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DP identity card (UNRRA)

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476286Oberer BereichDP Registration NumberFingerabdruckIssued at bis DatumRepatriated to bis DAtumName und Unterschrift AusstellerOfficial StampCancelled Stamp CM ITS Stempel

DPs in the US occupation zone received DP identity cards primarily so that they could show that they had DP status in the camps. Screening teams made up of military and UNRRA representatives checked all residents of a camp to ensure that only eligible DPs received an identity card. People who did not fall within the mandate of UNRRA had to leave the camps.

The DP identity cards all look very similar because they were issued centrally. They differ only in the stamps from the individual camps, Admission Control Centers and military units.

DPs in the US occupation zone received DP identity cards primarily so that they could show that they had DP status in the camps. Screening teams made up of military and UNRRA representatives checked all residents of a camp to ensure that only eligible DPs received an identity card. People who did not fall within the mandate of UNRRA had to leave the camps.

The DP identity cards all look very similar because they were issued centrally. They differ only in the stamps from the individual camps, Admission Control Centers and military units.

Background information on DP documents

Further examples

Questions and answers

  • Where was the document used and who created it?

    Screenings took place in the US occupation zone from 1946 onward to ensure that only eligible DPs received UNRRA support in the camps. Special screening teams made up primarily of military representatives visited the camps and questioned their residents. If a person fulfilled all the criteria for DP status, he or she would receive a DP identity card through the local UNRRA camp administration or, from September 1946, through the Admission Control Centers. DPs carried the identity card with them so UNRRA employees could see at a glance that the person was eligible to receive support, such as when food vouchers were issued in a camp.

  • When was the document used?

    The DP identity cards were used between mid-1946 and the start of 1948. They became invalid from January/February 1948 when the IRO – the successor to UNRRA – issued new identity cards in the US zone.

  • What was the document used for?

    At the end of the war, military units and UNRRA employees did not screen people but instead simply registered everyone who reported to them as a DP. Careful screening would only have delayed their planned repatriation, or the return of millions of people to their countries of origin. From 1946, however, the situation looked different: The DPs who remained behind had to be housed in camps for longer periods of time, and since many of them refused to be repatriated, new arrangements had to be made for them. To ensure that only eligible DPs received this assistance, the military administrations conducted screenings together with UNRRA.

    These screenings took place in all three Western occupation zones. In the US zone, the screening teams were made up of representatives of the military (US Forces, European Theater, or USFET for short) and one UNRRA employee who did not have a right to vote. With the help of questionnaires, they decided who was considered a DP and who was not. To do this, they visited all camps in the US zone and questioned all residents over the age of 15. Children aged 15 or under received the status assigned to their parents. The around 35 screening teams in the US zone reviewed a total of roughly 330,000 DPs in 13 months.

    After their decision had been made, the screening teams gave a list with the names of all eligible DPs to the directors of the DP camps. The UNRRA employees in the camp administration then issued DP identity cards that the DPs always had to carry with them. According to historian Wolfgang Jacobmeyer, only 12 percent of the camp residents who were screened between July 1946 and July 1947 were not eligible for DP status. Around 30,500 people were subsequently expelled from the camps, and just over 500 people were arrested based on the information they had provided – which, in some cases, revealed that they had collaborated with the Nazis, for example.

    The DP identity cards from UNRRA were only valid in the camp in which they had been stamped. However, if a DP moved to another camp, the identity card did not need to be re-issued. Instead, the director of the new camp simply needed to stamp the card again. This information – like all other changes to the identity cards – was also always supposed to be noted on the person’s DP 2 card.

    In September 1946 – after all DPs living in camps in the US zone at the time had received identity cards – responsibility for the identity cards was transferred entirely to UNRRA. From that point on, new identity cards were issued at the same time as other registration documents. This was the case when a child was born, for example. But UNRRA employees would also issue new identity cards when a woman changed her last name after marriage, for example, or someone lost their card. DPs who only arrived in the US zone later also received an identity card after being screened.

  • How common is the document?

    By the start of 1948, around 330,000 people had been screened in the US zone. Only around 39,000 of them were not given an identity card because they did not fulfill the criteria for DP status. This means that, based on the calculations alone, there must have been at least around 290,0000 DP identity cards. However, not nearly that many have been preserved in the Arolsen Archives. This is due largely to the fact that UNRRA identity cards were recalled and destroyed when the new IRO identity card were introduced. For this reason, the early UNRRA identity cards are very seldom found in the Arolsen Archives. Most of those that have been preserved are cards that were declared invalid because the person had died, for example, or had received a new card when their name changed after marriage.

    Employees of the International Tracing Service (ITS), the predecessor to the Arolsen Archives, sorted the identity cards following an alphabetical-phonetic system and filed them together with other documents in the postwar card file (Nachkriegszeitkartei, Collection 3.1.1.1). This made it easier to search for references to people, but it also means there is no way of knowing how common the DP identity cards are. But in the near future, modern computer technology will find the answer: clustering techniques will make it possible to automatically identify and count the DP identity cards and other types of documents.

  • What should be considered when working with the document?

    Various DP identity cards were used at different times in the individual occupation zones. The UNRRA DP identity card was the predecessor to the IRO identity card. Both cards were only used in the US occupation zone. In the French zone, the military administration issued a Carte d’identité de Personnes Déplacées. In the British zone, PWX/DP Registration/Identity Cards were used. Although the cards were issued by different offices, they all served the same purpose: to identify DPs as DPs.

    Unlike the other identity cards and documents, however, the UNRRA identity card from the US zone was not issued in duplicate. This means the camp administration did not have a second copy of the card for control purposes in its files. For this reason, the identity card is also not found very often in the Arolsen Archives.

    If you have any additional information about these cards, we would appreciate it very much if you could send your feedback to eguide(at)arolsen-archives.org. New findings can always be incorporated into the e-Guide and shared with everyone.

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