Living in Liminal Spaces: Refugees in Italian Displaced Persons Camps, 1945-1951

Since the end of WWII in 1945, many Jews from Eastern and Central Europe viewed Italy as the byway to Israel, and although blockades and quotas had significantly prolonged their tenure in Italian Displaced Persons (DP) camps, by 1949 many had made their way to the Israel; in 1948 Jewish refugees from North Africa were now hoping to follow the same trajectory. This lecture compares the daily experiences of European and North African Jewish refugees and their ability to turn the DP camps into new "home" spaces. Through a series of case studies, it examines what options single adults, unaccompanied children, and families felt they had in order to build a future for themselves, and whether their sense of agency differed based on age, gender, and/or national origin. In examining the daily lives of those in Italian DP camps, it argues that many established homes in these temporary spaces that attempted to both re-create elements of their former lives and at the same time to project what they hoped their future lives might look like.

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