Kovno (Mar. 12)
The talk which Mr. Landau, the head of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and Mr. Smolar have had here with the Minister of the Interior is unquestionably of immense importance, Mr. R. tein, the editor-in-chief of the Jewish daily, the “Yiddishe Stimme” here, writes in an editorial article. It has cleared up many vital aspects of the complicated question of labour permits, he proceeds. It has dispelled the heavy cloud which has been hanging over the heads of thousands of Jews ### A few days ago, we quoted from an article which had appeared in the “Sidas”, the official Government organ, on the need of enforcing labour permits for aliens, and we showed how the official paper passed over in complete silence that question which has been causing us so much disquiet and anxiety, what is going to happen to those aliens who have no citizenship at all, the so-called Staatenlose, who have lived in Lithuania for years, and who, like other aliens, are affected by the police notification that from January 1st., 1932, aliens are not to be allowed to be employed in Lithuania.
We have no idea why it was, but it so happened that up to now we could get no clear answer to this question from official quarters. They put us off with indefinite statements committing them to nothing at all. They assured us that things were not as b we imagined, and that it would turn out to be all right. This indefiniteness and ambiguity only added to the disquiet and fear among the Jewish families affected. And meanwhile the police got on with their job of collecting signatures from the Staatenlose, pledging themselves not to attempt to earn their, living after January 1932.
It is only now that we hear the Minister of the Interior declare clearly and officially that the edict will not affect those aliens who have lived permanently in Lithuania and have been in employment here up to July 28th., 1929. These aliens will continue to receive labour permits. That is a tremendously important statement. It puts an end to all misunderstandings and fears.
The second important point in the statement made by the Minister of the Interior to Mr. Landau and Mr. Smolar concerns the naturalisation of non-Lithuanian citizens, Mr. Rubinstein goes on. The citizenship Bill is still wrapped in the obscurity of the Government offices. From time to time brief reports found their way into the papers about the basic ideas and intentions of the Bill, but the main question was not cleared up – how was the granting of naturalisation to be effected? Would there still be difficulties in the way of obtaining citizenship, or would certain facilities be accorded? It is an open secret that it is easier to get the sea to stand up like a wall than to obtain a Lithuanian passport. It has happened to many people who have been in possess- ion of a Lithuanian passport for years, and got it in a very ordinary and legal way, that suddenly they would find themselves deprived of their citizenship. The police would discover that the passport had been issued without adequate ground and that the proofs of Lithuanian origin supplied were not sufficient to justify the issue of a passport. We know of a case which occurred only a couple of days ago. A Jew living in Janov who had held a Lithuanian passport for years suddenly had it withdrawn. He had lived in Lithuania for many years before the war, and has been living here over since the war. His children were all born in Lithuania; his wife is of Lithuanian birth; he is bound to this country by a thousand ties. What happened was that his boy on reaching the age of 17 applied for a passport on his own account, as the law requires. So they went into the father’s antecedents, and the end of it was that they took away his passport and told him to register as an alien. Such things are still possible to-day. Is this deplorable practice to be continued in the new law? That is a question of interest to hundreds of Staatenlose. The statement made by the Minister of the Interior to the J.T.A. makes it clear that the new law will be more or less liberal. The Minister promises that opportunities for acquiring citizenship will be given to entire categories of Staatenlose. That is to be the basic principle. We do not yet know the details, but we hope that the promise made by so high an official personage will be embodied in the new law. It also appears that natives of the Vilna district will enjoy special facilities, all of which will make it possible to deal more satisfactorily with this difficult question of the Staatenlose.
We have more than once pointed out, the editorial says, that these two questions, labour permits and naturalisation, are closely intertwined. If those Staatenlose who to-day must throw themselves on the kindness of the alien permit officers are released from this formula, which imposes the brand of the semitolerated citizen upon them, the entire question will disappear, and one of the most painful hurts of Jewish life in Lithuania will be healed up.
Fad the representatives of the J.T.A. done nothing more by their visit to Kovno than to obtain these important declarations from the Minister of the Interior, the editorial concludes, their visit here would have been worth while, and we must thank the cordially for their achievement. They were received in evrespect with great consideration and courtesy by the representatives of our Government. They were dealt with like people who represent the Jewish public opinion of the world, and, indeed, this explains to us why their enquiries were treated with such earnestness. They came to acquaint themselves and the Jewish world outside concerning the matters which interest the Jews of Lithuania. They had no intention of making political interventions, but in the result their visit here has had this effect.