Kovno (Apr. 25)
(By our Kovno Correspondent)
A most extraordinary condition exists between the two neighboring countries of Lithuania and Poland. While actually there is no fighting going on between the two countries, they are in theory in a state of belligerency all along their frontier. In a formal sense this state of war means that Lithuania maintains no relations whatever with Poland, when in reality there are innumerable ties of all kinds which bind the two countries together.
It will be no mistake for us to say that the ones who suffer most from this abnormal state of affairs are the Jews.
At the time when Zeligowskei seized Vilna, there were in Lithuania thousands of Jews from Vilna, Grodno, Suwalki and other cities of what is known as the “Vilna territory”. These. thousands of Jews, sons and daughters separated from their parents, parents from their children, and husbands and fathers from their wives and children, have created in Lithuania a special category of citizens whom every government official thinks it necessary, as a matter of almost “patriotic duty” to harass and make miserable. For the most trifling offense the Vilna Jews are being expelled from the country.
The fact is, to be sure, that a great many Jews would be only too glad to be expelled; but the trouble is that these expulsions frequently involve danger to life and limb. Usually the deportees are taken during the night to the frontier and ordered to cross the line into Polish territory (it goes without saying that the pockets of the victims are first carefully emptied of their contents) and on the other side the frontier guards welcome these unfortunates with bullets. Should such a Jew attempt to turn back the Lithuanians are likewise sure to give him the same kind of reception, and the result is that the victim finds himself actually between the devil and the deep sea and may perhaps be killed by a “stray” bulle. In the best case he may succeed in hiding until an opportunity presents itself to negotiate the crossing of the boundary line more safely either into one territory of the other. But it is only at this point that his real trouble begins, for he is then liable to become a human shuttlecock thron from jail to jail until he is again sent to the frontier, and so forth and so on. A case is on record of a young Jew having been driven across the line and back again twenty two times within the brief space of a single month.
Of course, the Polish government has no desire to lag behind the performances of the Lithuanians in this respect, acting on the principle of “if you shoot my Jews I’ll shoot yours”. Whenever Poland feels like spiting Lithuania she generally expels the so-called Lithuanian Jews living in Polish territory, commencing a whole series of deportations on both sides of the boundary line and making Jewish life and property worth less than nothing.
Equally sad has been the effect of these abnormal relations between the two countries upon the general economic conditions in Lithuania, in which the Jews, as it well known, have such a vital share at stake.
Previous to the War Polish goods occupied quite an important place in the Lithuanian market. The peasantry, who are the principla buyers of goods in Lithuania, have been accustomed to Polish Merchandise, such as textiles from Lodz, linens from Zhirardov, having learned to prefer them to all others. If the Jewish cloth peddler in Lithuania is to sell his goods at all he must see to it that the Polish article is in his stock. Naturally, with a state of war existing between the two countries, in theory if not in practice, this business is bound to suffer a great deal and has been anything but normal all these years.
There is one branch of commerce in particular which has been practically killed by the existing state of affairs, namely, the timber business, which used to be exclusively in Jewish hands. The fact that the Niemen river has been closed to the floating down of Polish timber has ruined thousands of Jewish families who depended almost exclusively upon this trade. More than one hundred saw mills in the Menel area were thereby compelled to shut down and the owners were simply ruined. The collapse of the timber business in Lithuania and Memel has already compelled Lith## once before to seek an understanding with Poland. Mr. Naftal. the well known Jewish industrialist of Memel has contributed not a little effort to solve this problem, when he played the part of mediator between the two countries in the conferences of Copenhagen and Lugano. At that time Democratic governments existed both in Lithuania and Poland and there was hope for a solutions, for both sides were honesetly striving to ## the dispute at last. They were however, compelled to reckon with the sentiments of the opposition at home, and the result was that no concessions worth while were then made and the negotiations ended in failure.