DP Camps in Dornstadt
by C. Maihoefer, / Germany, 2003
Dornstadt Children's camp: One of the most bitter subjects is the history of the children of the persecuted. They were born into a hell, and a great number lost their parents, not knowing about their families till today. A lot of institutes where founded in the camps for children, especially orphans.
In 1946, Zippora Itkind-Karpowsky of Vilnius worked with Jewish children in Lodz.and other places for the 'Coordinatsia', a zionistic organisation in Poland. It was obvious, that Jewish life had no future in Poland; we remember today the pogrom in Kielce. The leaders of the group looked for a way to bring the children into safety. Coordinating with other groups, Zippora brought her children over Salzburg and Rosenheim to Dornstadt. There was an airfield of the former German Luftwaffe. One of the Zionistic activists, Moshe Unger, looked for a place for the children. The American military administration gave him this barracks near Ulm.
It became a home not only for the children of Zippora, but also of other groups. David Szirman had brought a group of kids from Eschwege, where they had spend some time not in the regular DP camp, but in a palace in Schwebda.
In Dornstadt, children were educated by teachers who came from various places, including one from America! Among the groups supporting the work in Dornstadt, was the HaShomer HaZair; a very important group in Jewish history in the time of the shoah and later in the DP period.
The children's camp in Dornstadt did not exist very long. After 9 month, in July 46 the camp was closed, and the children with their teachers tried to make 'alija' to Israel. They went on board the immigrant ship, 'Theodore Herzl', but the ship was intercepted, and the immigrants were sent to refugee camps on Cyprus. They were able to go to Israel in 1948, when it became an independent country (and the war started on the very same day.)
Documentation of this event is to be found in Israel, in the archive of Lochamei haGettaot. Several photographs show the children and their teachers.
Christof Maihoefer, October 2003
Dornstadt / Ulm: The late DP- time:
A home for aged (hard-core) DPs in the region was planned in Spring '50. In May 1950 there was an article in the newspaper, Schwäbische Donau- Zeitung, about the project, but during this year all camps in the region were reorganized or closed. The IRO was under the pressure to solve the DP problem, but it was not able to do so. A last camp for the 'hard-core DPs' was built between Ulm and Mähringen in March '51.
On March 31 the IRO ended it's work, but nevertheless the DPs were still in existence in various camps. Due to a cold political trick, the DPs fell now under a new German law and became legal Homeless Foreigners Heimatlose Ausländer, on 25. 4. 51, with passports which forbade them to travel abroad (except to Sweden); they could not vote nor get a job in the German public service. But the greatest disadvantage was that it made it nearly impossible for the DPs who fell under this law to get any reparations, Wiedergutmachungsleistungen, because they were now in the area of the BRD. Some DPs could, with some luck, receive such reparations, but these were deducted from the received social aid, and so the reparations actually paid the German social aid. I have heard a lot of complaints on how hard it was to get healthcare; and after years of slave work or camplife, healthcare is something one would need.
In September 1951 the home was ready. It was established in the same place, as once had been the Jewish DP Children camp: The former German airfield in Dornstadt. Treaties were made to make sure that there was a part for German old-age persons from the region living in the home. But the atmosphere was very much Ukrainian.
The difficulties in getting German citizenship for former DPs were high; it could happen, that the blue passport became also the passport of their children. Around 2000 Kanzel Schröder opened the gates for 'Homeless foreigners' and made it easier to receive German citizenship for them. But this act was 50 years after the law was passed.
Near to the site, which is still a home for old-aged persons, there is the Ukrainian DP graveyard. The stones are old, some crooked and the weeds are overgrown. Have a stroll through the picture album! Not too many people have found this place in the recent years.
Isn't this forgotten graveyard a true witness of the DP-fate? And read the dates! Who ever would have expected in 1942, when the UNRRA was founded, that the Displaced Persons would have such a long, hard and difficult road in front of them? And how many liberated forced labourers and KZ- prisoners (under Nazis) went through the DP mills, transported from camp to camp, and ended up here, in Germany, as homeless foreigners with little benefits.
If one is in search for a site of a DP memorial, he is invited to do this here, in this forgotten and remote place in Dornstadt, close to Ulm!
Christof Maihoefer, 16. Dezember 2004