Roumanian Jew, Man Without a Country, Sets Sail for Palestine in a Canoe

(Jewish Telegraphic Agency)

The tragedy of many Roumanian Jews, who though natives of the land, are not permitted to enjoy the status of citizenship and are not given a chance to make a living, was forcefully illustrated in a case which came up before the Roumanian tribunal at Szatmar.

The prisoner, Israel Mendel, 42, a Jewish artisan without Roumanian citizenship, was charged by the authorities with having stolen a canoe in which he set out along the Danube for the Black Sea en route to Palestine. He was arrested because he was not in possession of a passport and because it was suspected that the canoe was stolen property.

The owner of the boat who appeared in court, asked that no charge be pressed against Mendel as the prisoner is, he stated, a personification of the tragedy of the “man without a country.” The state attorney concurred.

A dramatic scene was enacted when Israel Mendel took the stand in his defense. He admitted that he had stolen the canoe with the intention of sailing for Palestine because he had “no money to leave Roumania where I am prohibited from making a living.”

The Jewish artisan related moving details of his experiences arising out of his legal status. “Although I was born in Roumania, my citizenship was not recognized and the police deported me twice to Hungary. In Hungary, however, the authorities refused to give me a license to seek work as an artisan because I was an alien there. Back in Roumania I wandered for several years from village to village, seeking to avoid the eyes of the Siguranza (secret police). Now, floating down the river I fell into the hands of the gendarmerie, putting an end to my hope of reaching a country where I will be welcome,” the prisoner concluded in tears.

The court sentenced Mendel to four days in jail and a fine of 200 lei for returning to Roumania without permissioa As the charge of stealing the boat was not pressed, no sentence was imposed for this. Mendel will be turned over to the Siguranza for deportation to Hungary.

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