Doverstorp Refugee Camp – Red Cross White Bus Rescue Part 3

Doverstorp refugee camp structure

Doverstorp refugee camp was the temporary home for the largest number of Polish women in Sweden during this period.

Much of the material in this article comes from many interviews conducted in Doverstorp, as noted in Table 1 below.

< Part 3 – Lest We Forget – Doverstorp | Part 3 Final: Doverstorp Resettlement Camp >


Table 1


NameDateRecord of Witness TestimonyRescued from / date
Zofia TyszkiewiczJanuary 13, 1946122Ravensbruck, April 25, 1945
Helena ZajkowskaJanuary 29, 1946173Ravensbruck, April 25, 1945
Danuta ZiembickaJanuary 28, 1946169Ravensbruck, April 19, 1945
Gustawa KapłanJanuary 12, 1946102Malchow, April 28, 1945
Leokadja OrzechowskaJanuary 12, 1946105Ravensbruck, April 25, 1945
Stanisława KowalewskaJanuary 12, 1946103Ravensbruck, April 1945
Stanisława RejentJanuary 12, 1946106Bergen-Belsen April 15, 1945
Zofia LeszczyńskaJanuary 14, 1946127Ravensbruck, April 25, 1945
Maria SzlendakJanuary 13, 1946121Watenstedt, April 25, 1945
Lida Holcer [Holzer]January 13, 1946113Camp near Hamburg to Sweden,April 29, 1945
Erna SolewiczJanuary 12, 1946111Ravensbrück, approx. April 25, 1945
Rachela GottfriedJanuary 13, 1946115Malchow, April 26, 1945.
Anna FeberysiakJanuary 13, 1946112Ravensbruck, April 25, 1945
Stanisława CzerwińskaJanuary 12, 194696Ravensbruck, May 1, 1945
Aniela ŁukasińskaJanuary 31, 1946175Eberswald, April 27, 1945.
Helena KamińskaJanuary 14, 1946125Ravensbruck, April 25, 1945
Barbara WiśniewskaJanuary 13, 1946123Ravensbruck, April 25, 1945
Helena ParzychJanuary 13, 1946118Ravensbruck, April 1945
Paulina PerzyńskaJanuary 13, 1946119Ravensbruck, April 25, 1945
Barbara SadlikJanuary 29, 1946171Ravensbruck, April 25, 1945
Marja SmagałaJanuary 14, 1946135Ravensbruck, April 1945
Stanisława SamborskaJanuary 12, 1946134

7 Compiled from data at Lund University Archives.

Preparing For Freedom on an Unknown Journey

Doverstorp refugee camp
Women from Ravensbruck on route to the White Buses and freedom

It must have seemed surreal to these prisoners at the time.

They were being told that freedom was coming, yet they had witnessed Nazi lies and misinformation so often, who knew what to believe? Helena Zajkowska (Witness Testimony #173) recalled:

“There were Swedish ambulances parked at the railway stop, and that reassured us that we really were on our way to freedom.

We were badly ill with stomach problems during the journey and, being unable to leave the wagon, we were in appalling sanitary conditions.

We traveled like that for six days, arriving in Lübeck, then continuing on to Denmark, then by ship to Copenhagen, and from there to Sweden.

We were so tired, hungry, and dirty that getting clean clothes, washing, and ridding ourselves of lice were initially the only things we cared about.” The basics of life.”

The transition from camps such as Ravensbrück to neighboring Sweden was not easy. According to one former prisoner and survivor of the tortuous camp,

Stanisława Kowalewska (8) (Testimony 103) was born in Warsaw in 1898, arrested in November 1942 and interrogated with torture so painful that she lost three teeth.

Still, the will to survive remained strong.

During her final days at Ravensbrück, she lay near death on the “stone floor near the toilets” thinking she would eventually die there.

The SS guards assumed she wouldn’t make it until the Swedish Red Cross arrived.

The very next day, Stanisława picked herself up after every fall because she knew or hoped there was a path to freedom. She ran towards the gate where the Swedish Red Cross was stationed.

