Emphatic denial that the Greek Government authorities could have sanctioned the discrimination against American citizens of the Jewish faith wishing to land at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, Greece, was made by A. C. Macheras, Consul General of Greece New York. The Government of Greece has nothing but the friendliest regard for the Jews within and without her borders, he declared.
To the representative of the Jewish Daily Bulletin the Consul General stated that he would institute an investigation into the treatment accorded American passengers aboard the steamer Sinaia who were refused permission to land at Piraeus because they were Jewish.
The story of the occurrence was made known upon the return to this country on Thursday of Professor Leo S. Honor of the Teachers Institute of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America who was subjected to the discrimination on the part of Greek port authorities.
Dr. Honor declared that upon arrival at Piraeus the passengers were divided into two classes. Those with visas were permitted to land at once without question. Thereupon native born American passengers were given the privilege of landing upon the payment of $1.25 for visas. This privilege was denied to naturalized American citizens of the Jewish faith whose passports gave as the lands of their birth Poland or Russia. The officials at the port refused to divulge the reasons for their stand. Mrs. Kleigler, wife of Dr. Kleigler, Professor of Bacteriology of the Hebrew University persisted in demanding an answer and finally received the following reply: “Well Madame, if you insist, it is because you are an Israelite.” To her further expostulations, he declared “Madame, I have no ears.”
According to Dr. Honor, this is not the first incident of its kind in recent months.
When these details were brought to the attention of the Consul General of Greece by the representative of the Jewish Daily Bulletin he expressed his surprise, declaring that such an incident was impossible in his country. “Greece,” he insisted, “is the freest country in the world. There is absolutely no discrimination practiced against the Jews. We are all members of one family. In Greece we have the greatest admiration for the Jews. They are prosperous, important to the economic and industrial welfare of the country, a thoroughly progressive element in the community.
“The Jewish citizens are free to enter all the careers. All possible posts are open to them. There is nothing to bar a Jew from becoming even the Prime Minister of Greece.”
The stupidity of some subordinates, which has neither the knowledge nor the consent of the authorities, is the only explanation which Consul General Macheras could offer for the incident.
“This matter must be looked into at once,” he insisted. He reiterated his regret that the incident should have occurred and particularly that no opportunity had been offered to the Greek Government to make amends before making the matter public.
He assured the interviewer that had the Americans conferred with higher authorities at the Greek port, special orders for their admission would have been issued.
Action on the matter was decided upon by the American Jewish Congress. An inquiry on the subject will be addressed to the State Department at Washington. This action was authorized by the Administrative Committee of the Congress at a meeting held on June 7th.
Dr. Honor described his experiences at Piraeus at a special conference of the American Jewish Congress held at the Hotel Pennsylvania.