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Dress Made by Margret Hantman in Deggendorf DP Camp

Hantman Dress
US Holocaust Memorial Museum

When World War II and the Holocaust ended in 1945, roughly eight million people were left uprooted and homeless.1 To house and feed such a large number of people, the United States helped to establish hundreds of Displaced Persons (DP) camps in occupied Germany, Austria, and Italy.2 While these facilities were only meant to provide temporary shelter, their residents often became stuck in them for a long time. It typically took months—if not years—before the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and the International Refugee Organization (IRO) could help DPs complete all of the steps necessary for their resettlement.3

The residents of the Deggendorf DP camp in Bavaria founded schools and vocational training centers, set up a synagogue and a library, published two newspapers, and organized cultural events and programming.4 A Jewish survivor of Theresienstadt and Auschwitz named Margret Simon Hantman arrived in Deggendorf during the fall of 1945. She helped launch a theater group with other residents. They regularly put on plays and musical revues for which they made their own costumes and props. One of these performances featured Margret and five other dancers in self-made dresses patterned on the American flag. They were accompanied by a seventh dancer who was dressed up like the Statue of Liberty. While Hantman's dress hints at the important role the United States may have played in the imagination of many Deggendorf residents, the US was not the first choice of destination for many DPs.

Hantman had not originally planned on immigrating to the US. She was a Zionist who had always imagined herself settling in Palestine, but she had no family except a cousin in St. Louis. As she would later explain, "It was a little strange, being a Zionist all along, and then deciding to come to America. But I had no relatives, I was too young, and I was tired of camp life, so I decided to come to America." 

Although the US had not been her first choice, Hantman considered herself lucky. Together with other DPs, she boarded an American military ship in May 1946. She would later recall that when she arrived in New York harbor and saw the Statue of the Liberty for the first time, she "really felt safe."5

For more, see Gerard Daniel Cohen, In War's Wake: Europe's Displaced Persons in the Postwar Order (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

Of postwar Europe's eight million uprooted people, only about seven million could be repatriated. Over one million continued to stay in DP camps for months—or even years.

More than 250.000 Jewish refugees were housed in DP camps exclusively designated for Jewish DPs. These included survivors of the Holocaust and refugees from the anti-Jewish violence that occurred in eastern Europe after the war. Jewish DP camps like Deggendorf became centers for a revival of Jewish culture and life after the Holocaust as people were waiting to emigrate. For some examples of these efforts, see the related collection in Experiencing History, Jewish Displaced Persons in Postwar Europe. For more on Deggendorf, see the related Experiencing History item, Song from Deggendorf DP Camp.

Margret Simon Hantman's personal papers, which include more materials on her life and her experience at Deggendorf, are available online through the USHMM's Collection.

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Accession Number 2018.70.2
Date Created
May 1945 to May 1946
Dimensions Height: 31 inches (78.74 cm) - Width: 12.25 inches (31.115 cm)
Material Cream colored cotton, red stripes painted with watercolor. Blue fabric stamped with white stars. Red cloth belt. Four metal snap enclosures and hook and eye fastener.
Maker / Creator
Margret Simon Hantman
Margret Simon Hantman
Deggendorf DP camp, Germany
Reference Location
New York, USA
Object Type Clothing
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