The SS guards deemed her too far gone, but the Swedes offered themselves to her when she reached out her hand and physically shouted that she was only “cold” while she “wept dreadfully.”

This is a depiction of how personal, dark, unnerving these personal experiences were to those trying to find a path to anything other than what they were currently facing.

Another reflection is (Witness Testimony #105) Leokadja Orzechowska’s memory:

“From the men’s camp, we went back to Ravensbrück, where we received food parcels from the Red Cross.

We were loaded aboard freight wagons without anyone saying where they were taking us.

I thought I was bound for Poland; as it turned out, they were taking us to Sweden as free people.”

8 Witness 103 Testimony:

Ravensbruck Refugees


Wounded Ravensbrück refugees are cared for at Padborg on the Danish border. (9)


Count Bernadotte Remembrance

Additionally, Aniela Łukasińska’s [Witness Testimony #175] recollection captures what so many experienced and felt:

“At Ravensbrück we received Red Cross parcels, yet since we didn’t have any bread, we fell ill after overeating food from the parcels.

When I arrived in Sweden, I weighed thirty-seven kilograms.

I was in very poor health on the way there; I only regained consciousness in the Pullman coach [a type of relatively comfortable railway carriage].

Now I weigh fifty-three kilograms and I’m in perfect health.

I owe it all to God and the Swedish Red Cross, and wish His blessing on this country.”10

From the prisoners’ perspective, the rescue was very abrupt. One day torture, rationing, starvation and murder were taking place.

The next, strangers arrived and the unknown became even more unclear.

While there was still great suffering and some of the SS deemed prisoners unsuitable for release, there were also survivors like Stanisława Czerwińska.

She remembers, even when she was “horribly ill”, a “train coming to a halt in Denmark”.

She recalls she felt “born again”, wondering if she “was still human” when there was a Danish priest that blessed them when they arrived tosafety.

Each of these recollections depicts a certain shock and disbelief of the survival that was close enough to the touch.

Moreover, these recollections also establish the degree of bravery, tenacity and pure heroism each of these prisoners, now freed, exemplify.

Journey Through Denmark to Malmo, Sweden

The White Bus journey through Germany crossed the border into safer territory near the Danish city of Padborg.

Ravensbruck Survivors

Women prisoners from Ravensbrück during a stop in Lübeck, Germany. (11)


11 Photo: Heinz Ahrens. Courtesy: Marzio Mari Ahrens. featured/white-bus.html volume 92.

White bus rescue interior of bus

Interior of an original White Bus (12)

White Bus Rescue journey from concentration camps to Sweden

White Bus journey: Concentration camp prisoners on their way to Sweden.

Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT Pressen’s image (13)



The photographs above and below show former prisoners being treated on the buses and the new arrivals being met and cared for in Padborg.14 Arrested in 1941 at the age of 50, Helena Parzych recalls the details of this first encounter:

“The young Danish soldiers lifted us down from the wagons and asked us to arrange ourselves in threes. One of the women went mad with joy. A group of fifty women was counted out and led into a clean passenger carriage.

At last, we understood that we were finally free. Gunshots and fire could still be heard and seen in the distance.

We were fed – we received hot milk – and in these wagons we rode to the coast. The local people and soldiers bade us fond farewells.

By ship, we sailed to Copenhagen, followed by another train ride, and a final voyage by ship to Malmö, where we arrived on 3 May.” (15)

White Bus Rescue enters Copenhagen DenmarkWhite Bus in Copenhagen on way to Malmo, Sweden



White Bus Rescue survivorSurvivor being cared for on White Bus to freedom


White Bus Rescue arrival in Malmo SwedenArrival in Malmo

White bus Rescue arrival in Malmo Sweden
Entering Sweden at Malmo

Describing her arrival reflects what the photograph above shows, Stanisława Czerwińska [Testimony #96], who was arrested on September 1, 1944 during the Warsaw Uprising, remembers

The Swedes put me on a stretcher; wrapped me in sheepskin jackets they had taken off their own backs; gave me medicinal drops, tablets and a few rusks to eat; and took me away to the vehicle.

