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In the Camps 1945 - 1950
After their defeat at the end of WW II, the Germans retreated from Slovenia and the communists immediately took power. Since the anti-communists were already identified and blacklisted, they had no option but to abandon their possessions and flee for their lives, or face certain death like so many before them. As they moved north, they had to go either over the mountains or walk for three hours through the cold, dark and muddy 3km Ljubelj tunnel (built by the inmates of the Nazi concentration camps) to cross the Austrian border. Some 30,000 Slovenians made this long grueling trip which lasted over a week, wearing the same clothes they left with.
Once they arrived in Austria, a temporary camp was created in a town called Viktring, Austria. A few weeks later they were taken by train to various camps throughout Austria (Spittal, Lienz, Judenburg and Sankt Veit). Other camps that housed
Slovenian refugees were located in Italy (Barletta, Senigalia). Those who had completed high school were allowed to move to a student displaced-person camp in Graz, Austria.
Domobranci in Vetrinje
Lienz camp 1947
Domobranci in Vetrinje
The camps were multinational. Upon registering at the camp, refugees were each given a DP identification card. They were now officially stateless and without rights. However, they were not prisoners in camp. If the refugees wanted to locate family and friends, they were allowed to move between camps; however, they had to register first. Eventually, similar nationalities and religions assembled in the same camps.
A representative was chosen to be in charge of each barrack, which contained many rooms with the capacity to house between 10 to 30 people. Not everyone got a bed. The refugees would volunteer for various functions depending on their skills. Those who could cook would maintain the kitchen. The teachers would teach, and so on.
Occasionally, the Red Cross would bring used clothing that would then be distributed among the people in a fair and organized manner. Because of overcrowding and poor hygiene, there were fears of an epidemic of typhus. As a preventative measure, the refugees were periodically sprayed with DDT. They were also vaccinated against smallpox.
The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) was created by a 44-nation conference on November 9, 1943. Its mission was to provide economic assistance to European nations after World War II and to repatriate and assist the refugees. In late 1947, its tasks were delegated to its successor agency, the International Refugee Organization (IRO). The international Refugee Organization (IRO) helped to resettle the refugees. Most of them immigrated to Argentina and USA, and some to Canada and Australia. Canada accepted 2,500 refugees.
As more countries accepted displaced people, the camps slowly started to close. Country representatives would interview the displaced persons to determine their skills and ensure that they were healthy and free from disease like tuberculosis or typhus. Once accepted, the British troops drove the displaced persons to the train station where they would travel to a port and board a ship.
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