American Jewry took a greater interest in Biro-Bidjan this week, when it became known that the Soviet government has permitted the first 1,500 Jews from Poland to migrate to the Bureya region beginning in February.
Pessimistic as to the opportunities which Biro-Bidjan offers Soviet Jews, certain American circles are discounting this pessimism when it comes to the question of settling Polish Jews in that territory. They point out that while Soviet Jews, being citizens of Soviet Russia, can easily find place anywhere in the U. S. S. R. and do not have to go to the distant territory of the Far East, the case is quite different with Polish Jews who are not citizens of Soviet Russia and therefore would not be permitted into Russia except for settling in Biro-Bidjan.
PLIGHT OF POLISH JEWS AGGRAVATES PROBLEM
Were the Jewish situation in Poland not so difficult, the problem of settling Polish Jews in Biro-Bidjan would probably not be so acute. The situation of the Jews in Poland is, however, daily growing worse. The number of Polish Jews actually starving now reaches over a million. About 100,000 healthy young Jews, qualified as laborers and willing to do any work, find it impossible to make a livelihood in Poland because of the existing anti-Jewish discriminations there.
It is for this reason that Polish Jews sent a delegation to Soviet Russia last week, asking the Soviet government to permit the young and skilled unemployed Polish Jews to migrate to Biro-Bidjan. This delegation, after a conference with the Polish ambassador in Moscow, submitted a memorandum to the President Kalinin, the result of which was that the Soviet government agreed to open its doors to the first 1,500 Polish Jews.
MAY BE FOLLOWED BY MORE THOUSANDS
Should these pioneer groups of Polish Jews adapt themselves well in Bureya, they will be followed by thousands of other Jews from Poland. A large Jewish migration from Poland to Biro-Bidjan may develop within the next year, only because the situation of the Polish Jews is hopeless. This migration will probably not be hampered by the Polish authorities, whose desire is to get rid of as many Jews as possible.
With the possibility of an organized Jewish migration to Biro-Bidjan from countries where the Jews are economically and legally oppressed, the negative or indifferent attitude of many American Jews towards Biro-Bidjan is now gradually being revised.
Interest in the Siberian territory is especially aroused among the thousands of Polish Jews in America whose relatives in Poland would be only too glad to migrate anywheres where they might escape beggary and starvation.
WILL AMERICAN GROUPS AID MOVE?
The growing interest in Biro-Bidjan is also provoking the question whether, and to what extent, American Jewish relief organizations will participate in helping Polish Jews migrate to Biro-Bidjan when the Soviet government opens its doors wider.
The answer to this question, to the best of my knowledge, is that the leading Jewish relief organizations, especially the Joint Distribution Committee, which is operating in Russia, are as yet not considering participation in any activities connected with Biro-Bidjan. It is the opinion of the leaders of the Joint Distribution Committee that there is still plenty of free land in the Crimea where Jews could be settled without travelling to the Far East.
FUTURE STAND DEPENDS ON SUCCESS OF EXPERIMENT
This opinion may, however, be modified if the first experiments in settling Polish Jews in Biro-Bidjan prove successful. The American Jewish relief organizations are, after all, interested in granting relief to Polish Jewry in the best form possible and should Biro-Bidjan turn out to be one of the channels relieving the Jewish misery in Poland, it will no doubt eventually receive added support from the American side.
Added to the problem of the Jewish situation in Poland, is that of the Jews in Danzig, which became more acute this week in connection with the growing Nazi control of Danzig.
Increased Jewish migration from Danzig has been reported this week as a result of the Nazi terror there which caused the dismissal of hundreds of Jewish employes from non-Jewish firms. Being practically in control of the entire Danzig administration, the Nazis are pursuing their policy of forcing the Jews out of existence.
POLAND DEMANDED TRADE FREEDOM
It must be said to the credit of the Polish government that, when signing a commercial agreement with the Danzig Senate this week, the Polish government demanded a guarantee of freedom of tracte to the Jews of Danzig. Despite this treaty, very little hope is laid by the Danzig Jews on the economic perspectives which Danzig holds for them now, when the city is practically in the hands of the Nazis.
The increased migration of Jews from Danzig has resulted in the fact that the Jewish population there has dwindled from 10,000 to 7,000. A further increase is expected, since nothing is being done to bring up the case of the Danzig Jews before the League of Nations, which nominally supervises the administration of the Free City.
DECREASE EXPECTED IN AUSTRIA
In Austria too, a decrease in the Jewish population is expected in view of the continued anti – Jewish discriminations there.
Mass dismissals of Jewish employes again took place this week in Austrian firms and rigid anti-Jewish measures were exercised with regard to numerous Jews who, residing in Austria for many years, have not yet obtained citizenship.
The Jewish community of Vienna, in its fight for Jewish rights, was faced this week with a new government attempt to weaken Jewish resistance, by inducing a small group of extreme orthodox Jewish elements in Vienna to support the government’s anti-Jewish measures.
PART OF PLAN FOR JUSTIFICATION
This maneuver of the Austrian government was a part of its efforts to justify its anti-Jewish policy before the outside world by saying that the orthodox Jewish groups in Austria do not consider this policy detrimental to Jewish interests.
Entertaining the hope that by acting as a tool in the hands of the Schuschnigg cabinet it may assume the control over the entire Jewish Community this small group of orthodox Jews seemed to be willing agents of