I slept all the way to Denmark. There, I was going to be taken to hospital, but I wanted to travel with my comrades to Malmö.

In Sweden, I have been laid up in various hospitals and I am still unwell to this day, but I am glad to have got away from the Germans, and I am grateful to the Swedes that I am alive and that they have taken such great care of me.”16


White Bus Rescue arrival in Malmo SwedenSurvivors with the White Bus Rescue Arrival in Malmo 17


White Bus Rescue prisoners from concentration camps reach Sweden

18 File:German-prisoners-arrive-in-Sweden-1945-391852574417.jpg Wikimedia Commons

White Bus Rescue women from German concentration camps reach SwedenWomen from German concentration camps arrive in Malmö by train on May 1, 1945.19

19 Gullers Flyktingar – Category:1945 in Malmö – Wikimedia Commons

White Bus Rescue women arriving in MalmoThis became the first screening point for the just-released prisoners who received food, new clothes, and initial medical treatment before continuing to Copenhagen for transfer to ships so they could land in the neutral or non-belligerent city of Malmo, Sweden.

Danuta Ziembicka [Witness #169] remembers that moment well:

We arrived in Sweden on May 1, greeted warmly in Malmö by the local population, Swedish Red Cross nurses, and a delegate from the Polish consulate.

At that point, we were finally able to believe that we really were free and in the care of good people.

Once in the Malmo area, they were sent to over 20 quarantine facilities with about 500 beds on average so the logistics were indeed complex.

Approximately 300 Swedish, Norwegian and Danish staff helped these new arrivals as best they could, especially since some were themselves former prisoners during the war.

The public health concerns were real since there was widespread tuberculosis, typhus, typhoid, diphtheria and many other diseases.

Since these people were under quarantine, the resettlement camps had barbed wire to keep locals out and the former prisoners in.

These fences could certainly trigger post-traumatic stress reactions.

To house these refugees, gymnasiums, schools, public buildings and even the Malmo Museum were converted into shelters and medical facilities.

White Bus Rescue women survivors housed in Malmo Museum.Two survivors housed in the Malmo Museum, 1945

White Bus Rescue bus at Malmo MuseumA White Bus on display at the Malmo Museum

Developing Doverstorp Refugee Camp

How big was the task of accepting and caring for over 15,000 former prisoners who came on the White Buses and tens of thousands more who arrived on the White Boats?

Referring to leaders of the Third Reich, Count Folke Bernadotte, who organized the White Bus rescue, negotiated with Himmler and his top officials, bluntly stated

“My experience tells me that they were completely lacking in moral conceptions and human stature.”20

Those who survived had lived through torture, neglect, disease, terror and conditions unheard of in human existence until that time. The task was almost beyond comprehension.

In a humanitarian effort of historic proportions, Swedish authorities established hundreds of resettlement camps; one was on the Mo farm on Lake Glanin in Doverstorp.

It would eventually house over 3,000 people.

Today the lake is known for its excellent fishing and as the main source of water for the city of Norrkoping. In 1945-46, it served a much more humanitarian function.

Imagine a camp with over 100 barracks, each housing about a dozen people (21) without water, electricity or sewage disposal? A stove provided heat but apparently was not for cooking.

That was done in one of two dining buildings, each holding up to 250 people at a time. Twenty toilets hardly seem adequate for this many people, but they worked it out somehow!

The lake provided ample water for bathing and drinking; a sauna was also available for over 100 people per day.

The camp also included a canteen, an employment office, laundry and an office building.

The barracks had numbers and the streets and paths had names, all in an effort to create a community.

Maybe not heaven, but certainly a haven from which to recover, to heal and to move on. This was the experience for many of the 2,879 initial residents of the camp, mostly Estonian Swedes.

20 Bernadotte, Folke. “Last Days of the Reich: The Diary of Count Folke Bernadotte.” London: Frontline Books, 1945, p.131.

21 The initial plans called for each barrack to hold 12 refugees and one cook; the kitchens were never built, thus the large dining halls.

Then, in May 1945, the newly-released prisoners saved by the White Bus convoys started to arrive.

