The Displaced Person's Act of 1948
On June 25, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed the Displaced Persons Act of 1948. The act assisted in the resettlement of thousands of European refugees at the end of World War II. This included people like my mother and father who had been forced by the Nazi’s to leave Poland and work for the Third Reich as forced laborers in an ammunition factory. The millions of people who found themselves outside their home countries as a result of the war were called “displaced people (DP)” The law authorized the entry of 200,000 displaced persons over the next two years. In 1950 it increased displaced-person admissions to 415,000. It also gave preference to relatives of American citizens and insisted that all applicants must present guarantees by sponsors that housing was waiting for them and they would not displace American workers.
On October 21,1948, the first group of displaced people sailed to the U.S. from Bremerhaven, Germany on the General Black, a U.S. Army transport. The largest group of individuals were Poles, followed by Lithuanians, Czechs, Latvians and Ukrainians, Hungarians and others listed as stateless. Tens of thousands of refugees poured into the U.S. My parents waited three years after their application to obtain the necessary visas for all of us. We arrived on U.S. soil on April 28, 1954, supported financially by the National Catholic Welfare Council. We wore buttons on our coats with the letters N.C.W.C. which I have kept to this day. We lived with my mother’s uncle and his wife for a short time. When my father got a job working in a radiator factory, we moved into a Polish American neighborhood in rooms over an abandoned bakery where the pipes froze in winter and bees made nests between the walls in summer. It lacked a proper bathtub. Saturday night baths were in a round zinc tub, which I’ve also kept to this day. We were enrolled in school. We learned English. We lived with the stigma of being called DP’s or “dipisi” in a derogatory way. We became legal, naturalized citizens of the United States of America. We worked and contributed to this American society.
It was President Truman who called upon and urged Congress to enact legislation to allow some of the refugees of World War II to enter the United States. The year he signed the Displaced Person’s Act I was born in a refugee camp in Hanover, Germany. It was a total of nine years of refugee camps for my parents and their children but the Displaced Person’s Act gave them their final home, their refuge, their place of shelter and safety.
6/26/2020 11:48:15 am
An excellent story about the Displaced Persons Act if 1948! And what a treasure to still have your National Catholic Welfare Council pin! Thanks for sharing this piece of forgotten history about bravery and hope for the future! Well done Sophie! Bravo!
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One of the biggest moments in my life was being able to sign for my very own library card. When I'm not reading, researching and writing I'm riding my bike, sewing or gardening. I love flea markets, folk art, and traveling to Poland.