How (some) Jewish refugees made it to the U.S.

Rosa was the only person in her immediate family to survive the Holocaust. After the war ended, she had nowhere to go. Even though she managed to escape Auschwitz, her first years after the war were spent in a liberated concentration camp. Her story is the tale of survivors known as displaced persons (DP).

"I have a very large family in Israel. But there was a war in Israel." [0:11]

When World War II ended in 1945, more than 50,000 displaced Jews were scattered throughout Germany, Austria and Italy. By 1947, the population in DP camps grew to 250,000.

In Rosa’s case, home would be an Allied-run concentration camp in Germany. An American-led investigation spotlighted harsh conditions facing Jewish displaced persons (DP) in Allied-run camps throughout Germany and Austria.

"I was very unhappy there, but it wasn't Auschwitz." [0:14]

The 1945 Truman Directive admitted about 22,950 DPs into the United States, although it did not expand existing immigration quotas. Two-thirds of the arrivals were Jewish. Their numbers included Rosa, who came to New York. Alone with no family in the U.S., she started life over on her own. She was 18.

"They called it, 'From Auschwitz to America.'" [0:11]

America’s Displaced Persons Act of 1948 ultimately authorized the entry of about 400,000 DPs. DP admissions were held to quotas so strict that even President Truman criticized them as discriminating against Jewish refugees — to the point where 90 percent of Jewish DPs were not eligible for visas.

Overall, about 16 percent of the DPs admitted into the U.S. between 1946 and 1952 were Jewish.

Immigration Debate, 1948

How Americans felt about letting in Jews

Gallup Polls tell the story of American's unwelcoming attitudes towards Jewish refugees.

A 1939 Gallup Poll asked Americans about a government proposal to admit 10,000 refugee children from Germany:



in favor opposed

The response varied slightly when Gallup specified that many of those refugees would be Jewish children:



in favor opposed

In 1946, a post-war poll asked if Americans approved of a general “plan to require each nation to take in a given number of Jewish and other European refugees, based upon the size and population of each nation”:



in favor opposed

A follow-up poll asked, more specifically, for responses to President Truman’s intention to seek congressional approval to increase U.S. immigration quotas for Jewish and other European refugees:



in favor opposed

And in 1947, the poll asked Americans how they would feel about their own states taking in 10,000 “displaced persons from Europe":



in favor opposed

Source: Gallup