Refugees Strive to Leave Portugal, Fearing Nazi Occupation
Menu JTA Search

Refugees Strive to Leave Portugal, Fearing Nazi Occupation

Download PDF for this date

Offices of Jewish relief organizations and of foreign steamship companies here were besieged today with thousands of refugees from Germany, Belgium and France seeking to flee from Portugal as a result of Hitler’s threat of yesterday that he would soon launch increased naval activities against England.

The refugees in Portugal, all of whom are awaiting their turn to emigrate to overseas lands, fear that in efforts to secure as many possible naval bases from which to attack England and Gibraltar, Germany may soon occupy Portugal. The fact that contingents of the Nazi army are already on Spanish soil adds to the panic prevailing among the refugees in Portugal , who fear being caught again by the Nazis after having once escaped from them.

Efforts by Jewish relief organizations here to charter a special steamer on which many of the 8,000 refugees could sail for the countries of their destination have proven so far unsuccessful. Representatives of Jewish and non Jewish American relief organizations operating in Portugal were therefore busy today discussing the advisability of appealing to the United States Lines to send a large steamship to Lisbon to save at least those refugees who have secured U.S. visas and cannot otherwise leave Europe because all steamers sailing from Portugal to the United States are booked until the beginning of June.

The lack of transportation facilities also affects hundreds of Jewish internees in concentration camps in unoccupied France. All of them have their visas and emigration documents in order, but are compelled to remain where they are because no place for them is available on any steamer sailing from Lisbon, which is the only place today in Europe from where ships leave for the American continent.

The panic among the refugees in Portugal has been especially aggravated by the fact that the German population in Lisbon is reported to be under orders not to move from their dwellings without securing special permission from local Nazi officials. It is well known that the German residents of Lisbon have been under orders from Berlin to secure dwellings in the best strategic parts of the hilly capital. It is also established that with the tacit consent of the Portuguese authorities, all able-bodied Germans in Portugal are being drilled by special Nazi agents from Berlin “in order to be prepared for any emergency in case the British decide to land troops in Lisbon harbor.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund