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December 22: The Antisemitic Displaced Persons Act, 1948

Lawrence Bush
December 22, 2016
This date in 1945 was the cut-off for recognition of “Displaced Person” status that would enable people to emigrate to America under the American Displaced Persons Act of 1948. The legislation would ultimately result in 400,000 persons being admitted to the U.S., more than 70 percent of them from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. “Hiding behind those statistics, however, was a systemic bias against Jews and Catholics, making the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 more an act of exclusion than inclusion,” writes Richard Rashke, author of Useful Enemies, at the History News Network. “The . . . cutoff date . . . rendered ineligible more than 90 percent of the mostly Polish Jews who had survived the Holocaust. Greeted with pogroms in postwar Poland, they [had] sought safety in neighboring Germany after December 22, 1945.” Preference was given, rather, to farmers, a regulation that favored Ukrainians and Belarussians, and to descendants of German settlers in Eastern Europe -- populations that included numerous collaborators with Nazism. “After the war, the displaced persons camps were bulging with Eastern European Nazi collaborator-refugees, including approximately 5,000 SS guards like John Demjanjuk and members of the three most vicious anti-Semitic fascist groups in the Balkans—Arrow Cross (Hungary), Iron Guard (Romania), and Ustascha (Croatia). The FBI and the CIA welcomed Nazi collaborators like pennies from heaven.” --Richard Rashke

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.