Linz area

The area around Linz, the regional capital of upper Austria, became a major assembly centre for displaced persons and refugees- in the first five years after the war at least 150,000 Jewish DP passed through the region. ORT's activities in the area were concentrated in two permanent camps of Ebelsberg and Bindermichl as well as in the large refugee centre in Wegsheid.

Linz Bindermichl ‘Camp 64'  was opened in the end of 1946 as a result of protests of former concentration camps inmates in the Linz area who were up to then housed either in former concentration camps or in temporary barracks. ‘Camp 64’ had 2,500 inhabitants living in large accommodation blocks. The camp quickly became  the centre of Zionist cultural and communal activities and a site of a number of demonstrations against British policy in Palestine. The main focus in the community life of the camp was on creating a network of facilities preparing DPs for their future life in Palestine. One of the key elements of this preparation was vocational training. ORT's mission in Bindermichl started in September 1947.  The school formed an integral part of the camp's social life with the students participating as part of their training in running the camp’s car repair service and carpentry and tailoring workshops. The camp closed in March 1949 after the vast majority of  its inhabitants emigrated to Palestine.

Ebelsberg- the ‘Star of David’ DP camp was based in requisitioned houses and apartments. Fairly comfortable camp with a population of of 2000 DPs, mainly of Hungarian origin, The ‘Star of David’ was initially known as a ‘rich camp’, where the overcrowding was kept under control. Later, however, it became seriously overcrowded. ORT’s training in the camp, a key part of the DPs preparation for emigration to Palestine, started in mid 1947. Describing its beginning, Harry Bretton, the head of ORT mission to Austria, wrote:

‘We went into this camp, which was composed of people who had been driven away from Hof Gastein. This is a fashionable resort which suddenly had to be evacuated to accommodate tourists.It was decided that the ‘Israelites’ should move to Ebelsberg, the former factory premises of the Hermann-Goering works. This camp of Ebelsberg is a liveable place if it houses 1500 people; but with 5000 to 6000 human beings pressed into these barracks and two or three families in each room, the outwardly good appearance belies the picture inside. There was a young man in this camp, who came to us and said: ‘We want an ORT school in Ebelsberg’ (…)Then he mobilized 50 youngsters to start cleaning up an old building. He told the boys: ‘You will get no pay because we have no money but you will do something nice for ourselves’(…)With that the boys rolled up their sleeves and in eight days they fitted up a school in three-storey building, without the help of machines, with nothing but enthusiasm- but there was the school!’[1]

In April 1948 almost 25 per cent of the camp population was engaged in the ORT training and attended courses which included training workshop for electricity, shoe-upper manufacture and needle work, auto mechanics, locksmiths training, electro mechanics, cabinet making and goldsmiths training. ORT also published a magazine aimed at the camp's inhabitants- Ilustrirter ORT Magazin.  After 1949, Ebelsberg served as a collection point for those not being able to emigrate- invalids, chronically ill and those waiting for ill relatives before emigrating.

Wegscheid 'Camp Tyler’ DP camp was a transit camp opened in June 1946. It was the largest Jewish transit  camp in Austria and housed about 3,000 to 4,000 inhabitants, who were meant to stay there for a short period of time before moving on in their emigration route. The majority of DPs came from Poland and Romania. Due to a constant influx of infiltrees,  Wegscheid was seriously overcrowded and did not have anywhere near enough living space. There were also problems with inadequate food supplies and quality. 'Camp Tyler’ was widely regarded as a camp with particularly bad living conditions and additionally constant severe conflicts between the Jewish and non-Jewish inhabitants. The DPs did however manage to forge some semblance of community life - there was for example a small hospital which conducted nursing courses as well as a kindergarten.  In the end of 1947 ORT started operating in Wegscheid a small annex to the Linz central school.  In May 1948 the school was training 45 students. It closed in 1949.

[1]World ORT Archive d03a001: 'Speech by Harry Branton, Director, World ORT Union Austria Mission, on 29th September 1948 at the convention of the Austrian ORT Association in Vienna' in: ORT Austria 1947/1948 (Wien: ORT, 1948) pp.13-14