DISPLACED PERSONS DOCUMENTATION PROJECT

What is the Displaced Persons Documentation Project?

Stella Bekarian’s class photograph, Funkerkaserne, Germany, 1948 (From Stella Bekarian’s collection)
Stella Bekarian’s class photograph, Funkerkaserne, Germany, 1948 (From Stella Bekarian’s collection)

In line with its mission to explore and document the contemporary Armenian experience, the USC Institute of Armenian Studies has been recording oral histories and gathering documents on the unique history of the Armenian Displaced Persons (DP) community formed during and after World War II. This growing collection of oral histories and digitized documents is meant to serve as a primary source for researchers who are interested in World War II, post-Genocide Armenian history, and Diaspora Studies.

Who are the Displaced Persons?

In addition to the massive battles and warfare, World War II was an episode of immense human migration, which included the Armenian communities of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, among them prisoners of war, those relocated as slave labor under German occupation, and those who moved with the retreating German Army to escape from Stalin’s rule. At the end of the war, they were stranded with no homes to return to and no place to stay in Germany, so they gathered in Stuttgart where army barracks known as Funkerkaserne were assigned to them as a refugee camp. Funkerkaserne served as their home between 1946-1952 where it operated like an autonomous unit with a school, church, dance group, theatre, and scouts. By 1952, most of these 4,000 Armenians were allowed to land in the US as a result of the US Displaced Persons Act of 1948. The massive relocation program was organized by the American National Committee to Aid Homeless Armenians (ANCHA), led by George Mardigian and Souren Saroyan. Some settled in Detroit, Michigan or Niagara Falls, New York to begin their new lives as factory workers. Many eventually made Montebello, California, their home and sustained the close bonds of friendship based on the relations and interdependence of their years in Germany.

Funkerkaserne, Germany, 1945-49? (From Stella Bekarian’s collection)
Funkerkaserne, Germany, 1945-49? (From Stella Bekarian’s collection)

Photos from the Collection

Segments from the Oral History Collection