The only hope of East European Jewry of their being saved from extinction rests on the early arrival of relief funds from America, declares Miss Irma May, returning yesterday on the steamer Paris from a tour as the special representative of the United Jewish Campaign, through Poland, Galicia and Bessarabia.
Over a million Jews of Poland, one-third of the entire Jewish population of the country, are at present absolutely without any means of support, Miss May reported.
The Jewish population in the cities of Bessarabia, Miss May found, presented a repetition of the Polish picture of impoverishment, stagnation and helpless misery. Due to a two years’ crop failure, the historic Jewish agricultural communities of this region are shattered by want, famine and disease. Child mortality in Bessarabia has reached 100 per cent, as a result of severe malnutrition and lack of medical aid, and favus and hunger-typhus are spreading ominously. The food allowance of Jewish families in this section of Bessarabia, all available food supplies are rationed out by local “hunger committees,” is a few ounces of cornmeal and a fraction of a pound of potatoes per day.
Miss May visited the Polish cities of Pinsk and Brest-Litovsk.
In Brest Miss May found the poor mostly war-widows and orphans, still living in the ruins of the synagogues in which they took shelter when they returned as refugees and exiles of siege and evacuation after the razing in the last withdrawal of the Russian armies from the fortress. Utterly depleted by the destruction of the military occupations and counter-occupations, scarcity of work and food and the struggle against broken-down, rudimentary living conditions, the local community is incapable of relieving the plight of these people. War orphans and children born in the years of famine and internal turmoil are growing up as waifs, with weakened constitutions and no outlook for a normal adjustment to orderly productive life.
Miss May visited Lodz, Bialystok, Vilna, Rowno, Lemberg, Krakow, Brody and smaller towns. Everywhere, she said, there was the same picture of terrible misery and poverty. “How these people survive is a question none can answer,” she added.
“Unless speedy and substantial help comes to revive the existing credit institutions and bolster up the general economic life, the catastrophe which impends for Polish Jewry will exceed all others in their entire history.”
Louis Marshall delivered an address over the radio from Station WEAF, Wednesday night, in which he appealed to New York Jewry to give its active support to the United Jewish Campaign and its drive in New York for $6,000,000.