After the Nazi regime surrendered in May 1945, the United States—along with the three other chief Allied powers—occupied Germany. In the regions under American control, the US Army and the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (UNRRA) established a number of Displaced Persons (DP) camps to house Holocaust survivors and people otherwise uprooted by the war.
The DP camps were only a short-term remedy for people's resettlement and housing needs. Often unable to return to their homes, DPs posed a logistical problem to US occupation forces. Life in the crowded camps—some of which had initially been located at repurposed Nazi concentration camps—could be extraordinarily difficult. In summer 1945, Earl G. Harrison, the US representative on the Intergovernmental Committee for Refugees, toured the camps and reported shortages of basic necessities and tensions among the diverse populations living in such close quarters.1
Following Harrison's report, President Harry S. Truman sent Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower to investigate conditions in the camps. On his tour, Eisenhower met with Jewish survivors, Polish refugees, and homeless Germans. He carefully documented housing conditions, available food, and access to healthcare. Eisenhower conceded that the camps were plagued by low standards of living, but he also learned that many DPs were reluctant to leave the camps. Eisenhower wrote that people feared that resettling in unfamiliar countries would be seen as "forcing themselves into a population where they would never be welcome."
Eisenhower concluded his letter to Truman by asking for the president's patience. While he acknowledged some of the issues documented by Harrison, Eisenhower was confident that "if you could compare conditions now with what they were three months ago, you would realize that your Army here has done an admirable and almost unbelievable job in this respect." While Eisenhower's report suggested that conditions in the DP camps were improving, it also confirmed that much more still needed to be done in order to care for and resettle those living in them.2