As the months passed, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the Organization for Rehabilitation through Training (ORT), and other Jewish relief agencies began work to improve living conditions and to provide education and occupational training for the Jewish survivors in the DP camps. In spite of extremely difficult physical and psychological conditions, Jewish life began to renew itself. Survivors married and new families formed.
Nevertheless, the DP camps were never healthy places. On June 22, 1945, after receiving reports about the poor conditions in these camps, President Truman appointed Earl G. Harrison, dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, to head an investigative commission, underscoring that Harrison should pay specific attention to the circumstances of Jewish DPs. During July 1945 Harrison's delegation visited more than 30 DP camps. His report to Truman contained a grim evaluation: "Beyond knowing that they are no longer in danger of the gas chambers, torture and other forms of violent death," he wrote, the Jewish DPs could see so little change in their situations that they were left to "wonder and frequently ask what 'liberation' means."
Harrison's report increased pressure to admit Jews to Palestine. On December 22 President Truman authorized that DPs of "all faiths, creeds and nationalities" in the U.S. occupation zones be allowed into the United States (albeit within quota limits). The DP camps gradually improved as well, but during much of 1945 their conditions fitted Harrison's description. Barbed wire enclosed some of the DP camps. Food was meager, movement restricted, quarters overcrowded, and sanitation inadequate. Housed with non-Jewish DPs, including at times Nazi collaborators and former enemy prisoners, the "liberated" Jews were still targets of antisemitic outbursts. Not until late 1945 did some DP camps become specifically Jewish camps, where the needs of the Jewish survivors could be better served.
"As matters now stand," Harrison stated in his DP camp report during the summer of 1945, the Allies "appear to be treating the Jews as the Nazis treated them, except that we do not exterminate them." Harrison's harsh assessment was overstated, of course. Until Germany surrendered, the Nazis continued to torture and destroy Jews and loot their property in the process.
More than 35 million people, civilian and military, lost their lives in the European Theater of World War II. The dead included nearly six million Jews and millions from other populations--Gypsies, Poles, Soviets, Slavs, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, mentally handicapped--singled out for Holocaust-related persecution and murder.
The chaos at the end of World War II makes it impossible to state exactly how many Jews were liberated from the Nazi concentration camps. But by the early 1950s, some 250,000 Jewish survivors of the Holocaust had lived in the Allies' postwar DP camps while waiting to emigrate. Eventually, they found new homes: 142,000 went to Israel, 72,000 to the United States, 16,000 to Canada, 8000 to Belgium, 2000 to France, 1000 to Britain, and about 10,000 to Latin America and elsewhere.