Italy’s War Entry Finds 4,000 Refugees Trapped; Deportation to Nazi Poland Feared

From the Jewish point of view, Italy’s entry into the war today has three major effects:

(1) The 40,000 Italian Jews and more than 4,000 Jewish refugees in Italy are placed in a perilous position.

(2) One of the last outlets for overseas emigration of Jewish refugees from German territories is closed.

(3) The war area is extended to the Mediterranean, bringing the danger of war to Palestine.

The Italian preparations for war had been accompanied with mounting anti-Jewish feeling, resulting in rioting in Trieste last month in which windows of Jewish schools and synagogues were broken and several stores wrecked and ransacked. Later, Jewish stores reopened under police guard, but it was feared that today’s war declaration would be followed by increased anti-Semitic agitation.

For the more than 4,000 refugees in Italy, who had been seeking desperately in the face of insufficient emigration outlets and transportation facilities, to escape before Rome entered the war, there now looms the possibility of deportation to German territory. A J.T.A. Rome dispatch on May 22 said the refugees were cognizant of the possibility of being transported en masse to Nazi-occupied Poland when war came.

The refugees in Italy include 250 from Poland for whom issuance of Palestine certificates has been authorized another 100 German and Polish Jewish refugees with American visas and 45 with Dominican visas, who are stranded together with the several thousand, the largest group of whom are quartered in trieste, who had no immediate emigration prospects.

Italy is now also finally closed as a country of transit for refugees, although actually the Italian Government had banned refugee transit last month. There were 600 refugees with American visas and 325 with Dominican entry permits in various parts of Europe whose immediate emigration depended on being able to cross Italy, in addition to refugees with visas for other countries. American and Dominican diplomatic officials had been making strenuous efforts to obtain a lifting of the transit ban.

With Italy’s entry into the conflict, the Mediterranean is drawn into the war arena and the possibility exists of attack on Palestine. For the past several months the Holy Land has been rushing defense preparations, including nation-wide blackout, preparation for evacuation of civilians from coastal cities if necessary and other precautions. Although Premier Benito Mussolini, in his speech in Rome today, indicated that he was trying to localize his participation in the war to western Europe, the possibility of Palestine’s becoming involved must be reckoned with.

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