Freeman’s is honored to offer the She’arit Haple’atah Archive as part of the January 31 Books, Maps & Manuscripts auction. The items in this collection were printed for, and relate to, Jewish Displaced Persons who were living in camps in Eastern Europe between 1945 and 1949; they were called the She’arit Haple’atah – or “the surviving remnant.” After their liberation from the Nazis in the spring of 1945, hundreds of thousands of Jews lived in camps—often former concentration camps or German army camps—that were run by the Allied authorities. The mission of the Displaced Persons camps was to repatriate people to their home countries. They also fulfilled a practical need for temporary shelters, providing food, clothing, medicine and transportation. The number of camps tapered off as people were repatriated; especially with establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Fohrenwald, in Germany, was the last camp to close, in 1957.
In addition to tending to basic survival needs, people living in the camps also established schools, printing presses, social, cultural and athletic clubs, and religious centers in the camps. Only a few weeks after the liberation of Bergen-Belsen, for example, a printing press was founded there. They printed secular and religious texts, poetry, children’s books, newspapers, and Zionist material, mostly printed in Yiddish or Hebrew. Many of the items in this collection bear stamps from various schools and organizations within the Displaced Persons camps, indicating where the books were used. Charitable organizations often funded these activities, like the Vaad Hatzala, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Red Cross.
She’arit Haple’atah literature is extremely rare, so the vastness of this particular collection provides invaluable insight into Jewish life in Europe in the post-World War II period. This type of literature was only intended for distribution in the camps—it was not available for sale—so many people did not have access to it outside of the camps. The materials printed were quickly and inexpensively produced, and when survivors left the camps they often left these materials behind, which were then destroyed when the camps were razed; hence the rarity and fragility of the surviving items.
Join Freeman’s on Wednesday, January 16, for a talk on the subject of Postwar Jewish Displaced Persons, presented by Dr. Avinoam J. Patt.