By Menachem Z. Rosensaft
Vice President, American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants

Most people would not consider a mere five years to be an “era,” that term generally being reserved for far longer spans of time. And yet, as is evident from Ben Shephard’s masterful The Long Road Home, The Aftermath of the Second World War, published this month, the five years following the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps and the end of World War II in the spring of 1945, when hundreds of thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors as well as non-Jewish erstwhile forced laborers from various parts of Eastern Europe languished in Displaced Persons (DP) camps, indeed constituted an era.”The concept of the ‘displaced persons,'” writes Shephard, “determined the shape of the Allied humanitarian effort after the war . . . because, as it turned out, the war’s most important legacy was a refugee crisis. When the dust had settled and all those who wished to had returned home, there remained in Germany, Austria and Italy a residue of some 1 million people who were mot inclined to go back to their own countries – Jews, Poles, Ukrainians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, and Yugoslavs.”By way of full disclosure, my father, Josef Rosensaft, who headed both the Central Committee of Liberated Jews in the British Zone of Germany and the Jewish Committee that administered the Bergen-Belsen DP camp, is featured in The Long Road Home, and Shephard graciously refers to me in his acknowledgments. Shephard’s discussion of the critical rehabilitative function of Zionism for the Jewish DPs is especially instructive. David Ben-Gurion, who visited some of the DP camps in the fall of 1945, intuitively understood the public relations value of Jewish survivors of the death camps clamoring for a homeland. When an American member of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine, urged a young Jewish DP to have patience, the latter replied, “How can you talk to us of patience? After six years of this war, after all our parents have been burned in the gas ovens, you talk to us of patience?”