NEW YORK (Mar. 21)
Hundreds of men and women daily are flocking to the Transmigration Bureau of the Joint Distribution Committee, seeking to pay steamship fares so that their relatives can get out of Germany, Austria and other Nazi-dominated countries, and the total of such deposits had reached $1,250,000 by the first week in March, it was disclosed today.
The “stampede” was attributed by Moses A. Leavitt, secretary of the J.D.C., to the State Department’s action in “unblocking” immigration quotas — permitting immigration up to the quota limits –with the result that American consulates in Greater Germany are notifying applicants whose names stand high enough on the waiting lists that they may receive visas on presentation of proof that they have steamship passage booked for a specific date and ship.
Into an office accustomed until recently to receive perhaps a score of visitors daily, there now crowd as many as 500 or 600 people during the 9 A.M. to 3P.M. business hours, clutching in one hand a cablegram stating that their kindred in Nazi territory can expect a United States visa if they will deposit passage money with the J.D.C. and in the other hand, a check book.
Hundreds more, who have not received such a cable, but who have heard about the spurt in issuance of visas, come to inquire about the chances for their European relatives. By mail, telephone and telegraph come additional hundreds of inquiries and remittances of money.
In the last five days of February alone, the Transmigration Bureau took in nearly $400,000 in deposits for payment of passage for emigrants from Europe. This was $100,000 more than the office had taken in during the entire period from the time it was established, June 21, 1940, up to the end of January this year. By the end of February, the office had received a total of $949,562 from 3,453 depositors and by the end of the first week of March the total of deposits had jumped to about $1,250,000.
The recent announcement by the American Export Line, which operate the American ships on the Lisbon-New York route, that it had suspended the sale of tickets for the time being since its boats were booked solidly for several months in advance, has not affected the operation of the Transmigration Bureau, It was pointed out at J.D.C. headquarters that this announcement has no immediate practical effect, since the American Export boats were in any case sold out so far in advance and sailings of Spanish and Portu- guese ships from Lisbon as well as migration on trans-Pacific routes are continuing.
The phenomenal growth in the work of the Transmigration Bureau was explained by Leavitt in a statement in which he said:
“The emigrant cannot buy a steamship ticket, even if he has funds in Reichmarks. Fares must be paid with American dollars. Therefore, in practically all cases, the ticket must be purchased either by relatives in this country or with the funds of the J.D.C . placed at the disposal of the committees abroad in accordance with monthly appropriations. The emigrant deposits his German marks with the central Jewish organization in Germany and the cost of transportation is met from the funds of the J.D.C. Only the committees in Berlin, Vienna, Prague and Bratislava can select the prospective emigrants and the order in which they are to be assisted.”
He pointed out that these clearance transactions constitute one of the major sources of income for Jewish organizations in Germany and German-held territories, for carrying on the J.D.C. program for relief and rehabilitation there. It is through the clearance arrangement, he said, that the J.D.C. is able to finance the providing of necessities of life’ and various other kinds of vital help to hundreds of thousands of Jewish war victims and sufferers from persecution in Germany, Poland and other lands, without sending American dollars into German territory or aiding the Nazi economy.
“With the speeding up of issuance of United States visas,” Leavitt continued, “relatives in the United States are now being notified that the time has come when their help in financing transportation– either the Central Jewish organization or one of the travel offices, such as the Hapag or the American Express Company.
“In most cases, the cable directs the American relative to deposit the amount of the fare with the J.D.C. — that is, with the Transmigration Bureau in New York. When it receives the money, the Transmigration Bureau notifies the appropriate Jewish Committee in Greater Germany that funds have been deposited for a designated person. The actual booking of the steamship reservations is made in Greater Germany by the Jewish committees themselves. Payments are made on the German committee’s order by the J.D.C. is Lishon or New York. Steamship company offices in New York do not now sell accommodations for a definite sailing date from Lisbon. And it must be borne in mind that American consulates will only issue a visa on proof that steamship passage has been secured for a definite date, It is our understanding that the so-called ‘open booking’ which provides that the steamship company shall give accommodations on the earliest possible sailing–which may mean months later, in view of the present overcrowding of ships– is useless so far as securing a visa is concerned.
“It can therefore be seen that the fact that someone in this country receives a cable notifying him that a relative in Germany is in line for a visa, and hurries to deposit the amount of the fare with the Transmigration Bureau, does not guarantee that his kinfolk will be able to emigrate immediately.”