by Herman Bernstein Contributing Editor
A wireless report to the New York Times from Saloniki, Greece, which tells a story reported in full by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on October 8, states that the steamer Velos, flying the British flag, although owned by a Greek, carried 318 young Jews, mostly under the age of twenty-four, to Istanbul, then to the Greek island of Syra, and then to Palestine, in quest of a new home and a new start in life. At Istanbul the Turkish authorities refused them permission to stay. At the Island of Syra they were allowed to remain for fifteen days. In Palestine they were barred by the authorities because of immigration restrictions. From Palestine they proceeded to Saloniki, but they have not been allowed to land. They are obliged to remain aboard the Velos. The report adds: “The sunny days they spend in their pajamas on deck speculating what they will do when their money is exhausted. The cloudy days they spend in their cabins trying to think of a new destination.”
These wandering Jews are described as “Czechoslovak and Polish men and women who chartered the Velos at Varna, Bulgaria.” The strange plight of these passengers “testifies to the unsettled conditions of Europe.”
The tragedy of the wandering Jews sailing from port to port, in the hope of finding shelter and an opportunity to work, is accentuated by the fact that even the doors of Palestine were closed to them. The Jewish young men and women of Poland, Roumania, Austria and Hungary, and particularly the victims of Nazi Germany, are confronted with conditions that shut out their last rays of hope. The Jewish communities in most of these countries are passing through a period of despair, degradation and economic distress such as the Jewish people has not experienced before throughout the ages. While the Jewries of America, England, France and Czechoslovakia have arisen to the highest status that the Jewish people has ever attained in the diaspora, and while the millions of Jews under the Soviet regime are not discriminated against in Russia, where their Judaism is being uprooted in exchange for their equality with the rest of the proletarian poppulation, the Jews of Germany live in an inferno of hate and humiliation and persecution and want. In Poland their economic disaster is horrifying. Anti-Semitism in Roumania and in Austria is also crushing the spirit and shattering the hopes of the Jewish people.
Palestine, the ancient homeland which is being regenerated by the Jewish people as the land of their new hope and achievements, has solved the problems of those who have been fortunate enough to settle there. The opportunities for development and growth, for a much larger stream of Jewish immigration, are open, but the doors of Palestine are not sufficiently wide open to the Jewish youths who seek to save themselves from physical and spiritual doom in the lands of oppression. Chauvinism and selfish nationalism, intensified since the end of the World War, have shut the doors of hope and opportunity in lands that had grown prosperous and powerful through the work and the spiritual contributions of victims of religious and political persecution in backward European countries.
Jewish youths, workers without work and deprived of the possibility of ever finding employment in their native lands, tens of thousands of Jewish students, who could not go to the universities in their native lands and who completed their studies in foreign lands, are now scattered and stranded in various lands on the face of the globe, unable to apply their energies and their knowledge because of discriminatory laws.
The present form of relief for these refugee martyrs is wholly inadequate, however generous American, British and French Jewry may be. The tragedy of the wandering Jews constitutes one of the most urgent and challenging problems to the Jewish people.
The 318 young Jews sailing from port to port, in vain quest of a new home where they could live and work in peace, are tragic symbols of the hundreds of thousands of young Jews who are losing their faith in the civilization of which the world today is still boasting.