Landsberg

Landsberg, the second largest DP camp in the American Zone, was located in former military barracks near Munich.The camp  was founded after liberation of the Landsberg concentration camp in April 1945. From October 1945 Landsberg functioned as an exclusively Jewish Camp.  The population of 5000 Jewish DPs, chiefly comprised of Russian, Latvian, and Lithuanian survivors. Landsberg was  known for its severe problems with underfeeding, overcrowding, and lack of adequate housing and basic sanitation. According to one of the witnesses:

‘As transports of men, women, and children were dispatched into their homelands, new arrivals, singly or in groups up to a hundred, poured through the gates of the Landsberg centre. In billets intended originally for 2500 German soldiers, these thousand s of DP’s milled about awaiting final disposition by the army. Some slept in attics, some in basements, and others in disused garages.'[1]

Despite all these issues, under the leadership of an American-Jewish military commandant, Irving Heymont, Landsberg became the centre of Jewish cultural life in the American zone of Germany. The inmates of the camp published a number of newspapers, including the prominent  ‘Yidishe Tsaytung’ (Jewish Newspaper). They also run a radio station. Entertainment in the camp was provided by a 'Shalom Aleihem' dance café, a 1300 seat theatre which put up shows by both visiting companies and the camp’s own theatre group and a cinema. There was also a choir. At the same time, the camp had a thriving religious life. It operated the first mikvah in the US zone. There was a Talmud Torah and a Yeshiva.The camp’s kosher kitchen catered for almost 3000 DPs.In October 1945 the camp was visited by David Ben-Gurion, head of the Zionist Organization in Palestine.

An important part in the Landsberg extensive educational system, which covered all levels from pre-kindergarten to college, was played by the ORT schools. It was Landsberg that became the first site of the ORT field headquarters, which later, as the school grew, were moved to Munich. Unofficially, the first ORT training course had begun in the Landsberg DP centre in October 1945. It was set up by Jacob Oleiski, a pre-war leader of ORT Lithuania who during the war with extreme dedication run vocational courses in the Kovno Ghetto. Instruction was provided by pre-war ORT instructors and ORT courses graduates from various Eastern European countries, themselves former inmates of concentration camps. The director of the school was engineer Adam Margalith.In the end of 1947 the school had 300 students and run a number of courses including nursing,  tailoring, garment cutting, radio technology, leather work, joinery, dental technology, typesetting, auto mechanics and watch repairing. As it happened in other DP schools, severe problems with equipment and school space were compensated with enthusiasm and dedication of both staff and students. According to witnesses:

‘Young people from all ends of the American Zone sought admission into these classes where, in spite of  a heart rending shortage of instruments and supplies and an appalling lack of text books, products of amazing inventiveness, artistry and skill were produced. Enthusiasm, persistence, courage, and dauntless spirit overcame the hardships of cold, cramped class-rooms, uncomfortable benches, inadequate black-boards and a pathetic lack of writing supplies. Ingenuity and determination combined to produce in time some of the tools and instruments needed for the class’[2]

Landsberg DP camp was closed in October 1950

 

 

 

[1] World ORT Archives d05a092: ORT Economic Review (March 1947) p.12

[2] World ORT Archives d05a092: ORT Economic Review (March 1947) pp.17-18