Paris (Jul. 1)
“The House of Turmoil they call it.
There are few residents in the vicinity of Place Clichy who do not linger long outside the ancient three-story mansion at 20 Rue Vintimille, through whose carved doors almost 10,000 Jewish refugees have passed to register and seek help in finding a foothold in an utterly new and, to many, an unsympathetic world. And as the neighbors pass this house they turn their heads to stare back at the motley crowd of fugitives from Hitlerism, who line the curb and throng the halls.
These sophisticated Frenchmen, who have become quite accustomed to spectacles have not yet become accustomed to the melodrama that is being produced on Rue Vintimille. They do not tire of the presentation. For it is the most superb tragedy that Paris has seen since the World War.
Of the 50,000, more or less, Jews who have fled in terror from Germany since the ascendancy of the Nazi Party to power almost one-fourth have come to Paris. This city is by far the most important sanctuary of all in Europe.
THE PAST A NIGHTMARE
No one knows accurately just how many German Jews have entered Paris. Those who have money or friends are seldom heard from by committees in charge of aiding refugees. The others, reduced to their last mark, eagerly seek out registration bureaus, and of these latter there are perhaps 10,000.
So concerned with the present and the future are most of the refugees that it is only through unquenchable persistence that one can get them to talk of the past. And when they do speak of Germany, they speak mournfullyâ€”as though of one dead, as though of a friend who had betrayed themâ€”as though they were recounting the incidents of a nightmare of whose reality they are not yet certain.
Persecution? Oppression? Outrages against their person? Yes, there were all of these, they say. But these things, the refugees one after the other have declared, are inconsequential. It is their pride that has been irreparably injured. Bruises and cuts will heal, they say, but the theft of a birthright and its incidental torment can never be quite dispelled.
DO NOT SEEK REVENGE
The refugees are told that their wrongs are being avenged by world reprisal in the form of boycott and growing prejudice against Germany. The refugees merely groan at this. “Germany is still our country,” they explain. “We can not approve of any measures that will harm our people.”
They do favor world action, however, providing it is undertaken not to avenge but rather to improve their position in Germany.
A number of the refugees carry testimony to brutality in the form of scars and bruises. Neither they nor the committees in charge of aiding them are anxious to discuss the more forceful measures being dealt to Jews in “Braun Heims.” The reasons given for this reticence were mainly concerned with avoiding increased torture in Germany, which might be incited by untoward propaganda. There are stories among the refugees of indescribable horrors, emasculation in some instances, but absolutely no evidence could or would be produced to corroborate these tales.
Disruption of Jewish business and virtual confiscation of properties are stories common to all Jews seeking aid in Paris. The Storm Troops sent them an order, “Raus!”; and they could do nothing but obey. To try to stay long enough to liquidate their properties was to invite violence.
JEWS OF UPPER STRATA
One of the most impressive features of the Jewish refugees in Paris is their fine dress, neat appearance, and upper strata behavior. They seek aid in a lordly manner. The fact that only a few of the thousands being attended by Paris committees are shabbily dressed may indicate that Hitlerites have concentrated their attention on the better elements of Jews in Germany.
While there is considerable jamming and crowding about the registration tables, it is all done good naturedly. Despite the unswerving undercurrent of tragedy springing from the dependence and homelessness of these ten thousand people, one might believe they take their bereavement lightly. An air of good fellowship exists among the subscribers to food and lodging pledged by the world’s philanthropists. The dignity of the refugees is that of well bred persons at teaâ€”of a well to do setâ€”and it would pass as such were it not for tell-tale cigarette stubs smoked well within the mustache-singeing area, run-over heels, and other signals of recent financial calamity.
Committees which are working overtime in an effort to take care of all refugees are faced with the problem of excluding imposters. Hundreds of people who have left Germany in recent decades and met with ill fortune are flocking to Paris to demand a share in relief funds. Their lack of credentials is usually sufficient to #clude them from imposing on ### benefit being tendered bona fide refugees.
A check-up being made by the Paris committee discloses that many Jews anticipated the Hitler rise to power and subsequent persecution; and they evacuated Germany months before the first blow fell. They brought with them their property. Now they are envied.
COMPLAIN OF CROWDING
Although Paris has opened its heart to the thousands of Jewish refugeesâ€”and twice as many again German political outcastsâ€”there are frequent complaints against the treatment being accorded them. Some object to the table fare, others to lodging accommodations. These people eat and sleep in various parts of Paris, and because of the immensity of the task of taking care of them, they are given little choice in the location or circumstance of their fare. In many cases it is found necessary to quarter a number of persons in the same room; and this condition more than any other forms the basis for complaint.
There has also been grumbling among the refugees as to discrimination being shown certain members of their party. Because of the failure of various relief committees to fully coordinate their work, there is some duplication. Unscrupulous refugees, it is said, successfully seek aid from many committee, while others fail to get sufficient attention from any one.
It is reported that efforts have been made to centralize the operations of the five leading relief committees as well as of a dozen minor organizations; but, so the report goes, these attempts have failed because of the desire of each committee to direct affairs.