Displaced Persons in Australia or whether to trust archival documents

Just finished reading a very interesting book about Displaced Persons in Australia.

”Displaced Persons” or DPs were people who became stranded in Germany at the end of World War Two and included concentration camp inmates , forced agricultural and factory workers , non -German soldiers in military units withdrawing westwards and civilian evacuees fleeing west from the overcoming Soviet Army.  This definition is given in a book ”Beautiful Balts- From Displaced Persons to New Australians” by Jayne Persian.

Beautiful Balts Jayne Persian
Beautiful Balts Jayne Persian

There were about 12 million displaced persons at the end of war in Europe.  170,700 of them migrated to Australia between 1947 and 1952. The main national groups were Polish (63393), Baltic (34656), Yugoslav (23543), Ukrainians ( 14464), Russian (3256) and others.

The author did a great research into all aspects of  Displace Persons experiences.  She tells us stories of how these people ended up in DP camps in Germany, how the recruitment and selection for immigration process was  carried out, how the immigrants came to Australia and in what conditions they lived during the compulsory 2 year contract period and later as New Australians.

But this book is not a dry historical account.  Every page breathes with someone’s real life story.

The author also reminded me about the thing I always knew and tell my clients about.  The documents compiled by International Refugee Organisation and the Australian migration selectors were not always true.  In order to escape forced repatriation very often DPs changed their background stories and included incorrect birth place or surname in documents supplied.  There was an underground industry to provide false identity papers. In addition, the administrators could not differentiate real documents from fake. They could not correctly spell surnames and places of birth.   They were not properly trained and could not speak the languages of DPs.

This is the reason why you have to always corroborate the documents received from archives with family stories and legends.  Do not trust documents blindly!  Need help?

© Tsvetana Spasova, 2017


National Archives of Australia – http://www.naa.gov.au/


2 thoughts on “Displaced Persons in Australia or whether to trust archival documents

  1. Maria Reply

    I so love the way you go into the details of tracing family. You have an understanding of what people seek and how they should go about researching and concluding on their findings. To see is not always to believe as we have so often found. Sometimes the more we find, the more we are puzzled as in my own recent findings.

    Thank you for your depth of understand of what people seek and need to fulfill their family research.


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