DP Camp Dora inmates with the director of the French UNRRA team, 29 June 1945. Photo: NARA, College Park, MD.

DP and repatriation camp

After the liberation, the American occupation troops and the UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) cooperated to make the Dora and Harzungen camps suitable for the accommodation of “displaced persons” (DPs). This was the designation given liberated concentration camp inmates and former forced labourers from many countries. The UNRRA organized their return journeys to their home countries.

In mid May 1945, some 14,000 persons were waiting at Camp Dora for their return home. In addition to several hundred liberated concentration camp inmates, they included above all former prisoners of war and foreign civilian forced labourers. Whereas many of the survivors, above all those from Eastern Europe, had to wait at DP Camp Dora for months before they could be repatriated, inmates from Western Europe returned to their home countries relatively soon after their liberation.

When Thuringia was placed under Soviet occupation administration in early July 1945, the Red Army continued to operate Dora as a “repatriation camp” for former Polish and Soviet forced labourers. In the eyes of the Stalinist authorities, the liberated Soviet forced labourers were under general suspicion of having collaborated with the Germans. Before returning home, they were investigated by the Soviet secret service; many were once again taken into custody and disappeared in the GULAG.