Intensification of distress among the Jewish population of Poland, Roumania, Latvia and Sub-Carpathia in Czecho-Slovakia and the spread of crisis conditions to the Jews in Lithuania are reported by Dr. Bernhard Kahn, European Director of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, agency for the relief and rehabilitation of Jews overseas, in a survey of conditions in those countries made public here by Joseph C. Hyman, secretary of the Committee.
Dr. Kahn’s review of conditions in Eastern Europe, based on personal inspection trips to Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, and the reports of other Committee representatives sent into Roumania and Czecho-Slovakia, pointed out that the economic situation of the Jews has suffered setbacks so serious that over half the Jewish population in Poland and a large proportion of the Jews in surrounding countries are in serious want. In Lithuania, which almost alone of the Eastern European countries had escaped the full force of the world economic depression, the Jewish population is now in severe straits and in need of relief.
Discussing the general situation, Dr. Kahn pointed out that while the situation of the Jewish population is closely tied up with the economic conditions affecting these countries, specific conditions, affecting the Jews alone, make their plight worse than that of the general population.
“In Poland,” he asserted, “the Government now and then gives credits to Jewish cooperatives and subventions are made to social, and in a very small way, to cultural institutions. But it has undertaken no positive systematic measures to save the Jews from being forced out of their economic positions, and nothing has been done to enable them to take up new livelihoods. The Government is by no means inactive in this regard as concerns the non-Jewish population. Jews are rarely admitted to public offices and they obtain next to no work from state or municipal authorities. The various state monopolies are pushing the Jews out of commerce and industry. When we add to this the impoverishment of the peasants and, in fact, of the whole country, as well as an anti-Semitic boycott movement emptying Jewish shops, and consider that unemployment and hatred of the Jews are driving Jewish workmen from their jobs, it is easily seen that one cannot paint darkly enough the misery of the Jewish masses in Poland.
“The wave of pogrom-like anti-Semitic excesses which spread over the country in recent weeks may not have done much direct damage to property, but its malicious influence just at this time when a seasonal increase in business might have been expected, cannot be denied, particularly as it is sure to evoke a strengthened boycott activity.”
The feeding of children, child care and sanitation work necessary to protect the health of the population has been untertaken in a number of districts through subsidies from the Committee, Dr. Kahn reported, and declared that urgent needs for palliative relief call for immediate extension of these activities in a majority of the countries. In several cases, he pointed out, intervention by the Committee has resulted in the receipt of some assistance from municipalities and Governments.
Other activities, part of the Committee’s general rehabilitation program, have been intensified in order to meet pressing needs, Dr. Kahn said. These include the extension of free loan societies which make small loans available without interest; strengthening and increasing the capital of the cooperative loan associations and maintenance of the system of trade and general schools which provide education and training in productive lines.
“It is imperative at this time that these activities of the Committee be extended greatly,” Dr. Kahn declared. “It is only lack of sufficient funds which prevents us from doing so immediately.”