LISBON (Jul. 14)
Portugal, now celebrating 800 years of independence, is beginning to fear that she may lose her freedom if the development of the war makes it necessary for Germany to operate from this country.
Well-informed circles believe it possible that the Nazis, in an offensive against Gibraltar, may utilize the Spanish coast and also claim the Portuguese coast. The Lisbon harbor, situated between the Spanish ports of Vigo and Cadis and only several hours from Gibraltar, attracts the Germans because of its possibilities as a naval base.
In such an eventuality, Spain would probably support Germany. With German forces now at Hendaye, on the Franco-Spanish border, and near San Sebastian, Spanish port, the Madrid Government would have little other alternative than to submit to German demands.
Nazi diplomats in Portugal, in private conversations with friends and journalists, openly boast that the Gestapo already possesses lists of Jews and others in Portugal who will be handled as anti-Nazi elements. Whether these boasts are only aimed at frightening Portuguese statesmen and the population or whether they are true, is difficult to judge.
However, their effect is to increase anxiety among Portugal’s 3,000 Jews, who have resided here unmolested for more than a century and enjoy equality of rights, as well as among the thousands of refugees who have come here from France.
French, Belgian and other refugees are alarmed over the possibility that this small, hospitable country may fall under German-Spanish domination and they are seeking ways of leaving Portugal as soon as possible. Many of them embark for England on British steamers, receiving visas without difficulty if they are skilled workers.
Refugees who have no hope of being admitted to England are seeking to reach Morocco and Algeria on small boats which go chiefly to Casablanca. However, on reaching that port, they usually find that they are not permitted to land there. The Jewish community in Tangier has succeeded, in exceptional cases, in obtaining entry for refugees, but Casablanca remains generally closed.
Numerous French and Belgian refugees are appealing for visas to Haiti, the Dominican Republic and other distant lands, hoping to get there on Greek and Portuguese steamships, while others are ready to proceed to Angola if permitted by the Portuguese colonial authorities to settle there.
Having no illusions as to its own possible fate, the Jewish community in Portugal is organizing all its forces to give maximum assistance to French, Belgian, Polish and other Jewish refugees who have arrived here from France. A special relief office has been opened by Jewish relief leaders in Lisbon to aid the refugees.
This office is financed by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and has also established an emigration section, which is financed by the HIAS-ICA Emigration Association. Representatives of this office also operate in provincial cities to which the Portuguese authorities have assigned hundreds of refugees in order to prevent overcrowding of the capital.