From liberator to guardian: The U.S. Army and displaced persons in Munich, 1945
During the Second World War the western Allies obligated themselves to care for millions of persons uprooted, deported, or otherwise forcibly removed from their homes. The Allies referred to these people as displaced persons, or DPs, and prepared elaborate plans requiring the military forces, upon liberation, to assemble the displaced persons in centers, disinfect, register, feed and clothe them, administer medical treatment, and eventually return them to their countries of origin.
The majority of the displaced persons in Europe were liberated in Germany, and the task of caring for them fell to the Allied armies of occupation and Military Government (MG). From May to September 1945 almost six million DPs were returned to their native countries in a massive repatriation drive. By the end of 1945, however, almost one-half million DPs remained in the United States Zone. They became the long-term wards of the United States Army, which, as the only agency in Germany equipped to secure the DPs' civic protection and material support, functioned in the uncustomary role of international refugee relief.
The study examines in depth how the U.S. Army carried out its mission to care for and repatriate the displaced persons in the city and county of Munich. It delves into the details of mass feeding, housing, medical treatment, and repatriation. It explains the situation of the non-repatriable DPs and compares the Army's treatment of Jews with that of other groups. It describes the complex difficulties connected with long-term assistance, such as the reuniting of families, the employment of DPs, and defining the rules of eligibility for Allied aid. Above all the study aims to show how the role of the Army changed, within the period of seven months, from that of liberator, bringing immediate relief and repatriation to millions of displaced persons, to that of guardian and protector of several refugee groups enjoying asylum in occupied territory.
As a preliminary, the study explores the origin of the displaced persons in Munich as imported foreign workers. In conclusion it offers general assumptions drawn from the example in Munich and suggests that, based upon recent events in Cambodia, the Persian Gulf, and Bosnia, armed forces will continue to be called upon to provide long-term relief to refugees in protective enclaves.
0335: European history