PARIS (Feb. 23)
The first comprehensive report of Jewish conditions in Soviet-occupied Galicia reveals that Jews are apparently being discriminated against in allotment of public positions, they are suffering from the Russian declassing process because of their preponderance in the middle classes and their political organizations are being suppressed. On the other hand, they enjoy religious and cultural freedom, except for a ban on Hebrew teaching.
The report was prepared by a responsible investigator who has just come to Paris from Soviet Poland. According to this investigator, the Jewish situation is as follows:
After suffering mass executions at the hands of the Nazis, the Jews in Eastern Galicia, though opposed to Communism, “naturally found the entry of the Soviets into this territory as the lesser evil.”
The situation has changed considerably, however, since the Soviet entry. Although no Jewish question exists in Russia and no differentiation is made between Jews and non-Jews, there is not a single Jew in an important position in Soviet occupied Poland.
Jews in East Galicia are being accepted in small numbers into the militia, into the school system and as State engineers. Similarly, colleges which had been closed to Jews are now open to them. But no Jews–not even Jewish Communists–have political influence and not a single responsible position is entrusted to a Jew. All such positions are held by Russians sent from the interior of the Soviet or by local Ukrainians.
Illustrative of the situation is the fact that among 1,700 delegates to the Soviet National Assembly held last October in Lwow to proclaim Galicia a part of the Soviet Union hardly 20 delegates were Jews, despite the large ratio of Jews in the population. It is known that when Jewish Communists were nominated by Jewish workers, the Soviet authorities intervened and advised withdrawal of the Jewish candidates and replacement by Ukrainians. In Lwow, whose population is 30 per cent Jewish, only two were elected to the local soviet of 160 members.
Moscow seems to take the attitude that in East Galicia the Ukrainians alone should have political influence and therefore Jews are not admitted to leading positions, even when they are Communist Party members.
Economically, the Jews as a group have been ruined since the economic structure of Galician Jewry was such that it left no place for them under a Communist regime. Jewish traders, industrialists and real estate owners were naturally the first to suffer, but even Jewish workers find it difficult to exist.
There is no local demand for labor, while living costs have risen sharply and an acute shortage of food and coal is felt. Many Jewish workers see their salvation in emigrating into the Soviet interior, especially to the Donbass industrial region.
The position of Jewish professionals is similarly difficult. Lawyers have no function under the Soviet system. Physicians must practice in sections assigned to them. On the other hand, pharmacists, even where they own their own stores, are permitted to remain in the places as State employment without difficulty.
Nationalization of private trade, organizing everything into cooperatives, has displaced thousands of Jewish employees, since the number of cooperatives which have been established is much smaller than the number of liquidated private commercial enterprises. Owners of factories and large stores who were, during the first months of the Soviet occupation, permitted to remain in their establishments as managers, have been all dismissed within the last few weeks.
Real estate has not been confiscated, but owners of buildings–most of whom in Galicia are Jews–find it impossible to collect rents since tenants know there is no court which can order their eviction. It is assumed the nationalization of buildings will come in the nearest future.
The repudiation of the Polish zloty by the Soviet authorities has hit the Jews, as well as others, severely since everyone had his savings in the Polish currency. Overnight the richest Jews became beggars through the effects of this decree.
Foreign currency, jewelry and other valuables have not been confiscated, but in the smaller towns, where the local Soviet authorities are stricter, the population is sometimes ordered to deliver, “for the poor,” all they have in jewelry and clothing above a certain maximum amount.
As far as Jewish cultural life is concerned, there is complete equality for the Ukrainian, Polish and Yiddish languages, but in Hebrew schools the language of instruction has been changed to Yiddish, resulting in a large demand for Yiddish teachers.
The Jewish daily newspapers, Chwila and Der Morgen, have been suppressed, but a Communist Yiddish daily has been appearing in Lwow since December.
Jewish religion is considered a private affair and none is persecuted for being religious.
Non-political Jewish organizations continue to function normally, but Jewish kehillahs (community organizations) have given up their activities and turned over their property to the local authorities, which will maintain Jewish institutions on the municipal budgets. In Lwow, where the kehillahs owned extensive property, a certain Dr. Fabian has been nominated to supervise the transfer of Jewish community institutions and property to the local municipality, which will maintain the Jewish hospital, orphanages, for the aged and incurables, the Jewish cemetery and other institutions.
Of Jewish political organizations, the Bund (Socialist party) and the Zionist are persecuted, but the Agudath Israel, religious organization, is left unmolested by the authorities, which consider it as harmless. All Zionist funds are worthless since they are in zlotys and further collections have been prohibited. The Keren Hayesod (Palestine Foundation Fund) and Keren Kayemeth (Jewish National Fund) have been declared illegal.