Eisenerz Displaced Persons Camp – Austria 

Eisenerz Camp was in a small town located at the foot of the Erzberg (the iron mountain) in Austria in the then British Zone. Four different refugee camps were scattered along the valley, camps which had previously been built by HItler as Jewish Slave Labour Camps.

Clare McMurray worked as a Volunteer Welfare Officer for Save the Children Fund from May 1948 - September 1948. In June 1948, Clare's monthly report to 'Save the Children Fund' (SCF) reports a total of 1716 people living at the Eisenerz camp.

The embroidered photo album 'Memory of Eisenerz' was presented to Clare on leaving the camp.

Clare's reflections

Who was in the camp and why

Volks Deutsche displaced persons – Folks German minorities who had been living in other eastern countries such as Jugoslavia, Hungary and Romania for many years. Hitler claimed these National Germans as he occupied the eastern countries, then later when the war was finished, with the signing of the Potsdam Agreement, these people were expelled.

In addition, Eisenerz was a very healthy spot and we took in sick and undernourished children from Vienna and other camps – 150 at a time, who stayed for 2 months or longer according to their needs.

The conditions

Overcrowded barracks, where many families lived together in one small room; the large communal wash rooms with rows of taps over tin troughs entirely lacking in privacy and even worse the open type latrines, 12 in a row, where only one might be divided off with a partition.

Our welfare work

Workshops were opened to serve the camp. The toy-shop made toys for the kindergarten and drinking mugs from empty cocoa tins.

Shoemakers turned out some excellent shoes, using material of felt for uppers and tyre rubber for soles, and by these shoes the refugee could be recognised!!

 

The tailors shop made trousers and jackets from old German uniforms and mattress coverings. The sewing school, where young girls were learning to make children's clothes out of old torn clothing, even made underclothing from canvas and pillow ticking.

The SCF sent out medical supplies for the hospital and also bales of worn clothing that we were to distribute, however, there was never enough to go around and often not the right size.

When I started a football club, a youth club, table tennis, a sewing class, opened a Nursery and English class, there was a large response.

Food

The refugees queued up three times daily with their issued tin plates and mugs at the communal kitchen. Coffee and black bread for breakfast, soup and vegetable for dinner and coffee and semolina or polenta for supper. We had a problem of suiting different tastes for different nationalities. The SCF sent out food supplies which were issued weekly as supplementary rations to babies, children, old people, sick people and expectant mothers. This was oatmeal, semolina, dried fruit, dried milk, cod-liver oil and fat.

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