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A.E.F.Assembly CenterRegistration NumberClaimed NationalitySexDate of arrival and departureAssigned billet number or addressDestination or Reception CenterStempel Camp LechfeldStempel ResettledDP 3 KürzelRemarks RemarksCode for IssueT/DRecord Destroyed

The DP 3 card – officially called the Assembly Center Registration Card – was created for all DPs when they arrived at a camp in the British or US zone of occupation. There were actually precise instructions on how to fill out these registration cards, but because many different UNRAA and then IRO employees wrote on the cards over the years, they can sometimes look very different at first glance. Although the form itself remained the same, some cards are strewn with stamps and comments, while others have very little information.

The DP 3 card – officially called the Assembly Center Registration Card – was created for all DPs when they arrived at a camp in the British or US zone of occupation. There were actually precise instructions on how to fill out these registration cards, but because many different UNRAA and then IRO employees wrote on the cards over the years, they can sometimes look very different at first glance. Although the form itself remained the same, some cards are strewn with stamps and comments, while others have very little information.

Background information on DP documents

Further examples

Questions and answers

  • Where was the document used and who created it?

    For each DP who arrived in a camp in the British or US occupation zone, employees of the camp administration would fill out a registration card known as a DP 3 card. Information from the Bergen-Belsen DP camp shows that, in the first weeks after the liberation, this task was handled by military units. Later on, UNRRA employees and then, from 1947, IRO employees created the cards. These organizations managed the DP camps and were therefore responsible for filling out the necessary documents.

    The center registrars of Admission Control in the camps used the DP 2 card as the basis for the information on the DP 3 card. The DP 2 card was issued once when a DP first arrived at a camp, and DPs carried the card with them from that point on. UNRRA and then IRO employees would therefore either issue a DP 3 card on the basis of a previously filled out DP 2 card, or they would fill out the two cards at the same time when the DP was first registered. When a DP camp closed, the DP 3 cards passed to the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expedition Forces (SHAEF) or, after this was dissolved, to other higher-level offices. From there, they were sent to the International Tracing Service (ITS), the predecessor to the Arolsen Archives.

  • When was the document used?

    As early as June 1944, the Allied Expedition Force (A.E.F.) issued precise instructions in 19 languages on how the DPs should be registered. The DP 3 cards intended for this purpose were ready to be used right after the DP camps were set up in the spring/summer of 1945. The Arolsen Archives therefore hold DP 3 cards that were already filled out in April and May 1945. The cards and registration process essentially did not change much over the years. Even after the IRO took responsibility for the DPs in 1947, it continued using the DP 3 cards. The cards were used until the IRO was dissolved at the end of 1951.

  • What was the document used for?

    To organize the care provided to the DPs and arrange for the around 10 million DPs to return to their countries of origin, everyone who arrived at a DP camp in the British or US occupation zone was registered using three forms: the DP 1 card (Index Card), DP 2 card (Registration Record) and DP 3 card (Assembly Center Registration Card).

    While the DP 2 card was theoretically only filled out once when a DP was first registered in a DP camp and was then taken from camp to camp by the DP, camp administrative employees created a new DP 3 card in each camp. The DP 3 cards were used to manage the DPs in the respective camps and respond to search inquiries. Because not all of the information on the extensive DP 2 card was required for this, the smaller DP 3 cards with fewer details were used inside the camps. In accordance with instructions for these cards, they were sorted first by nationality and then alphabetically. The personal data and information regarding where a DP went after leaving the camp were especially important. For this reason, the cards were often kept and even updated for many years. The DP 3 cards remained in the DP camps and were not taken by the DPs when they left. These cards made it possible to always answer two questions: who was in the DP camp at any given moment, and who had left the camp for which destination.

    There were clear guidelines for the center registrars: they were supposed to fill out the DP 3 cards in English either on a typewriter or in ink. The card did not have to be filled out in the presence of the DP. Instead, after talking with the DP, the center registrars would transfer the information from the DP 2 card to the DP 3 card. This is also why there are no DP signatures on the DP 3 cards.

    The information on the cards came from the DPs themselves, however. In many cases, survivors of the concentration camps and forced labor did not have any documents they could use to verify their identity. They provided information knowing that false statements could lead to the loss of their DP status and thus of support by UNRRA or the IRO. In fact, various institutions repeatedly reviewed the information provided: the US Army and British military government conducted screenings, as did the IRO Control Center. Once a DP had been cleared for emigration, the consulates of the respective countries also stepped in to check whether the information was correct.

  • How common is the document?

    It is not possible to say exactly how many DP 3 cards are stored in the Arolsen Archives. However, we do know that, following the dissolution of the IRO, around 1.2 million DP 3 cards were sent to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Bad Godesberg in 1952. From there they were passed on to the ITS, and they are now held in the Arolsen Archives. These DP 3 cards – along with 300,000 CM/1 applications and around 240,000 DP 2 cards – were part of a total of 32 tons of DP documents that arrived in Arolsen together. Even more DP 3 cards reached the ITS later on, including copies of 29,000 cards for DPs who had resided in Denmark, which came to the ITS in 1990.

    Considering that a DP 3 card was supposed to be issued every time a DP moved from one camp to another, only a relatively small number of cards have been preserved. After all, DPs moved frequently. UNRRA employee Katie Louchheim recalls that at a DP camp in Mannheim, in which around 6,000 DPs resided shortly after the end of the war, 716 people arrived and 1,197 people left the camp in a single day.

  • What should be considered when working with the document?

    In the Arolsen Archives, most of the individual documents for DPs are sorted according to an alphabetical-phonetic system and stored in the postwar card file (Nachkriegszeitkartei, Collection 3.1.1.1). However, ITS employees filed DP 3 cards not only in the postward card file, but sometimes also in the Central Name Index (CNI). The CNI, which holds around 50 million index cards, actually functions as a reference system: for each name mentioned in a document, a card is created noting the individual’s personal details as well as the shelfmark at which the respective document can be found. Every time a tracing inquiry was received, too, a card was created with the name of the person being sought. To this day, when an inquiry arrives, the employees of the Arolsen Archives first check the CNI to see whether there are documents or earlier inquiries relating to the missing person. There is a simple explanation for why DP 3 cards were placed in the CNI: first, the size of the card matched the format of the CNI cards, and second, this made it possible for the original documents to be found straight away. DP 3 cards that were removed from the CNI for tracing inquiries were sometimes later re-filed in the postwar card file. This is why DP 3 cards can now be found in both collections. However, since the CNI was scanned in black and white at the end of the 1990s, the DP 3 cards filed there are no longer shown in their original color in the online archive of the Arolsen Archives.

    Numerous abbreviations and stamps are found on the DP 3 cards. They often cannot be deciphered at first glance. It is therefore worth looking at other cards about the same person that have been preserved 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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