Racketeering, Unauthorized Emigration Held Hampering Refugee Aid Work

Ill advised methods by well meaning persons and racketeering practices by those seeking to exploit persecution of Jews for their own ends are providing obstacles in dealing with the problem of finding homes for German Jewish refugees, Miss Cecilia Razofsky, director of the National Coordinating Committee for Aid to Refugees and Emigrants Coming from Germany, said in an interview today at the committee’s office.

Thirty-seven of 143 refugees who arrived at Baltimore last night on the Chilean liner Imperial en route for South American countries have invalid visas for Peru and face deportation to Germany, Miss Razofsky revealed. The coordinating committee has wired Immigration Commissioner James L. Houghteling in Washington asking that the 37 be permitted to land when the ship arrives in New York tomorrow on the condition that the committee will arrange for their re-emigration to another country within two weeks. A reply from Washington is awaited.

The “tremendous exploitation” of refugees has reached such proportions, Miss Razofsky said, that the Joint Distribution Committee and the HIAS-ICA Emigration Association were obliged to call a meeting of steamship and travel agencies today and warn them against permitting refugees to travel abroad unless they were sure of reaching their destinations. There were also many cases of refugees arriving in the United States en route to other countries who lacked sufficient funds for transit. Jewish refugee-aid organizations in Europe have been obliged to announce that they will not take responsibility for undirected and disorganized emigration.

Steamship and travel agencies abroad, eager to sell tickets, take charge of communicating with relatives in the United States to send money for passage. In some cases, such practices lead to actual fraud, with swindlers pocketing money meant for desperate German Jews. One practice has been for subordinates in foreign consulates in Europe, in arrangement with travel and steamship bureaus, to issue visas which later prove to be invalid.

Miss Razofsky warned persons in the United States seeking to aid German Jews not to send funds without first obtaining the advice of an authorized agency.

More constructive aspects of the refugee problem were revealed during the interview. For instance, Miss Razofsky disclosed that the coordinating committee’s Resettlement Department had in eleven months of 1938 succeeded in settling more than a thousand refugees in 192 small towns in 37 states and the District of Columbia. This department, she said, is expanding its activities and hopes that an increasing proportion of refugees arriving in New York City will settle in various parts of the country.

Miss Razofsky also revealed that the National Council of Jewish Women had in 1937 succeeded in locating 50 per cent of relatives in the United States about whom German Jews, seeking to come here, had made inquiries. The number located in that year by the council alone was 1,379. There were many stories of persons whose families had lived here for generations discovering for the first time that they had Jewish blood through receiving letters — and a large proportion of them issued affidavits to aid their far-removed relatives. One Christian mayor of a mid-western town went so far as to contribute $1,500 to aid distant Jewish relatives of whom he had never heard because he was touched by their letter.

Meanwhile, it was announced that some 500 European refugees have applied in recent weeks for licenses to practice their professions in this State. The State Education Department, recording an unusually heavy enrollment, disclosed that between 200 and 300 foreigners were admitted to the preliminary English tests, started Dec. 27 and completed this week, and that others are coming fast. Foreigners must pass this test before taking professional examinations.

Under a resolution adopted by their joint board, 40,000 members of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union here are to contribute a day’s pay for non-sectarian refugee aid. The fund will amount to about $250,000, board officials said.

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