The conflict sent millions of Europeans fleeing the persecution, fighting, and poverty that came with it. The displacement began even before the war did, as the first signs of Nazi aggression pushed German residents and their neighbors—particularly Jews—to seek safety elsewhere. Migration continued throughout the war, as families left burned-out towns, children were sent to safer areas, and the scale of Nazi crimes increased. Even the return of peace saw a surge of refugees, with released prisoners as well as citizens of occupied Axis powers left wandering the continent. All told, by some estimates, a total of about 60 million Europeans became refugees during the entire World War II period. According to the United Nations, a million people had yet to find a place to settle by 1951, more than five years after the fighting stopped.
The despair and urgency of Europe’s contemporary humanitarian plight has been powerfully communicated through photography, and that was no less true during the Second World War. These are just a few images that help convey the impact and scope of the post-war refugee crisis.