The poor conditions in the DP camps were only one of a host of problems confronting liberated prisoners, particularly Jews. George Vida, a concentration camp survivor, described the return home of his brother Imre.


"Imre came home in his striped pajamas. (That's what they used to call the concentration camp uniform.) Somebody told him that a farmer, well known to him, hid a couple of suitcases of his clothing: shirts, underwear, all the things he needed now so badly. He took a bicycle and went to visit the farmer. He was told, 'Yes, it is correct. Your father gave me two suitcases to hide in case someone from the family would return home alive. But the Russians came and found the suitcases and confiscated everything.' While the farmer was telling him this, my brother noticed that he had a shirt on with the initials of my brother monogrammed on it. 'What did you do? What did you say to him?' I asked. 'What could I say? It was only a shirt! I lost so much more,'"
(12)

George Vida said of his own return, revisiting the town of his youth before deportation,


"A thousand stories out of the past and every memory caused unbearable pain because in every one of those incidents, there was somebody who was no more-whose life ended brutally, violently! Wherever we went, we were walking in a cemetery."
(13)

Conditions of life in the camps were so incredible, so beyond the scope and frame of reference of normal, everyday life, that adjustment to "normal" ways of thinking and acting was extremely difficult. Children in the camps joked among themselves about going "up the chimney." A children's rhyme chanted in Auschwitz reads:


"Händchen falten, Köpfchen senken.
(Fold your little hands, bow your little head)
Und an Adolf Hitler denken!
(And think of Adolf Hitler!) (14)

Yehuda Bacon, an artist and survivor who was a child in Auschwitz, Mauthausen and Gunskirchen camps, recalled,


"Do you know when I first saw a funeral after liberation, I burst out laughing! 'People are crazy; for one person they make a casket and play solemn music? A few weeks ago, I saw thousands of bodies piled up to be burnt like so much junk.' And I remember when I went to a theatre, I found myself calculating how long it would take to gas the audience, and which of their clothes would be salvageable, and how much gold their teeth would yield, how many sackfuls of hair they were worth. These thoughts came automatically. They even seemed funny, for if you weren't able to laugh, you just didn't stay alive for a moment." (15)

Most Jews chose repatriation to the West, where they married and tried to rebuild their lives, or to Palestine, frequently through illegal voyages, while the U.S. and the international Jewish community pressured Great Britain to establish a Jewish homeland. Aviva Unger, a camp survivor living with her husband and children in Munich after the war, recounted her decision to emigrate to Palestine:


"One day in 1948, I went to the Vitualienmarkt to buy a goose, and I overheard one of the peasant women market traders remark, 'Look, the Jews are able to buy geese again.' I went straight home and packed. Like that."
(16)

Continue on to the Aftermath