To get an idea of the conditions afflicting many of these new arrivals, consider this paragraph from the May 5, 1945 edition of the local newspaper.

From the Kronobergaren describing the scene at the Vaxjo railway station about 100 miles from Doverstorp:

Some of them even had to be carried on board the bus.

Several of them also wore bandages on various parts of the body and, generally, these pale and thin people gave a harrowing impression of the sufferings they had endured.

Still, despite their exhaustion, their faces beamed with happiness at arriving in Sweden and finally being able to look forward to a time when they will receive proper care and humane treatment.”22

White bus Rescue medical personnelGroup portrait of medical personnel in Sweden (23)

When the camp was a community of mostly Estonians before the passengers from the White Bus convoys arrived beginning on May 6, 1945, there were no barriers to entry and exit.

22 The Road To Freedom. to-freedom-text.pdf

23 Source:

They were not necessary.

But, as described above, there were realistic public health concerns which resulted in Doverstorp (24) (photo below) being surrounded by fences to keep the newly arrived within the resettlement camp and to keep outsiders out.

Doverstorp Refugee Camp people outside health building.

24 Source: Flyktingförläggningen i Doverstorp – Rickul/Nuckö Hembygdsförening (

Ravensbruck survivors in Dovestorp Refugee CampGroup portrait of Ravensbruck survivors recuperating in Sweden (25)

If the people in the portrait above look more well-nourished than those in the photographs taken upon arrival in Malmo, it is because they are.

The photographs below (26) give an idea of the food and the kitchens needed to provide thousands of meals per day in 1945-46.

25 Source:

Doverstorp Refugee Camp kitchen photo

26 From Red Cross Archives at the Riksarkivet: Sweden’s National Archives. Photographs taken and used with permission, September 15, 2022.

Doverstorp Refugee Camp food

Survivors wrote to family members and friends, sometimes optimistically about the future and on other occasions, delivering distressing news.

Dated June 21, 1945, a Doverstorp resident sent the postcard below to someone in Palestine sharing the sad news that he is the only member of his family to survive. (27)

Doverstorp Refugree camp postcard

Doverstorp Refugee camp postcard


Healthcare in Doverstorp Refugee Camp

Life in the camps included medical and dental care.

A formal note about how to continue the staffing of the dental clinic reveals the attention to detail designed to help these refugees adapt, get back to better health and hopefully move on.

For an interview with the National Library of Israel, “MR” recalls being

“liberated by the Swedish Red Cross from Malchow in trucks with no straw, with nurses, on April 26, 1945.”

With her two sisters, they traveled through Denmark on the way to Sweden where she was confined in a hospital in Lund.

Like so many others, MR was placed in quarantine in Doverstorp where she and her sisters remained for 3 years.28

After the war, she became a social worker; the trauma of her experiences meant she suffered from nightmares for decades and, as happens, did not share her Holocaust experiences with her daughter for more than 25 years.

28 Kestenberg Archive | MR OHD interviewee (Kestenberg, Judith OHD (interviewer) | Kestenberg, Judith OHD (interviewer). The National Library of Israel (

A typical paperwork form accompanying a refugee arriving at Doverstorp read:

“Packaging Note: The refugee Maria Gluszecka with identity number 189187 of Polish nationality with place of Berlin origin is hereby referred to Brody Refugee

Camp of Doverstorp and is expected to arriveon2716,19.45.JonkopingonJune 25, 1945”… with official signatures.

Perhaps the translation of ‘packaging’ was a bit harsh, but the administration required documentation at every point.

These records are available today in Sweden’s Lund University and the National Archives; they represent the personal side of history when reduced to forms.

Rescued by the Swedish Red Cross, when Itka Zygmuntowicz29 arrived in LundonApril28,1945,she was given new clothes, food and medicine.

What could have been a rather joyous occasion, she cringed at the “horror” of seeing herself in a mirror for the first time since her capture and imprisonment in Auschwitz.

After a stay in a hospital in Lund, she was quarantined in Doverstorp where she recalls people coming to the fences to look in at the new arrivals,

“like being monkeys in a zoo.”

