Stanley Wagner Kazimierz & Irena Kmiecik Duczeminski Family Lotte Bauza & Peter Koch Matausas & Irma Deedas The Kelsons Matti Hakala Boyanowsky Family
Recruiting, Restricting and Rejecting
(Part Three)

1945-1952 - The Displaced Persons Movement

The Second World War Is Over...But They Have No Home

Displaced Persons: Legal classifications of displaced persons as drawn up by Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) included: evacuees, war or political refugees, political prisoners, forced or voluntary workers, Todt workers and former members of forces under German command, deportees, intruded persons, extruded persons, civilian internees, ex-prisoners of war, and stateless persons.  
Source: Mark Wyman. DPs: Europe's Displaced Persons, 1945-1951.

Refugee: The definition at the end of the Second World War was an individual with a Nansen passport or a "Certificate of Eligibility" as issued by the International Refugee Organization (IRO). (Note: A Nansen passport was an identity travel document for refugees designed in 1922 by the first Commissioner of Refugees, Fridtjof Nansen.)


At the end of the Second World War, there were approximately 10-12 million displaced persons scattered across Europe. Many made their way back home within a year, but over one million were left stateless with nowhere to go. The Soviet Union had occupied their homelands – they were now without a country, without a place to call home.

They were temporarily housed in approximately 900 mostly "nationality-specific" displaced persons camps that had been set up in West Germany, Austria and Italy. The United Nations under its International Refugee Organization (IRO) took over the responsibility for their protection, maintenance and resettlement. See Map "The Displaced Persons' Europe", 1946

The problem now was how could IRO convince the world to accept over one million stateless people as immigrants? The solution was to re-brand them as "labourers" and "migrants" who could fill the growing demand for workers in the post-war economies.

"The IRO resettlement program has been labelled a labour recruitment program on an international scale."

Source: Christiane Harzig. MacNamara's DP Domestics: Immigration Policy Makers Negotiate Class, Race and Gender in the Aftermath of World War II.

Canada did not have a mechanism in its immigration policies to accept refugees or displaced persons on humanitarian grounds, yet pressure was mounting on the government to find a way to bring in workers to ease the labour shortage in Canada's booming post-war economy.       

"In keeping with the Prime Minister Mackenzie King's desire to reassure the public that no fundamental changes would be made to Canada's immigration policies, displaced persons were admitted under orders-in-council with an eye to particular employment conditions."

Source: Displaced Persons and Frontier Jobs, 1946-1952. The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples.

"After political negotiations with ethnic groups and church leaders and representatives from the business community, and after recommendations from the Standing Committee of the Senate on Immigration and Labour, the Department of Labour and the Immigration Branch offered four different programs through which DPs could be selected for resettlement in Canada. Besides a minor program for orphans, sponsored by Catholic and Jewish organizations and an effort to resettle Estonians living in Sweden, there was the sponsorship program for relatives—the category could be most flexibly applied—and the bulk labour program, which catered to the needs of the labour market."   

Source: Christiane Harzig. MacNamara's DP Domestics: Immigration Policy Makers Negotiate Class, Race and Gender in the Aftermath of World War II.

Red Lake Immigrants: These families lived in displaced persons camps before coming to Canada following World War II.

Irena and Kazimierz Kmiecik met in 1946 while staying in a Polish displaced persons camp at Meierwik in the district of Glucksberg, Germany. After they were married, they immigrated to Canada, arriving at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia on May 20, 1950. They moved to Madsen, Ontario in 1951.

The Mandzijs were living in Lwow, Poland when it was overtaken by Russia and then by Germany during the Second World War. The family was forced to leave their homeland and later sent to a number of displaced persons camps. In January 1954, Weronika and Piotr and three of their children (Aniela, Zozsa (Sofia), and Adolf Boleslaw) left Europe by ship from Bremerhaven, Germany enroute to Canada - where other family members were already living.

Lola Nowakowski was seperated from her family when she was 14 and forced by the German authorities to do heavy manual labour on a German farm. At the end of the Second World War, Lola found herself in a displaced persons camp. She remembered the Polish government tried to encourage its citizens to return under the then Russian occupation, but Lola was determined to go to Canada, and did so in 1948.

Research by Elle Andra-Warner



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