (Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies), Mirjam Spandri (Memorial site of the concentration camp Dachau) and Dr. Rachel Salamander (Founder of the Munich-based „Literaturhandlung“ for specialist literature on Judaism).

The detailed conference program is available at www.ku.de/zfm. The participation fee is € 50. You can register for the conference by e-mail to sleneis(at)ku.de, by phone(+49 8421/9 09 06 16) or by mail to 

Zentrum Flucht und Migration
Frau Simone Leneis
Marktplatz 13
85072 Eichstätt, Germany