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Film of DPs Studying in Camp Grohn

Many Displaced Persons (DPs) passed through Camp Grohn in Bremen, Germany before leaving Europe. Located near the busy North Sea port of Bremerhaven, the camp at Bremen could hold as many as 5,000 people on their way to their new homes. The DP camp at Bremen became the site of many last preparations before starting a long sea voyage. Although familiarity with the English language was not required in order to obtain DP status or to immigrate to the US, many DPs bound for the US began learning English before they left Europe to help with the difficult transition to life in a new country.1

The featured film clip from 1947 depicts an English lesson in Bremen sponsored by volunteers with the Church World Service Language Institute, an American Christian relief organization.2 The film shows how DPs learned about American culture as they studied English. For instance, a woman starts to write the following quote from American author Walt Whitman: "I give nothing as duties; What others give as duties, I give as living impulses; (Shall I give the heart's action as a duty?)"3

The film was shot by American filmmaker Julien Bryan as he documented life in postwar Europe. Like the IRO registration film featured in this collection, this film seems designed for an American audience. The DPs in the film appear happy and attentive during the English lesson, which suggests that Bryan's film may have been intended to show American audiences that DPs were prepared to adapt to life in the United States.

In this oral history, Holocaust survivor Adi Eisenberg discusses learning English in DP camps before immigrating to the United States.

Formed in 1946, the Church World Service was an American Christian organization that conducted relief efforts in Europe and Asia. In addition to providing material aid, the Church World Service organized English lessons in parts of occupied Germany. For more on the postwar relief work of the Church World Service, see Haim Genizi, "Problems of Protestant Cooperation: The Church World Service, the World Council of Churches and Post-War Relief in Germany,” in Holocaust and Church Struggle: Religion, Power and the Politics of Resistance, edited by Hubert G. Locke and Marcia Sachs Littell (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1996): 163–196. See also the related item in Experiencing HistoryDisplaced Persons Act of 1948.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass: The Poems of Walt Whitman (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1964), 168. 

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Accession Number 2003.214
RG Number RG-60.4702
Source Number 3046
Date Created
Duration 00:01:20
Time Selection 8:53-10:13
Sound No
Videographer / Creator
Julien Bryan
Bremen, Germany
Moving Image Type Raw Footage
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