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WHY LEAVE?

The years after the end of the Second World War were confusing and chaotic for many Holocaust survivors. Some had lost all of their family and possessions. Most found themselves refugees, without a place to go. Many were unable to even travel back to their home countries because they did not have passports or identification papers. They could not cross borders between countries that had shifted due to the war. In many areas, violence against Jews continued.

Explore the reasons why Holocaust survivors wanted to leave Europe and their homes that had been forever changed by the war.

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LACK OF PAPERS

During the Second World War, the Nazis took everything from Jews, even their identification papers. Jewish survivors had no way to prove their identities after the end of the war, which made travelling back to their homes difficult.

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CLOSED AND ALTERED BORDERS

The Second World War changed the map of Europe in dramatic ways. Borders between countries were changing. Many officials, militaries, and civilians were confused about where one country ended and the next began. This confusion complicated Holocaust survivors’ journeys back to their homes in Europe.

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LOST FAMILIES

Many Holocaust survivors found that most or all their loved ones were murdered in the Holocaust. Parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins – all gone. The homes where they grew up held the memories that reminded them of this loss. Without family, their homes in Europe no longer felt like home at all.

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LOST AND STOLEN PROPERTY

During the Holocaust, the Nazis confiscated Jews’ property and possessions. When the Nazis forced Jews out of their homes, they left many of their belongings behind. Many Holocaust survivors returned home after the war to find that these belongings were gone, looted by strangers and even neighbours. Some returned home to find people living in their houses.

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UNREST AND CONTINUED ANTISEMITISM

Persecution of Jews did not end with the Second World War. Antisemitic attacks, such as pogroms, continued in some places across Europe. Even after surviving the Holocaust, Jews were still the targets of violence and hatred from others.