ON THE FRANCO-SWISS FRONTIER (Sep. 28)
As a teeming rain poured down, turning the fields along the Franco-Swiss frontier into a muddy morass today, this correspondent witnessed a sad and depressing exodus as scores of refugees from France, fleeing from deportation to forced labor in Germany, reached a refugee center here after crossing into Switzerland along secret mountain paths.
Women and children – ranging in age from two to fifteen – most of them just a step ahead of the French police, crossed the border in drenched clothes, many of them weeping for loved ones who had failed to escape. One elderly women carrying a small child suddenly burst into tears as she was being given food by relief workers. She told me afterwards that her husband had been taken prisoner a half hour before she reached the Swiss frontier.
Nervous and distraught, many of the refugees were bitter at the fact that small Switzerland is the only place where they can find refuge – and that by slipping across the border illegally. “Why do countries like England and the United States do nothing?” cried one refugee. “Why do they not send ships to save us? Why must Switzerland, which struggles along on small food rations, be the only nation to help us?”
On the whole, the refugees are in remarkably good shape, emotionally, despite the fact that many of them have been fleeing like hunted beasts for several days. They organize themselves under the leadership of one man or woman and obey orders. They are being aided here by public and private organizations and by individuals. A Dr. Ascher who conducts a private school in the small town of Bex, close to the border, has housed and fed 130 refugees who came within two days.
The relief organizations here are doing a remarkable job in providing for the hundreds of refugees who have entered Switzerland in the past few weeks. Even the Swiss Army and private farmers in the neighborhood have donated hundreds of pieces of wearing apparel and thousands of sheets and pillows.