Life in a Displaced Persons Camp

Beth Bialik Camp in Austria

"Conditions weren’t that much better, but no one was trying to kill us."

"We arrived -- outside of a DP camp, a displaced persons camp, outside of Salzburg, Austria. This was late 1945 or early 1946. I believe it was either December or January because I remember very, very strongly how cold [it was] and the snow as we got off the train.

We arrived at night and we were taken -- met by a lot of American soldiers-- taken off the train. And we were housed at a DP Camp called Beth Bialik outside of Salzburg, Austria. Basically it was a converted army camp of some sort.

The buildings were dilapidated. You could see the holes in the walls. And the American soldiers did whatever they could to make us as comfortable as they could -- and we were given food and medical attention. But, the barracks were so dilapidated and so rundown that [they were] almost unlivable. Families would kind of become squatters that would just go into a certain part of that particular barrack -- I remember they would hang up either sheets or blankets or whatever they could...and they would say, 'This is our area, this is where our family’s gonna be.' We slept on the floors. I mean, the barracks were rat infested. I mean, I can still see the humongous -- I mean, these were big rodents just crawling around whatever heat vents or pipes.

We lived at the Beth Bialik [camp] for about a year and a half. You know, under conditions [that] weren’t that much better, but no one was trying to kill us.

From what I remember, there was, as far as the eye could see, you could see barracks, and each barrack there were just people coming and going. And there was no rhyme or reason to who was there. Who was living there. Who wasn’t living there. One day there was a family there. The next day they weren’t there. There was a lot of children just running around. Some barefoot. I remember some of my friends were barefoot. Some of them had shoes that were opened up. Clothing that was torn. They did whatever they could. My father, I guess, he was more imaginative than others. Was able to find us some, some warm clothing. Some, you know, coats and, and things kind of got a little steady. A little normal."