Itka was the first to sign up when a local rabbi organized a kosher camp for young Jewish adults under the age of 21.

Eventually in November 1945, she was allowed to leave the camp for a job which she cherished because it offered her privacy for the first time in years.30

Itka met her husband, Rachmil Zygmuntowicz, while in Sweden and the couple with their two sons migrated to the United States in 1953, settling in Philadelphia, PA.

Sara K31 shared a similar journey to Doverstorp, starting from her arrival in Malmo where she received assistance from a Jewish youth organization, before being relocated to Doverstorp.

Her stay lasted only two months before moving to a kibbutz in Norrköping. She eventually settled in Israel, but only after being imprisoned by the British in Cypress for attempting to illegally sneak into Palestine.

One can only imagine the trauma of being basically imprisoned in another ‘camp,” even if it was operated by one of the allies.




Anti-semitism and Doverstorp Refugee Camp

Approximately 40% of the residents of Doverstorp over time were Jewish. The camp administration and the survivors themselves made clear distinctions between Poles (who were mostly Catholic) and Jews.

Upon arrival in Sweden, each survivor was required to provide their name, gender, date of arrival, date of birth, place and country of birth, nationality and in most cases religion.

Eventually, these registration cards came to include the letter “J.”

Jews from Poland were classified as Jewish, not Poles or Polish Jews. Mordechay Giloh (32) has documented the reality that life in Doverstorp and other camps was far from idyllic.

Doverstorp Refugee Camp and anti-semitism

This note reads

“Within the camp there is a Polish dentist, Maria Hanel, who has at her disposal an assistant named Halina Wald, who was previously transferred here from another camp.

As Hialina Wald will soon be leaving Doverstorp, it would be desirable that another assistant could be made available, and Maria Kanel has suggested Bronislawa Morgenstern, for the time being in the refugee center Gränevik in Diö.

On the basis of the above, I can therefore respectfully state that the Commission wanted to transfer from Gränevik, Dio, here the Polish citizen Bronislawa Morgenstern, who is intended to serve as a dental hygienist.” (33)

The correspondence is signed by Sten Malmberg, Warehouse Chief.

32 Mordechay Giloh. “The split between Polish Jews and non-Jewish survivors from concentration camps Swedish society’s reactions in the spring and summer of 1945” Nordisk Judaistik/Scandinavian Jewish Studies. Vol 27, no.1, 24-42.

33 From Doverstorp files in the National Archives, Stockholm, Sweden. Used with permission granted on September 16, 2022.

Old prejudices and stereotypes, hatreds and beliefs remained even after the shared experiences in the Nazi concentration and death camps.

Even the camp’s director at that time Torsten Nordsjon (34) wrote about the anti-Semitism he witnessed and he was only in that position from May – September, 1945.

34 Judaiska Minnen, 375:29

These observations reflected those of the well-known Swedish journalist Tora Nordstrom-Bonnier who was likewise shocked at the extent of the anti-Semitism in Doverstorp when she visited … even during the first few weeks post-arrival.

Alva Myrdal, a prominent Swedish sociologist and a 1982 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, inspected the camp on May 13, 1945, just one week after the first White Bus survivors arrived.

Four highlights of her May 27, 1945 report were that:

  1. the quality of the food needed This may have meant to also provide Kosher food as appropriate.
  2. programs were needed to help these new arrivals prepare for life in Sweden if they stayed or concrete plans to become repatriated to their home countries.
  3. anti-Semitism was very much alive and Many Polish refugees held strong anti-Semitic views and acted accordingly.
  4. the proper authorities at the camp and in the government immediately develop programs to fight the toxic anti-Semitism she had seen and

This sad chapter of the resettlement camps is important for it shows the underlying tensions that lead to hatred, cruelty and for many a desire to find ways to Palestine, soon to become Israel just a few years later.


< Part 3 – Lest We Forget – Doverstorp | Part 3 Final: Doverstorp Resettlement Camp

White Bus Rescue – the 10 Gifts

Part 1 – Gifts 1-5  | Part 2 – Gifts 6-10