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Film of Displaced Persons Registering with the International Refugee Organization

IRO Registration
US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Established in 1946, the International Refugee Organization (IRO)1 was responsible for providing housing and food to Displaced Persons (DPs). The organization also helped DPs navigate various countries’ different immigration requirements, conducted medical examinations, and processed paperwork for immigration applications.2 In addition, the IRO fingerprinted every DP and cataloged them in their application for DP status.3

The featured film depicts some administrative steps completed by DPs in Linz, Austria, as they sought to immigrate to a new home. Directed by Julien Bryan—a well-known American documentary filmmaker—the 1946 film depicts the IRO documentation process as orderly and carefully administered. The applicants appear eager and compliant. While the purpose of the film is unknown, it may have been screened as part of newsreels shown in American movie theaters before feature films. 

Although the film depicts a regimented and efficient procedure, filing immigration paperwork was often a frustrating and challenging endeavor. Applicants had to clear a series of bureaucratic hurdles before they could even receive DP status, and further administrative obstacles had to be overcome before they could emigrate from Europe. 

Why was this type of film created and shown in the US? It is possible that its creators hoped to dampen anti-immigrant sentiment and boost support for the DP Act among the American public.

The IRO was the successor to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Organization, which disbanded in 1948. 

Gerard Daniel Cohen, "The 'Human Rights Revolution' at Work: Displaced Persons in Postwar Europe," in Human Rights in the Twentieth Century, edited by Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010): 45–61.

See USHMM collections for examples of IRO registration cards. For more on the documents required from DPs in order to immigrate to the US, see these examples. Following the passage of the DP Act of 1948, people seeking to emigrate with the help of the IRO needed to prove that they had been living in the DP camp system in the Allied zones of occupation in Germany, Austria, or Italy before 1948.For more on US immigration policies and the DP Act, see Haim Genizi, America's Fair Share: The Admission and Resettlement of Displaced Persons, 1945–1952 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1993).

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Accession Number 2003.213
RG Number RG-60.4178
Source Number 3024
Date Created
Duration 00:01:27
Time Selection 00:40–02:07
Sound No
Videographer / Creator
Julien Bryan
Linz, Austria
Moving Image Type Newsreel
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