‘Their stories were never fully shared but one could sense something of what they had once endured.’

In the 1950s Friends from the UK went to help resettle the ‘Heimatlose Ausländer’. Peter D Leeming was one of them.

‘Sharing the same conditions as the residents gave a unique insight into their situation.’ | Photo: The Valka camp c1957.

At the end of world war two there were huge numbers of displaced people: the Heimatlose Ausländer. Various collection camps were built to house them, some of which attracted Quaker volunteers. One of these, the Valka Lager, near Nuremberg in Bavaria, was particularly large. Over the next ten years many of its inhabitants were resettled elsewhere but the site was also chosen for the German Federal Screening Camp, where all new immigrants and refugees from the then communist countries were sent to have their asylum claim processed. Thirteen of the former wooden refugee huts were allocated as accommodation for these newcomers and an ugly concrete wall built around them, though the gate remained open. The federal office for asylum applications was also situated within this forbidding-looking enclosure. The UNHCR kept a close eye on the camp and on one notable occasion felt obliged to intervene to prevent the gate being closed.

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