Most Jewish survivors, who had survived concentration camps or had been in hiding, were unable or unwilling to return to eastern Europe because of postwar antisemitism and the destruction of their communities during the Holocaust. Many of those who did return feared for their lives.
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In Poland, for example, locals initiated several violent pogroms. The worst was the one in Kielce in in which 42 Jews, all survivors of the Holocaust, were killed. These pogroms led to a significant second movement of Jewish refugees from Poland to the west. Many Holocaust survivors moved westward to territories liberated by the western Allies.
The Allies established such camps in Allied-occupied Germany, Austria, and Italy for refugees waiting to leave Europe. Most of the Jewish displaced persons were in the British occupation zone in northern Germany and in the American occupation zone in the south. The British established a large displaced persons camp adjacent to the former concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen in Germany.
Several large camps holding 4, to 6, displaced persons each— Feldafing , Landsberg, and Foehrenwald —were located in the American zone.
At its peak in , the Jewish displaced person population reached approximately , While the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration UNRRA administered all of the displaced persons camps and centers, Jewish displaced persons achieved a large measure of internal autonomy. A variety of Jewish agencies were active in the displaced persons camps. Jewish displaced persons also formed self-governing organizations, and many worked toward the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.
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There were central committees of Jewish displaced persons in the American and British zones which, as their primary goals, pressed for greater immigration opportunities and the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. In the United States, immigration restrictions strictly limited the number of refugees permitted to enter the country.
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