PARIS (Mar. 13)
More than 400 Jews driven across the Italian border at bayonet point were admitted to Nice today, to be cared for with the aid of American-Jewish relief funds, while hundreds more roamed the “no-man’s-land” hills begging at frontier stations for admission to France. Two hundred were pleading for admission at Vintimille. Several dozens managed to overpower the small French guard and reach a bridge in the “no-man’s-land” near Mentone, but they had not yet been admitted to Mentone.
Contrary to Paris press reports that 6,000 of the Jews expelled from Italy were in the hills, the Jewish Relief Committee at Nice informed the Jewish Telegraphic Agency by telephone that only several hundreds were in the “no-man’s-land” area. The Nice committee contacted Rome by telephone today and was told by Italian officials that nothing was known of the situation at the French border, but more than 5,000 foreign Jews, including 506 children of school age, had been ordered to leave by March 12 under the decree requiring emigration of post-war Jewish immigrants by that date.
The 400 refugees at Nice included a large number of women and children. Many of them had been wounded by the bayonets of Italian soldiers, according to information from the relief committee, which had undertaken the responsibility of caring for them. They were being well treated by the local police, who expressed willingness to legalize their stay by issuing to them proper entry visas and temporary residential permits. However, this procedure costs 500 francs per person, and it was hoped that the 200,000 francs required would be furnished by international Jewish organizations in Paris.
Funds to aid the refugees were rushed to Nice by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s Paris office. The committee received a telegraphed report from Sholem Asch, the Jewish novelist, who is now residing at Nice, declaring that the Jews had been “mercilessly driven to the French frontier at the point of bayonets.”
Other reports described the plight of hundreds of other Jews wandering in the Franco-Italian border hills, seeking entrance to France. They included a large number of women and children. Many of them reached the French frontier sick, hungry and exhausted after hours of wandering or driving by bayonet-armed Italian soldiers. While the sick were admitted to France by sympathetic border authorities, stricter frontier control was instituted today by increasing the border gendarmerie with orders not to encourage admission of the refugees.
The mass expulsion, it was said here, contradicted promises given by the Italian Government a few days ago to Myron C. Taylor, American vice-chairman of the Intergovernmental Refugee Committee. Mr. Taylor, who passed through Paris on Saturday on route from Rome to London, expressed certainty that expulsions would not be carried out for the time being.
Expecting the situation to become more serious within a few days, central Jewish organizations in Paris were rushing special representatives to Nice to seek to persuade authorities to adopt a more lenient attitude toward the refugees.